I have been thinking much about the various religions and traditions we each practice. In each religion there are those who say “this is my religion and it is what I practice. I follow all the tenets.”. These same people know all the prayers and which directions to turn for prayer. Yet, something strange happens, when you encounter them in everyday life; they are self-centered, self-serving and rigid. This is more an observation than a criticism, for we have all come to this earth to learn how to be happy and balanced with the ALL. So where do we go wrong? We go wrong when we believe that words alone make us into good people. You can read a page of a book and suddenly you are good. You can recite a prayer and suddenly you are good. The brain does not quite work that way. This is why many religions have such astounding bad behavior and hate mongers, as a key part of them. The practices of each tradition are beautiful, but without training the mind and heart to be warm, then we keep on playing out the same stories in our lives and world.
Part of Spiritual Colonialism was the emphasis on textual knowledge as opposed to practicing actual values of kindness, love and compassion. A religion was not valid until it could be validated through its words and form. It was not valid until it fit a certain European standard of seeing and being in the world, in particular a Protestant model of the world. What this did, was more and more religions and traditions began to emphasize the textual part of their knowledge. Also, more and more religions began to emphasize form rather than essence, externals rather than internal transformation, and savior figures. In terms of the latter, there became a stronger emphasis in many religions that somehow our salvation would come from outside of us. There became less and less emphasis on the internal processes that awaken.
The Yoruba tradition of Ifa has this great emphasis on Iwa Pele – Good Character. Yet, Good Character is much more a noun than a verb for most people who practice. Many religions have their versions of Iwa Pele – Good Character, and in many religions Good Character is more a noun than a verb. So, it is something the collective suffer from.
For Good Character to become a verb there has to be mind training. You have to have ways to train the mind and heart. It is the part of Tibetan Buddhism and true yogic practices that I love. Tibetan Buddhism and true yogic practices emphasize meditative practices. When we look close enough at each tradition we will see this meditative practice, is present in each – in different ways. When we understand how the brain pathways and formations work, we would realize how important meditative practices are. For the pathway of the brain cannot change without some form of contemplative practice. We need to create a stop-gap in our behavior and then seed something new – that is how neuron pathways change. Otherwise we keep on traveling down the same pathways of nurtured behaviors.
Thus, all this is to say, when we realize that most of us have been affected by the history of spiritual colonialism in our traditions, maybe we will see that no outside savior will save us, and outside external gestures and words alone will not save the day. We must begin to search for the meditative pathway of our traditions. We must understand that hidden in the iconography, stories, mythologies and sacred songs/prayers of most traditions is a contemplative pathway. Jesus meditated for 40 days in the desert and overcame great evil tempting him. Orunmila the prophet of the Ifa religion would have definitely have been a holy man of great meditative abilities. In the Native American practice there are many contemplative practices such as the sweat lodge. Osun the Universal Mother and Water Mother of the Yoruba tradition has hidden within her stories a powerful meditative path which I often speak about and decode in my teachings.
Shaking of the robes of Spiritual Colonialism, means to shake of a path of just textualization and externalization to embrace the path of fierce compassion, where we dare to look deeply and honestly within our hearts and minds, so we can begin the upward ascent of awakened consciousness. Also understanding the neuroscience of behavior, and trauma patterns helps us to know how to harness the sometimes-hidden pathway of our traditions to create Iwa Pele – Good Character on our Earth today. (Painting by Yeye Omileye, Still Emerging)
Image by Omileye
-YeYe Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis
Yeye Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis M.Ed, NCC, LPCA is often referred to as an old spirit in a modern world who travels to local and international communities sharing universal and indigenous ceremonies and wisdom teachings which nurture compassion, oneness, balance and a sustainable planet. She is an international award-winning author of several books, former national UK journalist, fifth generation Wisdom keeper, storyteller, and sacred artist of Afro Caribbean roots.
A mother of two she is also a licensed contemplative clinical mental health psychotherapist, a licensed school counselor, a trained SEED Facilitator, and an inclusion and diversity consultant. She, along with her husband, have co-founded several organizations and projects: YeyeOsun, the Institute of Four Elemental Mother’s Compassion and Wisdom in Action; renown international Humanity for Water Awards; and UNICEF Interfaith WASH Alliance (founded with other world and cultural leaders). Her work and strength of visions has been recently blessed and recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kuten La, the Tibetan State Oracle and United Nations. Omileye has also received several ancient distinguished African spiritual titles and roles including Yeye Osun and Crown of Osun, is the award winner of the prestigious Prince’s Trust Award, and has a passion for working with children, diversity, and the environment. She has just founded her own private integrative and contemplative diversity counseling practice and consultancy.