Many years ago I wrote this feature on Caroline Shola Arewa for the Daily Mail. I don’t think it ever saw the light of day. But I’ve been re-reading Caroline’s book Opening to Spirit lately and then, hunting through old files, I found this – so figured it was worth giving it an airing. Do check out her work – all good stuff.
There are many paths to the Divine. Some people feel drawn to the healing traditions of the Native Americans; others relate to the misty spirituality of the early Celtic peoples. We are surrounded by the wisdom of numerous cultures – from ancient India to China, Tibet to Mongolia. But little has been written, far less experienced, in the West of the African mystical tradition. Now Caroline Shola Arewa is seeking to redress the balance. Her book Opening to Spirit brilliantly fuses African spirituality with more familiar concepts such as yoga, the chakras and meditation. “History has masked the spiritual achievements of the African race,” she says. “Our African Ancestors were generalists: spirituality, philosophy, mythology, psychology, the arts and healing knew no separation.”
This, she points out, is probably part of the reason why we have ignored the wisdom of Africa. In the West, we have always found this a difficult concept – preferring specialisation. Yet as science proves that all things are connected – that our minds affect our bodies and vice versa, maybe it is at last time for us to learn the lessons of the forgotten continent. After all, spirituality started here, in the cradle of civilisation, amongst the first people of the planet. From Africa – Egypt and Nubia, Ethiopia and the Sudan – came arcane knowledge which was later spread by these early Africans around the world. “Have you ever wondered why people the world over have very similar traditions, beliefs, stories and symbols,” asks Caroline Shola Arewa, “This is no coincidence. This is our inheritance from the first children of Africa, the foreparents of all the planet’s children.”
So African spirituality speaks to us all. Follow its wisdom and, promises Arewa, you can learn how to transform your life. “You can heal the hurts and become acquainted with the wondrous, creative and beautiful person you truly are.”
HEALING YOUR HEART
THE MYTHOLOGY. Maat or Matu is an ancient African goddess, the personification of balance, justice and truth. She weighs the hearts of the deceased in the hall of judgement. If the heart weighs heavy then the soul will reincarnate and return to the world. If the heart weighs light, as light as a feather, then all lessons have been learned and the soul may return to the stars. When we choose to live according to Maat’s law – that of fairness, truth and justice – we can learn to let go of the past and bring change into our lives. This goddess opens the gateway to spiritual achievement and transformation. Opening your heart and allowing your love to show transforms you and changes the world.
MAKE A HEART ALTAR: You will need a green cloth – preferably silk (or cotton). Place it on a table or shelf with four green candles facing north, south, east and west. Put some spring water in a green bowl or cup. Add some incense or aromatherapy oils in any of these scents: rose, jasmine, orange blossom or melissa. You can also include crystals such as rose quartz or green tourmaline. Place a statue of Maat or any goddess of love (Aphrodite, Kuan Yin, the Virgin Mary) on your altar. Add pictures of people you love. As you make your altar feel universal love flowing through you. Use this altar as a place for meditation.
CULTIVATE FORGIVENESS. Sit in quiet meditation for ten minutes, in front of your altar, focusing on your breath. Imagine the breath moving within your heart. Allow your heart to open wide, allowing it to fill with healing energy from the Goddess Maat. Now write down the name of someone you want to forgive. Write down what it was that hurt you.
• Visualise what this hurt is doing to you. How is it draining your energy? How is it affecting you?
• Close your eyes and allow the negative energy to lift from you, feel it become light and fuse with the element of air. Let this energy go – it is not yours, direct it back. See where it is going. Where did it come from?
• Close your eyes, open your heart and feel universal love flood through you. Recognise that we are all connected through the heart and through the air we breathe. Inhale love, peace and harmony deep into your being. Now extend that love to all beings.
• Let go completely of your anger and hurt – leave it in the hands of the Gods. Reclaim your power, reclaim your energy, reclaim your love and compassion.
PRACTICE YOGA. The Sphinx – half-animal and half-human – symbolises unification between our instinctive Self and our higher Self, blending the strength and magnificence of a lion with human consciousness. Lie face-down on the floor, then bring your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep both elbows on the ground and let your forehead touch the floor. Now slowly raise your head, shoulders and chest. Keep your feet together on the floor. Continue to lift up into a Sphinx-like position. Lengthen your spine and breathe deeply. As you open your heart, allow it to fill with love and wisdom. Let the knowledge of the Sphinx be known to you.
Opening to Spirit by Caroline Shola Arewa (Thorsons)