Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ An Evening with Maya Angelou

The rich red curtains lifted and there regally sitting was Maya Angelou.  All of us in the theater rose to our feet and greeted her with a standing ovation. Tears welled up in my eyes to be in the presence of a woman who has achieved so many incredible things in her long life.  

Wearing all black and dark sunglasses she began to sing in her deep and sultry voice “When it looks like the sun wasn’t gonna shine anymore God put a rainbow in the clouds.”    She explained that these lyrics came from an African American song from the 19th century that she was pretty certain was written by a woman.  She went onto explain that she has had a lot of clouds in her life, but that she has had so many rainbows, and she carries all those who have been rainbows in her life with her wherever she goes.

Maya encouragingly told those present "You're here so that you can become a rainbow in somebody's cloud. Each one of us has possibility and potential … the responsibility of being a rainbow in the clouds. That's who we are at our very best.  Prepare yourself so that you can be a rainbow in someone else's cloud.”

Click below to hear Maya talk about rainbows in the clouds.

Maya shared how when she was just three years old and her brother five their parents were getting a divorce and neither of them really wanted to care for them.  So she and her brother were put on a train by themselves with notes tied to their wrists that said to deliver them to their paternal grandmother Annie Henderson in Stamps, Arkansas. 

There in Stamps she would also meet for the first time her Uncle Willie who was crippled.  The children would work in the store with their grandmother and uncle and would learn to read and do their times tables.  Maya shared how these were known as the lynching years in the south and sometimes she and her brother would help to hide their uncle in a box under potatoes and onions to keep him safe.

She also had this story to share about Uncle Willie.  After my Uncle Willie died I went to Little Rock where I was met by one of America’s great rainbows in the clouds, Daisy Bates, the woman who led the nine black students into Central High in the late fifties in Little Rock.  She told me that there was somebody who was dying to meet me.

She introduced me to a handsome black man in a three-piece suit.  When I met him, he said, “I don’t want to shake your hand. I want to hug you.” He then said, “You know, Maya, the State of Arkansas has lost a great man in losing Willie. In the 1920s, I was the only child of a blind mother.  Your Uncle Willie gave me a job in his store, paid me 10 cents a week, and taught me to do my times tables.” 

 I asked him, “How would he do it?” He said, “He used to grab me like this...”
Then I knew he was talking about Uncle Willie. 

He said, “Because of him, I am who I am today, the mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, first black mayor in the South.” 

I look back at Uncle Willie, that crippled, black man in the South where lynching was the disorder of the day, I have no idea the range of his influence. But I know that when it looked for me like the sun wasn’t going to shine anymore, God put “a rainbow in the clouds” in the form of Uncle Willie. 

Who has been a rainbow in your cloud? How can you take that experience and prepare yourself, as Maya Angelou says, to be a blessing to somebody?

The evening’s talk would go on to include snippets of songs being sung, the reciting of poetry from memory, belly-laughing stories, encouragement, inspiration and a continual reminder of the connections between us all. 
Maya had this to say about courage:  “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue consistently. You can't be consistently fair, consistently kind, consistently generous, consistently just, and certainly not consistently loving without courage.”

She also offered up this sage wisdom:

 “You need someone to tell you, not just that you're alright, but that you're fabulous.”  

I don't trust a person who says "I don't like myself, but I love you, so be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.” 

Yet she also told hilarious stories about why she doesn’t travel by air anymore and how she had this problem in airports because she looked like Maya Angelou.  When she finally had enough of the airport scene in the middle of a trip she called around to see if there was a bus she could borrow and ended up being loaned the one that belonged to Prince, who she later learned is quite particular about who uses his bus.

A reoccurring theme in Dr. Angelou’s talk was the reminder of how we are all connected and also that we are all human.  She offered up a quote by Publius Terentius Afer, better known in English as Terence, who had been brought to Rome as a slave.  The senator who had bought him, later educated him and then impressed by his abilities, freed him.  Terence wrote six plays, all of which have amazingly survived through the years, but he is especially know for the following quote "I am a human being, nothing human can be alien to me." Maya stated that this statement made somewhere between 185-159 BC always helps her to find empathy for others, even in difficult circumstances. 

How could looking at the people in your life through this lens help you make a deeper connection?

Here is one final video of Maya Angelou to inspire you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Self-Worth Project: Shedding Light On Shame

Yesterday my article called
The Self-Worth Project: Shedding the Light on Shame
was published in my column in the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine.

