Do you know what it means to create a visionary goal? As I have noted many times as of late, Orisa Lifestyle HAS to be an inside out process AND it should be carried out STRATEGICALLY. In this way, your Personal Priesthood should reflect and support a specific strategy, differentiate you from competitors AND fellow contributors, resonate with the people you serve and inspire you to be the best person you can be.
Creating a visionary goal that meets these requirements is fundamental to every kind of success. However, your visionary goal grows directly out of your family's Ancestral Promise. It cannot, therefore, be an exercise in wishful thinking. I mean, in the exact same way that your great grandfather was a real man, who did real things, your visionary goal has to be grounded in REALITY so that what you leave behind will be something of real value for your progeny.
Likewise, is your visionary goal really feasible given the limitations, resources and interpersonal dynamics of your family and local community? Is your visionary goal really challenging enough to be taken seriously by the people you serve and your ancestors as well? Do you even have the awareness and the tools to ANALYZE and VALIDATE your visionary goal???
Validation comes from making an Assessment of your personal capabilities and activities that enable or prevent you form delivering on the Ancestral Promise. Where Orisa Lifestyle is practiced outside the USA, there are actually institutionalized bodies that validate Personal Priesthood. In Nigeria for example, the great lineages of orisa families support their traditions with deep ritual expertise and effective medicines. In Cuba, the state sponsored priesthood supports the perpetuation of 'Ifa Criollo', with its particular brand of ceremony and protocol. Brazilian terreiros support the continuation of Candomble liturgy, aesthetics and infrastructure. Trinidad, Haiti and Benin also have created visible strategies for sustaining their approach to the Ancestral Promise of their respective countries.
Without explicitly saying as much, they sponsor their members' Personal Priesthood by providing visible and invisible validation points. The Isese Festival of Nigeria, the Letra del Ano in Cuba and the Yemoja Festival of Brazil are all vehicles through which the thought leaders reinforce the shared vision and validate the Personal Priesthood of every individual devotee in their traditions. At the same time, however, while shared vision and validation definitely provide leverage, if they are weakly presented or if they lack strategic direction, they become hollow and eventually become irrelevant. When I say strategic direction, I am referring to the REAL investment you make into the assets, skills and programs that the you need to carry out your individual mission.
What does strategic direction mean to the practitioner here in the USA? From my perspective, as a human development specialist, the strategic direction firstly represents a kind of reality check. It reveals the critical things you MUST DO in order to improve consistently. Once these things become visible, they should stimulate you to assess the feasibility of your strategy. These are typical questions that devotees usually overlook, in spite of the fact that they are FUNDAMENTAL to orisa lifestyle, as evidenced by the traditions of West Africa, the Caribbean and South America. Do you have a visionary goal for your spiritual development and personal achievement? the money you need to invest in your spiritual development? Do you have ANY support from your immediate family? Is your extended family capable of responding to the strategic directives of the Ancestral Promise? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you need to know that you're under prepared to develop a genuine Personal Priesthood. If you refuse to address these needs, your Personal Priesthood will soon become an empty idea.
Who the dog departs with is who the dog returns with. The stars never depart without the moon. When the snail moves, the shell moves along with it. Orisa Lifestyle is defined by loyalty and service. Any sustainable initiative will require the collection of people who are loyal to one another and loyal to the cause as well. Loyalty is a function of trust. It must be cultivated deliberately and reinforced diligently. Without loyalty you cannot succeed in Orisa Lifestyle.
If loyalty alone was enough, organizations, families and businesses would not crumble as quickly as they do. In addition to intense loyalty you need to surround yourself with people steeped in relevant expertise, which includes knowledge, training and skill. When we wish to know about weaving, we consult the weaver. When we wish to know about about carving, we consult the carver. Whatever is being done is known only by the doer. If you fail to attract and organize capable people, you cannot succeed in Orisa Lifestyle.
