Spirit notes

Whether you’re trav­el­ling or stay­ing at home this hol­i­day sea­son, it’s a good time for re­flec­tion and med­i­ta­tion. Here’s how to cre­ate space in your life for the sacred, wher­ever you might be

Destiny - - Contents - BY Mandy Collins

Many af­ter­noons ago, as a friend an­swered my phone call, I could hear her four ram­bunc­tious chil­dren fight­ing and play­ing in the back­ground. Then, sud­denly, I couldn’t. Then I could hear them again, only this time there was dull thud­ding and the sounds were muf­fled. I had to ask what was go­ing on. It turned out she’d locked her­self into the pantry to give her­self a fight­ing chance of hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion. The kids were out­side, pum­melling the door with tiny fists.

By the time the end of the year rolls around and we’re fi­nally on hol­i­day, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve spent a long time in­side that pantry, try­ing to es­cape all the de­mands oth­ers place on us. But then come the de­mands of the hol­i­day sea­son it­self – vis­i­tors, shop­ping, wran­gling chil­dren, ex­tended fam­ily com­mit­ments, etc.

For many, how­ever, there’s a deeply spir­i­tual el­e­ment to the hol­i­days, cer­tainly for those who cel­e­brate Christ­mas, Hanukkah or Kwan­zaa. For those who don’t, even New Year can usher in a time of re­flec­tion as we look back on the past 12 months and make plans for the ones ahead.

But how do you move from the pantry po­si­tion to one of re­flec­tion and med­i­ta­tion? How do you make space in your life for the sacred and the spir­i­tual, es­pe­cially in a world that can dis­miss this need for spir­i­tu­al­ity and rit­ual as be­ing “woo-woo” or in­dul­gently es­o­teric? In fact, how do we even iden­tify what we hold sacred any more?

FIND­ING THE DIVINE IN THE MUN­DANE

“There are many forms of spir­i­tual ex­pres­sion that are dis­re­garded and mocked, and African spir­i­tual modal­i­ties fall into this cat­e­gory,” says san­goma Nokulinda Mkhize, who’s pop­u­larly known as Nok­san­goma. “Iden­ti­fy­ing what’s sacred, how­ever, re­quires un­der­stand­ing that not ev­ery­thing sacred or im­por­tant is in­tan­gi­ble, far-fetched, spir­i­tual or dis­con­nected from our flawed hu­man lives as we live them ev­ery day,” she says.

“Peo­ple tend to dis­re­gard the daily ef­forts they can make to be bet­ter peo­ple and con­nect with a sense of ubuntu, love and jus­tice. We are what we do, what we say and how we think or live. Peo­ple also tend to project out­wardly when they’re on a jour­ney of self-im­prove­ment, al­most in a de­sire to shape the world to their lik­ing, in­stead of look­ing in­wards and work­ing on be­com­ing a chan­nel for peace, jus­tice and ubuntu in their daily lives.”

Many of us have lost touch with our spir­i­tual side – and you don’t have to be ob­ser­vantly re­li­gious to feel this. Life in the 21st cen­tury is busy and over­whelm­ing, some­times at the cost of our souls’ good health.

“There’s a great deal which in­di­cates spir­i­tual alien­ation and ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis in peo­ple, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that the world we live in isn’t built for hu­man­ity to fully thrive and be re­spected,” ex­plains Mkhize. “Sim­ply by be­ing born into this world, and the way it’s struc­tured, we’ve al­ready lost a great deal of what’s sacred and im­por­tant.

“Of­ten, when peo­ple suf­fer from anx­i­ety, self-doubt or con­fu­sion about who they are and what their pur­pose is,

it’s be­cause the world tells us we should aspire to 1-2-3 and the mark­ers for suc­cess are X-Y-Z, based on cap­i­tal­ist and/or Euro­cen­tric, in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic bench­marks. So when our hu­man­ity doesn’t flow in that di­rec­tion, or our as­pi­ra­tions fall short, we can lapse into feel­ings of de­feat and frus­tra­tion.”

