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LOVING DR. MAYA ANGELOU

LOVING DR. MAYA ANGELOU

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I met Dr. Maya Angelou in 2011 when I interviewed her for a film project that Linda and I were helping some young friends create. Oprah made the connection, and we flew to interview her at her home in Winston Salem, North Carolina, U.S.A. As our questions became more substantive, I could see her engage more deeply in the interview, and her answers became more and more awesome to me. After the interview, to my surprise, she invited us into her dining room for tea. She also gave Linda and me one of her famous cookbooks and inscribed it to “My New Heart Throbs.” I soon realized that Dr. Maya Angelou was one of my heart throbs as well. This was the first of eight trips to her home that Linda and I would make during the next three years.

We both found ourselves thinking about Maya Angelou a lot when we returned home. It was as though we had never left her. Two weeks later she called. “I am still soaring!” she told us. Linda and I felt exactly the same. We decided to create a “salon” by phone and to meet monthly to talk about important and interesting things. Soon we were speaking every Sunday morning, and we continued to speak every Sunday that she was not traveling until she passed on.

There was nothing romantic about Dr. Maya Angelou that I saw, but everything she did came from a deep and deeply loving place. “When you know better, you do better,” she told us and the many members of her extended family that gathered around her dining table, especially on her birthdays and at Thanksgivings. “When you get, give,” she told us. “When you learn, teach.” “People will forget what you say and they will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” Dr. Angelou made me feel included, welcome, significant, part of the family, and a colleague. I have never met a person like her.

She traveled around the country giving events and inspiring talks, often to young people, in her private bus. We once drove to meet her in Portland, Oregon, where she was giving a talk to a huge sold-out audience. As we rode with her in her bus to the venue, she was quiet and inward, as though conserving her strength. When the curtain went up, however, there she was, seated elegantly without her oxygen, ebullient and unstoppable. I wondered whether going that long without oxygen was uncomfortable or fatiguing to her, but as one of the extended family observed, “If Maya’s got it, she’s giving it.” I often thought that she might be in pain as she moved on her walker from her private quarters in her house to the dining table, but if so, she never talked to us about it. Instead she told us, “When you are in pain, don’t be a pain.”

I did not at first recognize the greatness of our new friend or the scope of her reach. The First Lady of the United States described one part of it, “She reached a white woman in Kansas who named her daughter after her and raised her son to become the first black President of the United States,” while a few rows in front of us President Bill Clinton, who had invited Dr. Angelou to read her poetry at his inauguration, sat with the rest of us in celebration of her life.

“When I go on stage,” she told us often, “I bring with me everyone who has loved and supported me. They are on the stage with me. How can I be afraid?”

Dr. Maya Angelou inspired me to do more, reach deeper, and give more than I have in the past. She touched me with her love and caring and complete commitment to loving. The last time Linda and I called her, she came to the phone to tell us that she was speaking with her grandson and said in her matter of fact way, with complete authority, “I can’t talk with you now. The important thing is that you called and I love you and you know that.” We had no doubt about it.

Thank you, Maya Angelou. Your presence will always be a joy in my life.

Love,

Linda & Gary

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ORLANDO, LOVE, AND LABELS

ORLANDO, LOVE, AND LABELS

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“Terrorist” is a label. There is no humanity in labels. There is no compassion in labels. Labels create villains and idols. The pain of an individual who claims allegiance to a symbol of hate and righteousness and then kills without connection is extreme. However, that pain is not as extraordinary as it might seem. It is shared by all of us. This pain cannot be relieved by hunting, capturing, or killing labels, such as “terrorists” and “infidels.”

People who are most shocked by the violence in our world have the most to gain from looking inside themselves. The violence in our world comes from us. It is generated by the pain of wanting desperately to belong and not belonging, needing desperately to love and feeling unlovable, wanting intensely to love and feeling incapable, seeing ourselves as ugly inside, inherently flawed, and permanently defective. It is an ever-present ever-pressing need to be on the side of “God,” of “right,” of “good” regardless of the cost to others. This is the pain of powerlessness.

We experience powerless parts of our personalities as anger, rage, righteousness, judgment, and need for revenge. Acting on them creates the violence in the world. Those who actually pull triggers and detonate bombs are our proxy actors. Unchallenged pain of powerlessness in us fuels the violence them, and we see the results in Orlando, Paris, Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and every country and culture. Who pulled the trigger in Orlando? Who detonated the bombs in Boston and Baghdad? Our proxies. We held the gun in our fantasies of powerlessness. They detonated the bombs in theirs. What does pulling triggers and detonating bombs accomplish? It creates more violence, more hatred, more righteousness, and more labels.

To end violence in our world requires the courage to look inside ourselves. It requires asking, “Do I pull the trigger in my thoughts? Do I detonate bombs in my imagination? How often?” Every judgment and fantasy of violence carries the same energy as attacks with bullets and bombs. Ending the violence in the world requires finding in ourselves the parts of our personalities that label fellow souls as “terrorists” and “infidels” and challenging them by not acting on them. These are the parts that perceive others as without Divinity, and they perceive us the same way. When we disparage, judge, despise, or label another individual, we become like that individual, and we contribute more of what we disparage, despise, and judge to the world. If we have no compassion for those who have no compassion, what is the difference between us?

To end violence in our world requires the courage to look inside ourselves. It requires asking, “Do I pull the trigger in my thoughts? Do I detonate bombs in my imagination? How often?” Every judgment and fantasy of violence carries the same energy as attacks with bullets and bombs. Ending the violence in the world requires finding in ourselves the parts of our personalities that label fellow souls as “terrorists” and “infidels” and challenging them by not acting on them. These are the parts that perceive others as without Divinity, and they perceive us the same way. When we disparage, judge, despise, or label another individual, we become like that individual, and we contribute more of what we disparage, despise, and judge to the world. If we have no compassion for those who have no compassion, what is the difference between us?

Everyone who is grief-stricken and saddened by the violence in Orlando, in Paris, in the Middle East, by the violence of poverty that is everywhere and always, now has an opportunity to feel the pain of powerlessness inside and still choose to respond with compassion. This requires courage. Those who are outraged, righteous, and tormented by hatred have the same opportunity. In this we are brothers and sisters to those who disparage, despise, judge, and label us. We give to one another opportunities to choose love instead of fear, to change the world once and for all and for good. We offer one another the gift of love that underlies appearances of “ally” and “adversary” and is deeper than we can imagine.
Love.
Linda & Gary

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WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE A BROKEN HEART

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU HAVE A BROKEN HEART

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Most individuals believe that people or circumstances cause their emotional pain. They say, for example, “He broke my heart.” They make themselves victims. Creating authentic power shows you that you are not a victim. You discover that your emotions are created by dynamics inside you. When you focus outside yourself, these dynamics remain intact to be activated again. Each time, they generate the same or similar emotions in you.

You have experienced these painful emotions in other places and times with other people. The individual you believe is causing them now is actually the latest in a series of individuals who have activated this dynamic in you before. When you focus on the activator, you miss what got activated.
Creating authentic power brings your attention to what got activated and how to move beyond it. Once you begin to create authentic power, you will not squander your energy raging, weeping, or withdrawing – in other words, trying to change the world. You will direct your attention inward to discover and move beyond the dynamic that is creating – and has created in the past – the painful emotions that are tormenting you now.
Authentic power replaces unconscious choices with conscious choices, and painful consequences with joyful consequences. You were born to create authentic power
Love.
Linda & Gary