As a Catalyst, you must practice discernment as you select people for your team. Each member must have varying degrees of loyalty and expertise, according to their assigned positions. This implies that you know the nature of each position necessary for a high performance team, be it a family, temple or business. Certainly, leadership is not a casual undertaking.
Orisa Lifestyle is a movement that celebrates the collective identity and articulates the shared beliefs of socially responsible orisa priests, devotees and practitioners. Our success depends on voluntary, motivated, and committed participation. The role of leadership within the movement transcends the stereotypical image of a charismatic public persona. Consequently, leadership is not at all defined by initiations. Instead, Orisa Lifestyle Catalysts organize by identifying, recruiting and developing leadership at ALL levels of the organization. Our objective is to train and develop volunteer leaders, rooted in communities where they are committed to serving.
Orisa Lifestyle Agreements (OLA16)
Agreements transform a crowd into a community. Agreements organize habits and shape them into a culture. Orisa Lifestyle Agreements are designed to cultivate 16 generations of sustainable culture. Orisa Lifestyle Agreements are personal rituals that energize your highest aspirations and inspire others to do the same. The OLA16 tribe is calling out to all highly motivated, innovative people around the world. We're especially interested in those of you who are ready to create real solutions to real problems... And have a good time doing it!
Imagine a collective of people from different disciplines - priests, counselors, teachers, parents and other human services professionals, all drawn together by a shared vision; to transform everything that's broken - from hearts to ecosystems to bank accounts to windows - into vibrant works of art and expressions of Beauty. The nature of the universe, after all, is balance and harmony.
The OLA16 tribe is organized around the knowledge and understanding that WE are the ones we have been waiting for. Let's live the medicine that will heal our lives and heal the lives of those we were born to serve. Finally, we affirm the critical importance of original thought in the creation of enduring change. Albert Einstein once said, 'We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.' Join the OLA16 tribe, where we practice personal greatness and inspire others to do the same."
Òrìsà Lifestyle Agreements (OLA16) is a movement designed to align our spiritual, economic and environmental activities. Whereas the orisa religion represents the Yoruba spiritual vision, OLA16 represents the activation of spiritual culture. Learn more in the OLA16 Catalysts' Handbook.
That tomorrow will not be like today is what prompts the babalawo to consult Ifa every four days. Continuous improvement requires constant investigation and research because the environment is always changing. As a rule then, your ability to anticipate change - which is very different from reacting to it - and adapting your strategy is absolutely necessary in order to progress consistently. This is why kings, politicians and captains of industry all have a personal babalawo.
As a leader - of a temple, a family or a business - your strategy must be reviewed regularly. This can be as simple as making a weekly calendar and daily To Do lists, then reviewing the list every evening. It can be as complex as a PMI-certified GANTT chart and spread sheet. Either way, when you review your plans, it doesn't take much time to notice how the environment and the people in it are in constant flux. Something that worked last week might not work next week. People change their minds. Resources get consumed. Having a plan as a point of reference enables you to set priorities, which makes it easier to make decisions. If you don't make decisions, the decisions will make you.
Teams (e.g., families, spiritual communities and organizations) that operate WITHOUT a strategic plan spend most of their time scrambling around, trying to put out fires. They are always playing catch up; trying to catch up on lost time, missed appointments and mismanaged money. Collective success requires that you invest time into PREDICTING what will happen next, based upon many factors, the most important of which is PEOPLE. Peter Drucker once said that No matter what business you're in, you're in the people business. Nothing is possible without the concerted efforts of your team, your clients, your suppliers and the numerous people you encounter in government agencies or private industry. So, as a rule, you have to gather information from all directions and synthesize that information into meaningful trends. Based upon these trends, in conjunction with your own intuitive sense of things, you will adjust your plans of action. Learn more in my book, OLA16.
The longest journey you will ever take is the eighteen inches from your head to your heart. Without emotional development, you cannot enjoy the benefits of collective growth. Your ability to overcome feelings of loss, fear and anger, for example, will absolutely determine the power and scope of your connection with others. In other words, your emotions function as an obstruction or a gateway, depending upon how you decide to position yourself in relationship to them.