Come on over to the magazine to learn more about
photographer Tommy Corey's vision and his
inspirational photographic project that is
changing lives and bringing awareness
to how we are all connected.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Water

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi a Hungarian physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology - Medicine in 1937 and is credited with discovering vitamin C described water in this way, “Water is life's mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”  

The adult human body is composed of approximately 55 to 60% water--the brain is composed of 70% water, as is skin, blood is 82% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water.  You can survive about a month without food, but only 5-7 days without water.   And consider this amazing fact, it is possible to drink water today that was here in the dinosaur age.

When I began to learn more about water I also began to realize that water was a source of life.  But for most of my life I never really gave much thought to water.  Being born in the United States in California in a suburban community in 1969 clean water was available whenever I wanted.  As I’ve grown older and learned more about the world I’ve discovered that for some people even having access to clean drinking water is hard to come by.  When I make my gratitude lists, water is always on them, as well as indoor plumbing.  During the summer when I am taking water aerobics classes at the local city swimming pool I always give thanks when I am in the water because I am aware that there are people on the planet who are struggling to get enough water for their most basic needs.  

Now while one could get morose about these inequalities, that doesn’t really help improve matters. Here is what can help make a difference.  First is to bring awareness to World Water Day which is on March 22nd  to your family, friends and community. For more information about World Water Day be sure to visit this web site:

Progress was also made, when in the summer of 2010, the United Nations voted to make access to clean water a recognized human right. This was welcome news to those fighting the disturbing reality that more people die each year from contaminated water than all forms of violence and war combined.
The UN vote is just the beginning.  Now our countries and communities need to make good on the commitment to provide access to clean water to the nearly 1 billion people worldwide who currently rely on bacteria-infested water that causes everything from diarrhea to dysentery.
If you are interested in taking action check out these organizations and see what you can do to help:

Water for People programs improve drinking water in developing countries:

Water Advocates promotes water availability, sanitation and hygiene:

Population Servies International is involved in efforts against waterborne diseases:

Global Water Challenge is a coalition working for access to clean water:

I’ll leave you with several questions and a wonderful excerpt about water from the book Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls.

What is the very first word that comes to mind when you think of water?

What are your thoughts and feelings about water?

Do you feel a special connection with water?

Have you ever found water to be inspiring, frightening, healing?

“Sometimes over supper, when Jim got home after a storm, the kids would describe their escapades in the water and mud, and Jim would recount his vast store of water lore and water history.  Once the world was nothing but water, he explained, and you wouldn’t think to look at us, but human beings were mostly water.  The miraculous thing about water, he said, was that it never came to an end.  All the water on the earth had been here since the beginning of time, it has just moved around from rovers and lakes and oceans to clouds and rain and puddles and then sunk through the soil to underground streams, to springs and wells, where it got drunk by people and animals and went back to rivers and lakes and ocean.

The water you kids were playing in, he said, had probably been to Africa and the North Pole.  Genghis Khan or Saint Peter or even Jesus himself might have drunk it.  Cleopatra might have bathed in it.  Crazy Horse might have watered his pony with it.  Sometimes water was liquid.  Sometimes it was rock hard—ice.  Sometimes it was soft—snow.  Sometimes it was visible, but weightless—clouds.  And sometimes it was completely invisible—vapor—floating up into the sky like the souls of dead people.  There was nothing like water in the world, Jim said.  It made the desert bloom but also turned rich bottomland into swamp.  Without it we’d die, but it could also kill us, and that was why we loved it, even craved it, but also feared it.  Never take water for granted, Jim said.  Always cherish it.  Always beware of it.”

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ Let Your "Freak" Out by Alara K. Castell

Welcome Cosmic Cowgirl Alara K. Castell
Guest Writer for Mojo Monday

Let Your “Freak” Out

As I grow as a woman and as an entrepreneur the more I learn about myself. Just in the past couple of weeks I realized I’ve been resisting to some of my past mentors guidance because I didn’t feel it was in line with me, but who was “I?” What makes me unique? That is one of most common questions that you get asked when you are creating tools to market your business.
Of course I ponder and I think what makes me unique? I can think of some things but there is no way that I would admit that because I might have people running the other way.

But more and more I am accepting of my “uniqueness.” I promise I will share a bit at the end, but stay with me, while I share how I got to the point of letting my “freak” out.
It first started when I attended Brandy Mychals 6 Character Code Workshop. I learned more about myself and about me growing up then I did elsewhere. It all makes sense to why I am the way I am today. I was always a creative, talkative, silly child (characteristics of a cheerleader), but growing up with old fashioned parents (characteristics of a scholar) those fun characteristics faded as I got older because I thought they were not right because they were not recognized.

