Spiritual celebrations – being mindful
New paths – the challenges
Starting a new spiritual path always entails losing or abandoning ways that are familiar and adopting new ones. For many of us Africans we move from a Christian or Islamic religion, and we are on the move to reclaim our identities that are closely linked to our ancestral lineage, and spirituality is a major part of this. This movement often starts with a desire to study and understand why we were Christianized or converted into Islam. We study, dig up hidden information and analyze in search of the truth; and most of the time we find it difficult to practice or live this new path because we are used to following a system that tells us what to do, when to do and how to do it without giving an explanation and purpose for the action. This therefore makes it difficult for those who are new on the spiritual path to know what to do. How do you live a spiritual life as opposed to a religious life? Where do you even start?
Many would ask questions such as – when should I pray? To whom should I pray? How do I pray now? Most of it is based on the fear of a place they have been taught about, that will be the abode of those who do not follow their former religion. Fear keeps one rooted in a place that does not serve them, and even when they say one thing, they do another. For those who are in the pan African movement, it becomes a conflicting reality. To abandon the religions of those who colonized us and find our identity or to continue following the only path we have known since childhood because of the fear of hell or some such place. Sometimes it is also the fear of angering “God” or being wrong in your choices and fearing that this God will not forgive your trespasses and will punish you for it.
The holidays – the whys and hows
After all is said and done, getting on a new path is daunting let alone a path whose map you do not have or it appears not to exist at all. It will help for those who are new on the path to at least have an idea of how to incorporate some practices in their daily lives and find ways to replace any other celebrations and habits that they might feel are religious and they wish to discontinue. This journey is one that is often done gradually because it is painful to completely abandon your entire way of life which is essentially attached to your identity.
The greatest advice I can give is to make the changes gradually and to only adopt what makes sense in the meantime while continuing to study further and explore more to find daily rituals or ways of life that you feel more connected to and add them into your life gradually.
One of the ways that I found made the transition easy for me was to study the holy-days and celebrations and find out why they are celebrated; finding correlating celebrations across cultures and understanding why each culture celebrates them. This does not mean being limited only to African cultures but world cultures at large. By learning the significant days of the year based on planetary, solar and lunar movements, I was able to understand why we have certain celebrations, and choose which to celebrate. Include your family and children who are interested to make it a regular celebration. This way the rituals will be passed down to your children and they will eventually become normal like all the other celebrations we have in our families which no one questions.
As we are observing the Winter Solstice, which happens simultaneously with the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on December 21 2020, I am reminded of the importance of understanding why we have these holidays and the rituals we can perform to fully benefit from these planetary and universal changes.
Many religious and spiritual paths talk of the re-birth of the sun and light overpowering darkness during this time. This is time to release with the energy of Saturn that which no longer serves you while with the energy and vibration of Jupiter we align ourselves to receive. Before you can receive something new, you must be willing to let go of old things, de-clutter and make space. This conjunction is a beginning of a new era and the right time to sit in meditation, do a soul search and purge all the heavy burdens you might carry. It is a time for positive thoughts and actions, and making efforts to live a more mindful lifestyle.
All that we do on the spiritual path is to align ourselves with nature with universe and ensure we are tuned into any changes and movements; and we can utilize this to benefit our lives immensely. When you are mindful and live a more positive life aligned nature, you learn to heal yourself, you learn to trust yourself and you begin to see all that you need manifest in your life. Sometimes this sounds like mambo-jumbo stuff to those who have not experienced it; but think about it like tuning into a radio. You have to find the right frequency in order to listen to the program you like on the radio. When you have changed your mindset, your approach to life and generally hold a much higher positive energy, you begin to attract things and people that are on the same frequency. The principle here is to live fully and well, to be balanced and positive – to trust in yourself and know that you have been given all the tools to live a fulfilling life.
How to celebrate when everyone else doesn’t understand
Many of us grew up with certain rituals that were performed during certain times of the year but as our families had become Christians and Muslims, they have lost the significance of the rituals and they only did them out of habit. They have been performing them in the family or community for thousands of years. During the winter Solstice for example, in my village in South Africa, and we would all gather around the fire listening to stories and legends told by an elder; stories that involved the rebirth of the sun in some way or another.
As an adult, I remember those nights and see the significance of those legends. But, as children we were not taught about the movement of the sun, the moon, the planets and other celestial bodies. When we do not understand astrology and science, we perform rituals out of believe and not necessarily out of logic. The path of spirituality involves a lot of studying if one is to practice anything because you have to know what is happening and why it is happening.
To abandon or to celebrate? Many people ask this question especially regarding Christmas and other holidays attached to religion. For the festive season, the dates remain significant in the northern hemisphere and most people would be celebrating albeit for different reasons. I would say start new habits and rituals attaching significance to the celebrations as opposed to celebrating just because others are doing it. In some cases family bonds are broken when one takes a path that is contrary to what the family believes, and it is usually out of ignorance on the part of those who want to tell you how to approach spirituality and life. Our families won’t allow us to explore because they have been taught that their religious way is the only true way and they remain ignorant of a lot of things. You’d have to decide whether to find significance in the celebrations for yourself and continue with it or to abandon it completely.
On the spiritual path, we align with nature and what is happening in the natural world helps guide our actions. And during times such as this, we are reminded to take it slow, to spend time meditating and fasting and only allowing positive thoughts and energies to surround us.
These are things we should do all the time and not just at this powerful time. And again this is much easier said than done. To be able to intentionally choose to surround yourself with positive energy and thoughts, you need to be mindful of what you do. Everyone talks about mindfulness and often the whole process feels like an unattainable philosophy. Being mindful simply means: be aware of what you are thinking about when you are thinking it. Be aware of how you feel when you are feeling it. Be aware of what you are experiencing but do not react but simply observe. This can be a challenging thing to do because we are all used to reacting to stimuli. Someone or something annoys us and we quickly react. Being mindful is being aware that what just happened is annoying but you do not have to do anything about it. You have a choice. How you live is a choice. What others do is their problem, but what you do or how you react is your responsibility.
Start daily rituals that will bring you closer to your goal of a mindful and positive lifestyle - incorporate some yoga and meditation in your daily routine. Having calm and clear thoughts is important to growing on the path because it will help you approach things in a logical and clear manner.
To make this an enjoyable journey, reach out to others who are on the same path and create a community. This can be a path or alone(ness), but it doesn't have to be an isolating and lonely path.