What if you could practice an African spirituality? How would your life change if you could reconnect with the spiritual practices of your ancestors? Most of us have felt that there is something fundamentally missing from our European/Arabic inherited religions. Why are Black people the most religious people on earth, but also the most dis-empowered? I have asked myself this same question for years and only after discovering my own African spirituality did my life begin to change. In this article, I will outline 5 principles of an African spirituality that will create the change you're looking for in your life.
Self-Awareness, Who Am I?
The first thing you must understand about African spirituality is the concept of collective self-identity. In European based societies, the individual person identifies him or herself as a single person in a single moment of time. The answer to the question "Who am I?" is "I am my title, my position at work, my accomplishments, my position in my family" or worse "I am who others say I am." European based societies teach us to view ourselves not as ourselves, but as labels (Black, man or woman, tall or short, fat or skinny, etc). Jason Silva said it best,"I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am, I am who I think you think I am." This is our predominant mindset in the society we find ourselves in, foreign to our ancestry.
So, who am I? Rather the question should be "Who are I?" in that you are more than an individual self in an individual moment in time. You are who you are today, but you are also who you were yesterday, and who you will be in the future. All live within you today. The little child you were years ago still resides within you today. Yes, you are older and more mature (hopefully), but essentially, you are still you. African spirituality understands there is strength in numbers.
If you believe yourself to be one single entity, then you are alone. Yet, if you understand that you are more than one, but many, there is power. Not only are you one with yourself across time, but also one with your ancestors who passed down their genetic makeup to you. They live in your skin, your blood, and your bones. Understand this unity within yourself and also within the Black community. African spirituality understands we are one.
"I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am;
Greater than Pain and Pleasure
African spirituality is also pure, positive, and loving, yet strong. It is not fear-based. It does not demand loyalty with the alternative being eternal damnation and punishment. It does not force itself upon you. The question, you must ask yourself is "If there is no hell, would I still follow my European/Arabic based religions?" Sadly, many chose foreign religions purely out of fear, fear of damnation and eternal punishment. Thus, they live their life in constant fear.
Likewise, African spirituality is not reward-based. We do not practice in order to gain monetary wealth, fame, pleasure, or fortune in this life or the next. Thus, we must also ask ourselves "If there is no heaven, would I still follow my European/Arabic religions which promise eternal bliss in the next life?" Regardless of heaven or hell, you should do what is right, what you believe in. This is the essence of an African spirituality. The concepts of fear and material pleasures are foreign ideas.
In addition, African spirituality is positive and love-based always. It is not bitter and does not relive past pain and abuses. It takes action and focuses on solutions, rather than problems. The spirit is peaceful. It opposes nothing, yet conquers all.
Does Not Burn
African spirituality is alive and conscious. It is a mindful meditative practice. This element is better experienced than explained. Indeed, words cannot describe the state of awareness achieved through meditation, prayer, and mindful living. The body is lighter, the mind is clearer, and if you pray, your prayers are heard because you are more in tune with that which is real. That is what makes this a spiritual practice which can be incorporated into any religious tradition with the proper understanding.
This conscious state of being allows the practitioner to see reality for what it really is. He or she is able to view the problems we face today with wisdom and find solutions. They are able to understand systematic racism and White supremacy without judgement or bitterness. They simply work around it, manipulate it, or dissolve it within their own lives. Yes, they feel the heat, but unlike fire, it does not burn them. Some of us are burned. We claim to be conscious, awoke, aware, spiritual, etc, but can't get past our present state. Why not? Because the actions we take are not positive and/or consistent.
It's about taking action daily. Some of us wonder why our life never changes; we pray, we hope, we talk to advisers, we continue to strive, but never obtain. The key is consistency. African spirituality is about consistent practice at least daily. What does this mean? It means spending time every day to center yourself, reconnect with your higher purpose, and set your intention for your day, to live purposefully. However you practice, you must do it daily. If you meditate, do it daily, every morning or whatever time you can find. Be consistent. Likewise, if you read or write, or find spirituality through art, do something everyday. Don't give up. This point cannot be emphasized enough. It is often at the point of giving up that our greatest breakthrough occurs.
What is a daily practice? I'll write a separate article on this topic, but for me, it typically comprises 30-45 minutes meditation, 10 minutes prayer for family and friends, then 10-15 minutes preparing my mind for the day ahead. Sometimes, it involves reading or drawing, but that's my routine. I recommend giving yourself an hour everyday. You may not use it all, but it will help you not rush through it.
You must decide what your own practice will consist of and your goals. The key is to align your spirit with your purpose and your reality. Set a goal not to give up, set a time to practice for 1 week straight, then a month, then longer until it becomes who you are. Lastly, don't limit your practice to an hour of dedicated time in the morning, it should be a way of life. Walk the talk.
Related to daily action, is feeding your mind daily with positive beliefs. It's not just about listening to positive messages or inspirational videos, but about actively applying belief to what you hear. It's like filling your car up with gas, but not turning the ignition to cut the car on. Feeding your mind with positive information won't do anything if you don't activate it with belief.
You must also understand belief is not something you have, but something you must do everyday. It is an action. Everyday, you must activate your belief in yourself, your collective self, your true self. Inevitably, we think that things are going well and we don't have to meditate, practice, read, or strengthen our belief. It is at that moment we fail. We may not see the physical manifestation of that failure until later in the week or month, but once you stop your practice, you have already failed.
Yet, typically, we think failure happens when we don't see the result we expected, but in reality we have failed a long time before that. Boxers know that a fight is not won in the ring, but in the gym training. Likewise, your battles are won in your daily spiritual practice, meditation time, reading, doing something creative, getting in tune with yourself, etc.
Put these 5 principles common in African spiritual traditions into practice everyday. This is the beginning to manifesting the change you desire to see in your own life. You may not notice a difference tomorrow, but given time, you will. Through practicing, you gain wisdom and insight into your path and what you desire. Solutions come to mind and doors open. It's not magic or fantasy, but just how it is.
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