Collectively, when trauma is not addressed it becomes a pathology and is eventually woven into the very fabric of the culture. Throughout the African diaspora, our progress is limited by the emotional scars created by slavery, colonization and imperialism. Mistrust, disrespect and envy prevent many of us from creating and sustaining the kinds of institutions that support a healthy culture.
The Ijinle is a small but significant step towards healing modern, urban society. The collective power of these small groups can contribute to the creation of a healthy fabric for people to live lives that enable them to realize their dreams, find purpose and meaning in their lives and gradually build vibrant communities. Independent of theological, ritual or liturgical discourse, the Ijinle is organized to promote sharing, connecting and supporting. Our objective is to create an inspiring social atmosphere, where practitioners of Orisa Lifestyle can really get to know one another and deepen our relationships with the people we were born to serve.
Ultimately, my experience has taught me that Orisa Lifestyle can teach us to love ourselves and one another. The countless stories of birth, getting lost along the way, meeting influential characters and making tough decisions facilitate self discovery and build bridges of mutual understanding. Find out how you can establish an Ijinle in your community.
I used to be active in the Toast Masters. One of the first lessons they emphasize in public speaking is "Know your audience." This is the only way to deliver a message that the listener will hear, understand and respond to. The exact same thing is true of teaching. The way you design a lesson for a 5 year old is very different from the way you design the same lesson for a 16 year old. So, the driving force behind and kind of an interpersonal plan of action is knowing what people want to achieve and what they want to avoid. When it comes to community building, then, it is important to analyze who you're talking to and what they want so that you can correctly prioritize THEIR needs. This will enable you to design a strategy that serves your community better. Here, let me emphasize that the definition of success is ACTION. What exactly do you want the people do DO?
Know The Competition
You probably don't think of it this way, but when you invite people to participate in community activities, you're entering into direct competition with everything else they could be doing at that same time. Think about the last time somebody invited you to an event. If you're like most people, you probably thought about the cost, the time involved, as well as your relationship with the person who invited you, not to mention your relationship to the other people who might be present at the event. The more clearly you can understand these kinds of dynamics, the easier it will be to look at your community service from your community's actual point of view. They have options. Why should they include your event as a viable option?
Define the Ideal
"What's in it for me?" Before you invite people to participate in your events and activities, think about the incentives, from their perspectives. If you don't know, ask. Most people are willing to share what they want if you can ask the right questions AND you're willing to listen. Whatever you do, avoid the mistake of thinking everybody is motivated by the same things. Even if you have some great ideas about what people are looking for or trying to avoid, it will help you formulate multiple choice questions to find out which ones are MOST important to your audience.
What should you do first? This can be especially challenging in a community setting, which tends to be less structured than a corporate or institutional setting. Where you start depends on a lot of variables. I think that the most important variable is the trust level of the group. If you're dealing with people who have an extensive history, then it might make sense to take greater risks. But if you're dealing with a newly formed group, definitely reach for the "low-hanging fruit" and do things that will likely result in easy successes.
Learn more about how to organize activities in your community in my book, OLA16.
As I reflect upon my experiences, as a group facilitator, I believe participating in an Ijinle will be one of the most important steps you take in your life. Your group has the potential to help you develop in so many wonderful ways. In a world where you're constantly threatened by personal and social difficulties, your Ijinle can prevent you from becoming overwhelmed. Ijinle provides a powerful link between your spiritual values, your highest aspirations and the people you are destined to serve. It can enable you to stay grounded and build stronger relationships at home, at work, in the community and with the ancestors.