I was never told as a child that I was beautiful from my parents and I never got the acknowledgment, but that isn’t the fault of my parents as that is the way they were. I didn’t match my parent’s character code. Now understanding this I can let go of that pain and embrace those fun things about me again. I don’t have to be that proper person that I thought I had to be. That’s just not me!

After experiencing Brandy’s gifts, I listened in on a call hosted by Suzanne Falter-Barns and Jeffrey Van Dyk. They titled it “It’s Really OK to Be Different! Let Your Freak Flag Fly in the Marketplace.”

The key nuggets I got from listening to their call is that the “very thing that we tend to hide from the world is the very thing that is our greatest mojo.”

They asked 2 key questions... “What piece of you needs to be expressed? What piece of you needs to step into the light in order to be a whole person?”

I pondered on that answer and things came to me and I’ll share more at the end, but now my next inspiration.

Lady Gaga was my next encounter. Not in person, but that would have been amazing. I watched her interview on 60-minutes with Anderson Cooper. I have gained more respect for her and her individuality by watching this interview.

First her message is beautiful. Her message is that “You have the freedom to pull that superstar out of yourself that you were born to be. We are all born superstars.”

Second at the end of each of her concerts she says, “Tonight I want you to let go of all your insecurities, I want you to reject anyone or anything that made you feel like you don’t belong…FREE YOURSELF.”

Powerful words for a 25-year old! The way that she presents herself in this world is letting her “freak” out.

So you’re probably wondering right now what is my “freak.” I often hide that I like to dance sensually, that I’m silly and act like a dork because it’s not how I was raised. At home in the privacy of my own home… my silly self comes out most definitely, but the public doesn’t often see that person. I have been on stage before and led a sensual dance break. That was so much fun! It’s funny because I always got approached to how powerful I was when I let this “person” out...this “freak.”

Because of all the inspirations that I have encountered recently I’m ready to let my “freak” out. I’m not going to hide and run the other way. I’m going to share it with the world… my “freak.” I have to say it takes a lot of energy to be someone you are not and to hold back that inner “freak.” It feels FREE to be that superstar and to share my “uniqueness” with world and I feel empowered to be true to who I am.

So I ask you…“What piece of you needs to be expressed?

What piece of you needs to step into the light in order to be a whole person?”

Would love for you to share.

Special thank you to Brandy Mychals, Suzanne Falter-Barns, Jeffrey Van Dyk and Lady Gaga.

To read and see more about what I experienced with them see below.

• Learn more about Brandy Mychals and her 6 Character Code system by clicking here.

• Listen to the recording from Suzanne Falter-Barns and Jeffrey Van Dyk by clicking here.

• Watch Lady Gaga on 60-minutes by clicking here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mojo Monday ~ International Women's Day March 8th

The first International Women’s Day events were run in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911 and attended by over one million people. 100 years on, International Women’s Day (IWD) has become a global mainstream phenomena celebrated across many countries and is an official holiday in approximately 25 countries including Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.

March 8th sees extensive global women’s activity. Performer and social activist, Annie Lennox, will lead a mass march across London’s Millennium Bridge for charity. In Washington D.C. over a thousand people will descend on Capitol Hill demanding a better world for millions of marginalized women and girls around the globe. A major international business women’s conference will be hosted in Sydney, Australia. Schools and governments around the world are participating in the day. Trade Unions and charities are campaigning. Global corporations are hosting conferences and distributing extensive resource packs. The United Nations Secretary-General delivers a formal message. The United States even designates the whole month of March as Women's History Month as officially proclaimed by President Obama on February 28, 2011.

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future. However, activity has not always been on the increase. Australian entrepreneur and women’s campaigner Glenda Stone, who founded the website, a global hub of events and information, said:

“A decade ago International Women’s Day was disappearing. Activity in Europe, where International Women’s Day actually began, was very low. Providing a global online platform helped sustain and accelerate momentum for this important day. Holding only a handful of events ten years ago, the United Kingdom has now become the global leader for International Women’s Day activity, followed sharply by Canada, United States and Australia. 2011 will see thousands of events globally for the first time.”

More recently, social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube have also helped fuel International Women’s Day activity. Generally the day has moved away from its socialist Suffragette beginnings to become more mainstream in celebrating women’s achievements. Annually thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events, local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Special Notes About International Women’s Day
• International Women's Day (March 8th) is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.

• In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday.

• The first IWD was observed on March 19, 1911 in Germany following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions.

• 2011 sees the International Women’s Day centenary fall on the same say as Shrove (pancake) Tuesday.

• For a detailed list of International Women’s Day events globally click here

• Follow the International Women’s Day Twitter feed by clicking here.

How will you celebrate International Women's Day?

Women for Women International ~ Join Me On the Bridge ~ International Women’s Day Video