I guess it is fair to say, I am always on a quest to find something new. Define something new. Know something new.
It is also fair to say, I am mostly all too eager, to share this something, before I have really given my stomach a chance to grind away at its edges.
Before I have given my mind a moment. To see it from the sky. In place. Alongside all the other things I have come to ‘know’.
I love learning new ways of being. New ways of thinking, seeing, forgiving.
It has also been said, that I am easily influenced. To which I said ‘Thank-You.’
So at the moment, as I rocket towards my 30s (in a safe, sustainable, family-friendly, Prius), I am trying on this new idea. And I can sense my skin taking it in. Saying, ‘you did good this time girl.’
It feels like a pair of perfect old jeans I have had in my cupboard for years. Like something my mother told me in my teens, would really suit my body. Something I should buy in 3 colours and wear proudly. But of course, I didn’t believe her. I wasn’t ready. So instead, I put on an aqua mini, and rocked out in all my cheap synthetic glory.
It sounds like something I have heard and echoed. Like it is the baseline, to all my favourite songs. But I never knew how to strum it on my own.
Well, to be honest. It sounds a lot like Oprah.
Because, truthfully, that’s where I heard it first.
She was quoting Maya Angelou. My new favourite person who ever lived. Whose work as a poet, singer, memoirist, civil rights activist has outlived her time here on earth and found a little place to nestle within me.
First. Let me tell you a little tiny tiny tiny bit about Maya Angelou, and why I love her so much. (Then I suggest you read everything she ever wrote.)
When I listen to Maya Angelou, it makes me love humanity all over again. All of our different angles. It makes me excited to be human, to be on this journey of discovering life, self and my own form of the greater god.
She speaks of humans with such love. With such hope. Even the battered bruises and mistakes, become lined with silver and reverence.
You can hear it, when she speaks of her own mother. Vivian Baxter, the woman who didn’t want to raise her until she was no longer a child. The same woman who broke down the door of Maya’s abusive boyfriend’s apartment and said, ‘I joke and I laugh, but I don’t play boy. That’s my baby you got you in there.’
Maya Angelou adores the complexity of her own mother’s character and guilds her memory with vibrancy. The stories make me want to be in San Francisco in the 1940’s with Lady Vivian Baxter, swinging that baseball bat.
I love Maya Angelou because she respects us. And slowly, I worked out, all of her lessons are gentle tools, to help us respect ourselves.
Which according to just about all the great spiritual teachers, is the key to it all.
Respecting ourselves. Our inner selves. Our soul.
Apparently, all the other stuff comes later. We can’t show love, until we know love. Until we know who we are. We can’t say ‘I love you’, until we know what ‘I’ is. So on and so forth.
I am starting to get the gist, that inner peace the first thing we are supposed to learn.
That’s probably why they tell us, to sit still with our thoughts and focus on our breath.
That’s probably why they tell us, to trust our intuition and listen to our heart.
That’s probably why they tell us, to have boundaries, know when to say no, not be violated.
All these things are ways to tell our soul, “hey you, I love you, I got you.”
The Dalai Lama also told us pretty directly:
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
Then he told us again.:
“Peace… starts within each one of us. When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us.”
Michael Jackson backed him up.
“No message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place. Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”
So by now, it has popped up on enough podcasts, Pinterest quotes and spiritual books for me to have accepted this as universal law.
What I have discovered however, is the putting-it-into-practise part, takes a bit of time and courage. Courage being key. And so this is where I am at now.
The part of loving and respecting myself that I have struggled with the most (and I assume most humans are the same) is how do I do that, amidst a world of complicated decisions, regrets, pressures, temptations and insecurities?
How are we supposed to forgive ourselves for past mistakes? Without enabling ourselves to keep repeating them? How do we be okay, in our imperfections? Whilst also blazing a path to be better? It’s all very tricky.
And this is where I found my pair of perfect old jeans, that I love oh so much.
The little nugget that rebuilds my trust with my soul.
You probably guessed it. (Cough. It’s in the title.)
‘When you know better. You do better.’
So easy right?
Acknowledge that were times, before lessons were learnt, when you didn’t do right. And that is okay. But now that you know better, you gotta do better. And that is all it takes.
Having the courage to implement your lessons.
There it is again, that word courage.
Maya Angelou also says that courage is the most important of all the virtues. Because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. Without courage, we can be kind every now and again. We can merciful every now and again. We can be truthful every now and again. But we can’t stick to it.
Courage is the key to the ‘doing better’ part.
And courage is a muscle. You got to work it. You can’t just wake up one day and be a lion. Or Joan of Arc.
So start small.
Have the courage to say no to something you know doesn’t make you feel good.
Have the courage to say yes to a challenge that does.
Slowly build up your courage to apply all the lessons of your life, to your life. Don’t make the same mistakes twice. Or ten times. Your soul will love you for it!
Then, when you think you have all that locked that down, seek more lessons!
Find something new. Define something new. Know something new.
Because after all, the more you know, the better you do!
Then maybe just maybe, in the process, you will learn to love coming home to yourself.
And that my friend, is the most beautiful gift you can give the rest of us.