I have been invited to facilitate groups in Tallahassee, Nova Scotia, King of Prussia, Des Moines and Corpus Cristi. The outcome has been consistent: What is most personal is most universal. Groups create unique opportunities for individuals to connect to their deepest values and recognize the reality of our shared struggles, as human beings. Ijinle in an invitation to see yourself in others. It is an opportunity to allow another person's life teach you the way forward in your own life. By learning to transcend the false boundaries that divide you from other people, the Ijinle helps you to overcome isolation, loneliness and the maladies that accompany those conditions, including alcoholism, addiction and consumerism. Learn more about how you can establish an Ijinle in your community.
The fetus does not say it is satisfied
The stranger does not know the history of the land
If the stranger had known the history of the land
He would not have disparaged the land
This was Ifa’s teaching to Ikubolaje, daughter of Ojo City
She was going to marry in the city of Oro
She had a baby in Oro named Aaka
She divorced her husband in the city of Oro
She went to marry in the city of Ofa
She had Oore Gidigba for them at the city of Ofa
She left the city of Ofa
Then she proceeded to Ife Abure
The people of Araba Owo Lumo
She had Liili for them in Ife Abure
Then there was outbreak of war
The war caught Aaka in the city of Oro
The war also held Oore Gbedigba in the city of Ofa
But Aaka and Oore had never met Liili physically
The war held the two of them captive
and took them both to Ife Abure…
- Holy Odu IkaOwonrin
Liili, the youngest of Ikubolaje’s sons, had inadvertently captured his elders in his rise to power. As was customary, the war chief had captured his brothers Oore and Aaka and tied them to different yard posts to await execution. In the middle of the night, their mother, Ikubolaje was going to the bathroom when she overheard Oore lamenting his situation and recalling that his mother had even been married in the town of his captivity. When she heard this, she went back to her son, Liili. “Come listen to what this man is saying!” When he arrived and heard Oore’s cries, he too realized that the captives were actually his brothers. He ordered the guards to untie them. Ifa says that we are caught in a web of intrigue and confusion. What is the cause and nature of confusion?
Before internet and mobile phones, most practitioners of orisa lifestyle were separated by 500 years of slavery, colonization and imperialism. As such, every branch of the family tree has developed its own, unique responses to their local environments and – until recently – one had not been influenced by the other. Today, with the advent of Facebook, Youtube and other social media, there are far fewer barriers of separation. As a result of the dissolution of the barriers, our various mythologies, beliefs and practices have started mix, mingle and sometimes collide with one another. It is like the sudden collision of high and low pressure air systems, which causes stormy weather; intense winds, rain, and the like… And so, orisa lifestyle is presently experiencing a perilous age of thunder, lightning, and hurricanes.
In the face of all the tumult, I sometimes ask myself, “What would Orunmila do?” And as I consider all the possibilities – based upon verses of the Holy Odu, proverbial wisdom and my experience with elder babalawos – I am certain that panic is NOT an optimal response. In fact, for the priests and mature practitioners, panic is a very improper and immature response to what is happening in our community. Why? Because life has taught us that it is inevitable, and altogether natural that when different energies collide there should be friction and turbulence. There is nobody to condemn here. There is only a need to explore the environment and understand what elements are active in our lives today. We are all invested – physically, emotionally and intellectually – in orisa lifestyle, “as we know it.” Our identities, our connections to the ancestral wisdom, as well as our relationship to the natural environment are all directly tied to the verses, the rituals and the ceremonies that have been passed down, from one generation to the next. And so, it is absolutely acceptable that we should have strong emotional responses to the cultural collision we’re experiencing today. What is occurring is completely natural, as are its pains, confusions, and mistakes.
What is NOT acceptable is our refusal to organize. My mother of blessed memory used to tell me that “Whenever you encounter a new scenario in your organization, you study it. You study the people involved. You delve deeply into what enabled certain things to happen and what motivated people to behave as they did. And then you write policy! You will forget what happened. The details will fade. But if you have those policies on hand, you will remember exactly why things must be done in a certain way and not the other.” Thus far, we have utterly failed to craft what my mother would consider a respectable response to the clash of civilizations. Not a single plan has emerged. Not enough words of leadership, vision and direction have been spoken. This cannot continue. History will judge us harshly should we allow another generation to be blind-sided by these same conditions and not be armed with some kind of mature, constructive response. May our Mother, who gave birth to us all, guide all practitioners of orisa lifestyle towards recognition of one another as brothers and total reconciliation of our differences, in the name of our Ancestral Promise. Ase!
