Ever thought about turning your life upside down – jacking in your dream job and travelling to mystical territories to get some perspective? Ever had a boss or mentor who you imagined ‘had-it-all’, only to discover that they were pretty miserable underneath? Ever dreamed of changing path, if only you knew where to begin? If so, read my review of ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’ for Escape the City here, a bestselling story about a hotshot lawyer whose near fatal heart-attack in a court room propelled his voyage around India, where he discovered the kind of truths we only dream of…
Who Was She?
Maya Angelou’s early life was tarred by rape and prostitution. So disturbing was the abuse that she endured aged seven, she stopped talking for five years.
Despite this, she developed a love of language which saw her become a world-famous poet, civil rights activist (working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X) and award-winning author known for her acclaimed memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”.
Awards She Won?
Her achievements don’t stop there. In 2000, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the U.S., by President Barack Obama, not to mention being awarded over 50 honorary degrees and three Grammys. She was also the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration.
Tributes To Her?
Michelle Obama described the African-American poet as: “One of the greatest spirits the world has ever known”, Barack Obama lauded her as: “One of the brightest lights of our time – a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman” and Bill Clinton called her: “A national treasure”.
Why Does She Remain So Popular?
A truly indomitable spirit, the power of her work stems from her remarkable approach to suffering. Her poetry has been lauded for its depictions of black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, combining humanity, passion and dignity to stunning effect. Never losing the strength, defiance and humour which underlines her work, she rises above adversity with wit, wisdom, courage and grace. The power of her work is rooted in incongruity; despite her deep understanding of suffering and pain, she became known ultimately as a figurehead for strength, hope and survival.
Where Can You Read Her Work?
I’ve referred to two of her most loved poems below, including a personal recital of “Still I Rise”. With a commanding voice full of humour and gravitas, her poetry comes alive with her performance of it – so if you’re feeling a little run down or tired, watch, listen and be uplifted. It’s magical.
My favourite quote. It bears the test of time and is manifest in public reaction to the deaths of much loved figures such as Robin Williams, Princess Diana and Maya Angelou, herself. It was their human kindness, warmth and ability to make others laugh which people remembered, not their jobs or how much money they made.
Corny but true. In line with Buddhist thinking, the greatest achievement and fulfilment is found in selflessness. A poignant message of internal beauty in an age which is increasingly obsessed with the external.
While her brilliant poem, Phenomenal Woman, celebrates female sensuality, she focuses predominantly on the beauty of the human spirit. Defiant and poised under attack, like a tree rooted to Earth, her ability to capture what it is to be grounded brings tremendous inspiration to her readers.
Not dissimilar to Einstein’s words: “Try not to become a man of success, but a man of value”, her words are all the more humbling given her achievements.
A woman who survived many trials herself, with teenage pregnancy and marital breakdown being at the minor end of the scale, Maya Angelou is a compelling example of hope.
Marianne Williamson builds on this, praising the benefits of intention: “Magic happens when you tell the universe what you want it to do for you”. I’ve also found this to be very true.
In the words of Freud, another great mind: “One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful”.
Listen to Maya Angelou’s personal recital of one of her most powerful poems on adversity at the end of this article. The determination, defiance and positivity in “Still I Rise” is infectious.
A woman who created swathes of beautiful literature, Maya Angelou is a great example of the self-generating nature of creativity. If you want to create something, whether a blog, a business or an online pin board, just do it. The rest will follow.
I’m probably one of many who have learnt this the hard way. The idea that you can change someone is one of the most idealistic going. It’s easier said than done, but truly listening to what someone tells you about themselves is emotionally economical and can save much pain. In the words of Freud: “Being entirely honest with yourself is a good exercise”.
Suffering and isolation often go hand in hand but remembering that we all experience this at different points in our lives can be very comforting. Focusing our attention outwards shifts consciousness away from our inner turmoil, creating space for hope and regeneration.
So avoid becoming too entrenched in your emotions by taking a peek at others’ adversity. The likes of Stephen Sutton who raised more than £5 million for The Teenage Cancer Trust after being diagnosed with terminal cancer at 17 years old puts things into perspective, reminding us of the positives that can come from adversity.
There’s no shame in taking a break from life if your body and mind are screaming for time out. Whether rooted in relationship breakdown, job overload or general life confusion, we’re all human – the only difference is not everybody admits it.
Simple. Nobody will change your life for you. “You are the master of your destiny” – Napoleon Hill.
