I can’t say I know where to begin or where I even want to start, but this seems befitting for a journey where I did not know what to expect nor did I want to have any expectations. It all began after reading Of Water and Spirit. If you haven’t checked out this book, I suggest you do so. Immediately after reading the book I researched the author Malidoma Patrice Some. Malidoma is an African Elder from the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso, a healer, teacher, and international speaker. I was drawn to Malidoma’s work immediately after reading his book, and I knew I would one day take a class with him or study under him. What attracted me to his work is that it focuses on African indigenous spirituality and as a student of humanity and different spiritual traditions I’ve never taken the time to study my roots and the African path of healing. What I found was even shocking to me, exceeding my imagination and culminating in a kind of catharsis, healing, and awakening of something that has been lying dormant within my soul.
One of the reasons why I haven’t studied African spirituality is that I realized I was holding onto programming and fear steaming from my Catholic upbringing. I was raised in a Nigerian household, and in a Nigerian home, there are deeply rooted beliefs where anything that isn’t Christian is demonized and ridiculed. This ties into the vilification of the African culture and consciousness that have occurred and continue to happen worldwide. Due to colonization and other factors, most Nigerian’s are either Christian or Muslim, and anything native or tribal is either frowned upon, met with extreme prejudice or done secretively. Because of this, the native African way of spirituality has been lost over time. Funny enough that the West (or developed countries) who are responsible for colonization are now the ones who are primarily seeking indigenous spirituality and wisdom.
I signed up for Malidoma’s IAST (Indigenous African Spiritual Technologies) course about six months or so after reading Of Water and Spirit (Firstly, I have to say this book opened up such a curiosity and imagination in me that the mind was telling me was impossible). The course consists of five, five-day sessions that meet for about a year and a half. I knew the course would dive into Dagara cosmology and the relationship between indigenous people’s, nature, the elements and mother Earth and how they’ve maintained such a way of life for this long. What I did not expect to receive out of the experience is the sacredness with which ritual creates and cultivates within an individual. Ritual is a sort of dance and communication that involves the community, nature, the elements and the world of spirit. Ritual holds a significant and understated importance in the life of indigenous people’s from around the world. After this experience, I have realized that if we in modern society want to coexist with nature, we must understand the role and importance of ritual, spirit, the indigenous way of life and how it ties into our experience here as human beings.
The journey for my trip began on a Wednesday, where I drove to beautiful Leicester North Carolina. The drive was surprisingly therapeutic, and I say surprisingly because driving is not one of my favorite past times. The ease of the trip could have been due to the work that I was going up to do, but I digress. Reaching the space, I will call home for the next five days I felt excited yet timid about meeting this new group of friends and family I will be spending the next couple of days with. One thing I know for sure is that when you sign up to do healing work with complete strangers often time they are not strangers. Often time’s you’ve had past lives and experiences together that culminated in you meeting again in this life. The first night of our arrival was filled with curiosity and everyone just getting to know each other. We had dinner together, sat with Malidoma and Theresa (Theresa is also an Elder and a teacher) and discussed our story and what brought us together to this point in time. One thing that was consistent with everyone’s story is pain, hurt and some abuse, whether being emotional or physical in some form. Furthermore, everyone that was present seems to have had some path where they have walked with the sacred and the magical. This culmination got me to feel that there was something higher than myself that was the organizer and intelligence here. The fact that all these people from around different parts of the world had such similarly different experiences which brought them to this very place seemed incomprehensible to my mind but of course I knew better.
I’ve done workshops and spiritual classes before and they’ve all been beneficial to me in some sense or another, but the people in this IAST program felt notably different. About three-quarters of the group were of Caucasian descent and the other quarter including myself were either African or of African descent. Being that three quarters were of Caucasian descent, I didn’t think or expect that every non-brown skinned person there would have such a holistic perspective of racism and colonialism not just in America but around the world. Not only do they have an understanding of it but they are aware of how they benefit from it and how they can help heal it. This was an astounding experience for me because one, I’ve never experienced that and two, it spoke to just how aware, present and profoundly inspiring this group of people is.
Day 1 ended with a lecture from Malidoma, which just left me in awe. You would have had to be there in person to truly understand. And you can have your own experience of IAST course by visiting Malidoma’s website and signing up for a class. Because of the intensity and length of this experience, I have decided to break up this post into three other posts. Stay tuned for links to the other posts.