Since 1995, I have served well over 50 thousand individuals – as a teacher, a counselor, a professional consultant and a trusted advisor. For the most part, the people I have served have expressed satisfaction in my presence and performance. In short, people tend to feel that I have helped them in some integral way. Until recently, I had also felt quite confident that I was making a meaningful contribution to the lives of the people I serve. But an unexpected thing happened on the journey. In 2005 I travelled to Veracruz, Mexico, where I broadened my Ifa practice considerably. And while I was able to translate the stories and the text, my vocabulary was stiff and a bit academic. It lacked the concise potency that I was able to deliver in English. So, in an effort to communicate the meaning of Ifa’s wisdom in ways that the “Jarochos” (as the people of Veracruz are called) would understand, I took interest in local proverbs and sayings. There was one saying that stuck in my mind, like a pebble in the mouth; It was easy to put in but difficult to chew. It says “Abuelo arriero, hijo caballero, nieto mendiguero.” In English we would say “Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations,” which means that a family will rise from poverty and fall back into it within three generations.
This saying – Abuelo arriero, hijo caballero, nieto mendiguero – was recited to me by a young man, no more than 35 years old. When I recited it to others, I discovered that it was very well-known and widely accepted as truth. In the wake of that little saying, I have been mulling over the fact that, while I have helped a considerable number of people solve all kinds of personal problems, I was not doing much to protect them from the inescapable cycle of shirtsleeve to shirtsleeves in three short generations. To that end, I have dedicated myself to acquiring more ritual knowledge, developing more psychological skills and creating more resources that would enable more people to learn and develop a more sustainable lifestyle, which is more comprehensive than ritual and ceremony. Consequently, I have identified five organizing principles of Yoruba civilization:
I am because we are. This is a proverb that points directly to what the late Dadisi Soyinka called the "I/We Polarity." This polarity describes the dynamic ways in which the individual must sometimes sacrifice for the group and vice versa. As individuals, we absolutely yearn for deep, intimate relationships with the people we trust. We content ourselves with small talk, social media and public places (like concerts, movies, and shopping), but these will never sufficiently enable us to share our authentic selves.
We need people around us who can help us to develop, physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. We need other people to help us become better at our professions, better members of our communities and better family members. As such, we know - intellectually - that we also need to be more vulnerable. But somehow, the difficulty and pain that in also endemic to intimacy always seems to get in the way, right? How do we find people who will really protect our best interests and maintain confidentiality? Where can we find the kind of sincerity, depth and support we need in our lives? Trust is a precious thing, indeed. It is, without a doubt, the missing ingredient in building strong relationships that withstand the test of time.
The Orisa Lifestyle Academy is dedicated to helping you to organize and participate in a small group of people with whom you can have in-depth conversation and share intimately about the most important things in your life; your happiness and sadness, your hopes and fears, your beliefs and convictions. We call these groups IJINLE, which means "deep talk" in Yoruba language. IJINLE represents what is most essential in life:
IJINLE represents what who you are at your deepest level. Based upon the work of Obafemi Origunwa, whose work as a teacher, counselor and Ifa priest has led him to the conclusion that most people know their own deep truth, IJINLE is an ongoing invitation for individuals to come together and focus on what matters most. IJINLE addresses our need for a support team to help us during challenging times and to celebrate with us during triumphant times. By bridging the gaps between our personal lives and the communities we serve, IJINLE can helps us find joy and fulfillment. IJINLE is a unique opportunity for us to live the medicine that will heal our lives and the lives of the people we are destined to serve. Learn more at the Orisa Lifestyle & Mental Health Retreat.