Those of us born in Generation Y are very fortunate in educational, professional and travel opportunities but this freedom can confuse as well as enhance us. But however muddled we become on the journey, the fundamentals rarely change.
In the words of Mandy Hale: “True love is crystal clear” – so don’t make too many excuses for a partner who doesn’t make you feel valued.
It can take a while to learn, but love is really quite simple. Your best friends don’t let you down and – corny as it sounds – love is just friendship set on fire.
If you’re a reasonably settled soul, you’ll sometimes attract people who are lost. If you find yourself with this type of person and you’re unable to help them, you may start feeling pretty disorientated trying.
You then have a choice.
Be careful staying in a partnership which may erode your self-esteem. If you spend too much time with someone with no self-worth, this will likely manifest itself in your relationship and may start to decay your own sense of self. Instead, hang onto who you are and remember Barbara Marciniak’s words: “The quality of love you receive mirrors the value you place on yourself”.
Life’s stressful enough without laughter. Put simply by Charlie Chaplain: “A day without laughter is a day wasted”.
What have you done for yourself today for feel good factor? If the answer is: “Not much”, watch the below. Maya Angelou’s energy is contagious.
Where is it?
Situated a stone’s throw from El Corte Inglés and Gran Via, this place is completely unique. A mix of academic-chic, La Central de Callao is a 3 floored treasure chest combining over 70,000 volumes of specialized books in philosophy, history, social science and literature and a super cool bistro to boot.
What’s it like?
If unpretentious Bohemia is your thing, the bistro is a real find. Open until around midnight most nights, it boasts a great selection of cakes and savoury treats and would be an original substitute to grand alternatives.
Surrounded by books a-plenty, La Central’s bistro has a unique energy. Combining the soulfulness you find tree-side, the inspiration you find in bookshops with a cosmopolitan cosiness typical of Madrid, this little eatery is a real treat.
What else is on?
The lectures and presentations on offer are fascinating ranging from this month’s GRAF presentation dedicated to comics and illustration to Yasmina Khadra (one of the most important and famous writers of Algerian literary scene, with work published in more than forty countries) speaking next month.
If you’re a creative type who gets excited by books and new places, try La Centrale. It’s good for the soul.
Dirección: Calle del Postigo de San Martín, 8, 28013 Madrid
Teléfono: 917 90 99 30
Horarios (El Bistro):
Lunes, martes y miércoles - 9.00 – 00.00
Jueves, viernes y sábado - 9.00 – 01.00
Domingo y festivos - 10.00 – 22.00
“This book is a huge celebration of life and how we can in simple ways enrich our days.. I recommend it to anyone who wants to feel happier, more fulfilled and increasingly to enjoy the world around them”
What’s it about?
‘Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked’ is a collection of inspiring anecdotes on how to get the best out of work, well-being and life at large. Written by the acclaimed journalist, Lesley Garner, who has been everything from reporter, columnist, art critic and agony aunt for The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, Daily Mail and London’s Evening Standard, it’s a thought-provoking read for those interested in happiness and personal development.
What do the critics say?
Described by Sir Max Hastings, former Editor of the Daily Telegraph, as ‘one of those remarkable women who is original, full of insights and common sense’, it’s not surprising that Garner’s book is a comprehensive, easy to dip into read. Having lived in Afghanistan and Ethiopia and partaken in a variety of workshops, professional experiences and personal crises, the collection of 3-4 page personal accounts covers a variety of subjects relevant to us all.
Why read it?
With chapters ranging from ‘The Beauty of Boredom’, ‘Be Glad You’re Free’, ‘The Seduction of Overload’ and ‘Getting Started, Every Time’, ‘Everything I Ever Done That Worked’ is part memoir, part-philosophy and part self-help. The fruits of Garner’s own ‘resource book’ which she collated over the years as a tool-kit to refer to in moments of ‘confusion, indecision, panic, depression, stress and plain insomnia’, it is honest, human and positive.
Who’s it aimed at?
If you’re a stiff upper lip kind who comes out in hives around people with the balls to speak frankly about life’s challenges, this won’t be your bag. But if you’re someone who’s interested in getting the most out of life – good, bad and ugly – this is for you. Spiritual, intelligent and tenacious, Garner is one cool chic.
Ever thought about turning your life upside down – job wise, love wise or place wise? If so, read my review of The Dirty Life here, a true story of a Harvard educated journalist who did just that, leaving her glam New York life to be a farmer alongside her one true love.