HOW TO RE­CON­NECT

The hol­i­days are a good time to re­con­nect to a sense of spirit, or soul. Be­cause many of us aren’t at work, there’s time to carve out sacred space – at home or away – and find our way back to our­selves. But it does take ef­fort and while it sounds sim­ple, it’s not al­ways easy.

“It’s a life­long ef­fort that can be painful, be­cause it’s trans­for­ma­tional,” says Mkhize. “There’s no check-list or tidy flow process that al­lows a per­son to make space for their soul needs – we’re all dif­fer­ent, our souls are in dif­fer­ent places and we’re here for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

“Ac­count­abil­ity and for­give­ness are im­por­tant in any jour­ney a per­son wants to un­der­take to heal, do bet­ter and be bet­ter. If peo­ple can learn to recog­nise and for­give them­selves, their pat­terns, trig­gers, crutches and the dif­fer­ent ways in which pain man­i­fests in their lives and blood­lines, they can take ac­count­abil­ity for them­selves bet­ter, break harm­ful cy­cles and be­gin the end­less work of re­plen­ish­ing their souls and meet­ing their core needs.”

There’s no Pin­ter­est-per­fect way of do­ing this – it’s not about what “stuff” you need be­cause we all come from dif­fer­ent spir­i­tual ori­gins. It’s more about cre­at­ing an in­ter­nal space in our minds and souls than about para­pher­na­lia.

“There’s an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar no­tion that a sacred space looks like a shrine of sorts, with can­dles, of­fer­ings, crys­tals and beads – and this can of­ten be tricky,” says Mkhize. “Peo­ple go­ing that route are try­ing to ex­ter­nalise an es­sen­tial in­ter­nal ex­pe­ri­ence.

“In some cul­tures, fam­i­lies and home­steads have a ded­i­cated space in the home for ri­tu­als, prayers, of­fer­ings, etc. The es­tab­lish­ment of these spa­ces is strictly gov­erned by cus­tom and fam­ily pro­to­col. I gen­er­ally cau­tion peo­ple against mak­ing phys­i­cal ‘sacred’ spa­ces, es­pe­cially when they’re not guided by elders. Spir­i­tual prac­tice does have pa­ram­e­ters and pro­to­col, so even if it’s deeply per­sonal, it should al­ways be guided by the ways of your peo­ple and rev­er­ence for them. It’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that while we’re in­di­vid­u­als try­ing to find a space in this world, there are things that are much big­ger and older than we are.

“We need to play our part and not fall into the trap of cen­ter­ing our de­sires and needs, no mat­ter how no­ble. We’re each a link in the chain of our fam­i­lies, world, his­tory and her­itage – a thread in the ta­pes­try of spirit and cosmic be­ing. We’re not the cen­tre.”

And that’s re­ally good news, be­cause it means you don’t need to rush out and buy any­thing – you have ev­ery­thing you need within you. In­stead, says Mkhize, it’s about re­think­ing and re-imag­in­ing what sacred spa­ces are. Then you can cul­ti­vate mind­ful prac­tice in your daily life by cre­at­ing pock­ets of sa­cred­ness ev­ery day: for ex­am­ple, no cell­phones at din­ner, dis­con­nect­ing from tech­nol­ogy as a fam­ily, tak­ing time to be out­doors, gar­den­ing, tak­ing time to re­flect on each day, giv­ing thanks or record­ing dreams.

“None of these re­quires the es­tab­lish­ment of a phys­i­cal ‘sacred’ space in the home, which could open peo­ple up to the risk of naive spir­i­tual prac­tice,” says Mkhize. “In­stead, these prac­tices open up space in peo­ple’s hearts and lives to ex­pe­ri­ence the rich­ness and peace of con­nect­ed­ness and spir­i­tual ground­ing.”

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