"The community concept is based on the fact that each person is invaluable and truly irreplaceable. Each person has a gift to give, a contribution to make to the whole. The kind of gift a person brings, the kind of being a person is, is very unique to him or her and is valued by the community. The community is constantly affirming each person, and that constant affirmation is why people are always in the community. We sleep together. We work together. We walk together. When we are 'separate' we are vulnerable and are more likely to underestimate the self. This way of life may sound like an invasion of privacy to a lot of people, but not in my village. Being in community forces us to cultivate a deeper sense of intimacy with one another, to notice one another and value one another's gifts."
Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community

Bonding Between the Generations

"In the village the intimate relationship between the very young and the very old is kept alive by constant bonding and through rituals. Like any relationship, it is subject to renewal… Throughout the year grandparents and their grandchildren do what is called a 'back bonding' ritual. They sit back-to-back, usually grandmother to granddaughter and grandfather to grandson, and allow their spine bones to protrude and touch each other's. In this way they are able to deeply communicate. They stay in a meditation posture for as long as needed. Sometimes they sing or tell each other stories. Bones in our culture represent memory; bones carry stories in them. When you sit with your spine touching another person's spine, it is like transferring information from one computer station to another."
Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community

Falling out of Grace

"If we are going to achieve our purpose in life, we must be willing to fall out of grace and accept its lessons. When we feel righteous about ourselves, or deny our brokenness, we are fighting against the higher states of grace that await us.

"Failure is built into grace. You cannot have one without the other. It's like two sides of a single coin. Everyone who has achieved a state of grace is certain at some point to fall, and to have fallen many times before. Every successful person, everyone you respect, will tell you that they have mountains of failure behind them…

"When we are in grace, we begin to take things for granted and we actually stop working on ourselves. Falling out of grace shakes us up. It reconnects us to the larger universe in order for us to see ourselves anew. It forces us to rediscover where our true center begins, and to learn what needs to be set aside."
Falling Out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom

Wearing Wrinkles Proudly

"In many cultures, including the Dagara, the idea is that you sculpt your face as you live, and each wrinkle shows a particular joy or pain you have survived. You would never have a facelift in order to look younger, or color your hair when it turns gray. That would be a loss of beauty, a loss of grace."
Falling Out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom

A Big Family

"The family in Africa is always extended. You would never refer to your cousin as 'cousin,' because that would be an insult. So your cousins are your sisters and brothers. Your nieces are your children. Your uncles are your fathers. Your aunts are your mothers. Your sister's husband is your husband, and your brother's wife is your wife. Children are encouraged to call other people outside the family mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers…

"This concept of the big family is really helpful. I remember when I was a kid, I had the choice of a different father every day, depending on my mood. So if I wanted one of my uncles to be my father for the day, I would focus all my attention on that person and ignore the others. And the others wouldn't take it personally, because they saw it as an opportunity for me to decide what I wanted. This also allows a large number of people in the village to acknowledge the child and to see her or his spirit."
The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships

The Spiritual Dimension of Relationships

"There is a spiritual dimension to every relationship, no matter what its origins, whether it is acknowledged as spiritual or not. Two people come together because spirit wants them together. What is important now is to look at the relationship as spirit-driven, instead of driven by the individual.

"The role of spirit in our relationships is to be the driver, to monitor our relationships for the good. Its purpose is to help us to be better people, to bind us in such a way that we maintain our connection, not only with ourselves, but also with the great beyond. Spirit helps us fulfill our own life purpose and maintain our sanity."
The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships

The Spirit of Intimacy

"The coming together of two spirits gives birth to a new spirit. You can call it the spirit of the relationship or the spirit of intimacy. It is very important because it acts as a barometer of the relationship, and it must be nurtured and kept alive. If that spirit dies, then the relationship dies.

"Rituals are done in the village with respect to that spirit. There is a ritual done once a year in order to amend whatever has happened to this spirit, to bring it back to life if there has been disconnection. I like to call this ritual the bringing of two souls together."
The Spirit of Intimacy: Ancient Teachings in the Ways of Relationships


"A ritual is a ceremony in which we call in spirit to be the driving force, the overseer of our activities. It is a way for us to find our way to wholeness, peace, self-acceptance, and acceptance of others. Ritual allows us to connect with the self, the community, and the natural forces around us. Ritual helps us remove blocks between us and our true spirit.

"The purpose of rituals is to take us to a place of self-discovery and mastery. In this sense ritual is to the soul what food is to the physical body… Rituals are participatory activities that involve the whole being: body, spirit, mind, and soul. In our rituals we call in spirits, ancestors, and dimensional beings to guide us each step of the way. Rituals are a form of continuous prayer. They help us to consciously incorporate healthy, genuine spiritual evolution and to dwell in the sacred in a way that truly heals us."
Welcoming Spirit Home: Ancient African Teachings to Celebrate Children and Community