This past weekend, like many others, I found myself vegging out in my pajamas watching Super Soul Sunday on the OWN network. I was refreshed by the collage presentation made in honor of Maya Angelou, an extraordinary woman and teacher.
"Momma Ya," as I refer to Maya (Momma, synonymous with Mother in the South, and Ya, derived from a Spanish word meaning "in this very moment") shared her profound spiritual wisdom. I watched attentively and with admiration.
In one scene, Oprah Winfrey asked Maya, "Why does the cage bird sing?" as they discussed her book and poem "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Maya responsed, "The cage bird sings because it must."
At first I did not grasp the significance of her statement, but the words echoed in my mind as I lay down to sleep. What did they mean? I pondered. When have I been a "caged bird?"
I went in and out of consciousness all night long as these words trickled their way through the many layers of my own experiences, forcing themselves to be understood. I suddenly woke up at 4:32am with a visceral knowing.
In my book, Connecting to Love: Unleashing the Power of Yes, I speak of a childhood experience that I had viewed during most of my adult life as being "traumatic." I was eight or nine years old when I heard a man voicing a compliment to my mother about my beauty. My little heart sped up with anticipation for it was the first time I felt I had been "seen." Seconds passed and my mother responded with modesty in a rather flat tone. "We are teaching her to be smart." I felt as if the wind was drawn from me and my heart sank. I was confused. My young mind could not process my mother's words. In that moment it drew a conclusion and made up a lie: "I must be ugly." I quickly resigned myself to live under this new perceived reality deeming myself as unworthy. In that instant I became the "caged bird."
Veiled by the illusion we fathom as reality, we sequester our light. We become blinded by its power and in its place we welcome our "shadow," the catalyst responsible for our conscious awakening. In other words, the realization of contrast.
I fully believe that we arrive on this earthly plane with a preset curriculum. One that is repeated time and time again until we learn the lessons of love. Forgiveness, compassion, vulnerability, and wholeheartedness are among the subcategory under the "Lessons of Love" umbrella. We come here to master these lessons in order to embody the One Infinite Creator as it sees itself through us, as you and as me. Not until we fully understand the nature of this "beingness" and can feel its essence and truths all the way down to our toes, can we begin to pass on this wisdom to others who ready themselves for their own journey.
For me, it took over 40 years of spiritual seeking and self-battering before I was able to see the childhood memory for what it was: a reminder of the primordial truth. When I was finally able to perceive beyond my need or desire for acceptance, I recognized the enormity of the gift my mother had offered at the time. My shadow had protected me from vanity and I was now ready to embrace the oneness of love. A completeness and unity with all there is.
I am deeply grateful to my mother for her foresight and dedication to hold space for a wholesome upbringing. I fulfilled the most important lesson in the syllabus I had outlined for this existence. "Look not with your physical eyes but through the window of your soul, for beauty abounds."
The caged bird sings because it must remember who or what it is at its core. It must await the readiness of choice. A choice to open its inner eyes and recognize the cage is always one of our own making.
Thank you Maya for the lessons of love you so tenderly imparted to us all. May you sing as a free bird from the highest peak atop the Father's eternal throne.