| I remember arriving for a spiritual consultation with a man who would later become not only my spiritual mentor and teacher but friend. He was a Priest of Oshun the Yoruba Divinity of Love, Healing, and fresh water. I didn’t really know what that meant at the time but I came to him seeking help as my life had become unmanageable. After years of Western psychotherapy and rehashing old stories over and over again I found myself still stuck, still dealing with the same issues and had turned to God and the spiritual world to seek guidance. As an African American woman I was also led to the traditions of my ancestors as Western and European forms of healing just didn’t appeal to me anymore.
I was instructed to kneel, prostrate and kiss the straw mat that was on the ground as a symbol of reverence for the Earth. This was a gesture of humility that I was unaccustomed to, I balked inside at having to kneel to anyone or anything, couldn’t I just give my offering, pay my fee and be done with it?! However, on that day I remembered why I had come, my life had become unmanageable and I needed guidance so down I went, kissing the earth tentatively. I arrived at his door because he was known in the community to be an excellent diviner with good character, a fair and balanced Priest. The session began with a long litany of prayers in a language I didn’t know but I felt electricity in the air and waited. Then, he tossed cowries shells on the Earth seeking guidance from the African deities of nature known as Oricha.
7 shells landed upright with the first toss, then 9 on the next.
He instructed me to extend my hands as far as I can over my head while sitting on the mat. I reached my arms up, hands overhead wondering what is this about? He then began to recite proverbs and guidance from the Oricha. He said: A key proverb in this sign says: “Stretch your hand as far as it reaches.” “The Oricha say that you need to respect your limits. As you can see your hands can only go so far over your head and it is important to learn wisdom so that you can respect and sense your limits in life. In other words, this means that you can only reach as far as you can and never beyond your potential. When you reach one of your limits, stop and wait before proceeding.” The wisdom of the Oricha contain many nuggets of eco-wisdom that help guide our behavior and character towards understanding and recognizing our limits as human beings and how to engage in relationship with the spirit world in nature to awaken, restore, and heal our psyches so that we can preserve and restore our planet and ourselves. The principles from the message contained in this proverb clearly tell us that as human beings we have limits, respect and understand your limits or suffer the consequences. Everyone and everything has limits.
The principle of recognizing limits is crucial to balanced and healthy systems in nature. A key principle of ecology is understanding and recognizing limits as everything is interconnected. We are being asked to develop a more balanced sense of being that is directly connected to our thinking,emotions and behavior. The Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, CA speaks of moving from emotional intelligence to ecological intelligence. They state that one key to nurturing and developing Ecological Intelligence is cognitive, related to how we think: by understanding how nature sustains life. http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/becoming-ecoliterate
For far too long, we have lived our lives as if every natural resource is free for us to take, that every piece of waste can be cast off onto the land, water and skies without consequences. As we are slowly destroying the planet through our addictive behaviors to more stuff, know that although we may care for the natural world in our hearts, as long as never learn to value and understand the limits of the Earth we will continue to suffer greatly.
So, reach your hands as high as you can above your head and know that as you have limits so does the earth, let us learn to begin to appreciate just enough.
J. Phoenix Smith, ACSW is a clincial social worker, Ecotherapist and Oricha Priest of Aganyu. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 4.13 J.Phoenix Smith