Category Archives: 13 Steps

Step 7: Ume Ndu

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“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life” – Gregory Maguire

Welcome to step 7. In the last step, you learned what your spiritual GPS was, and what can happen when you are in the state of “Ako bu Ije.” In the journey called life, one can say that “Ako bu Ije” is the closest one can get to your vehicle (Ikenga) being in “self driving” mode. As I stated in the second step, you were born with your Chi na Eke already in alignment, but along the way, you’ve fallen out of sync and now you need to remember (ncheta) how to get back them in sync. 

You’ve learned the importance of  understanding your dreams (nrọ) and by doing so, higher paths for your destiny (akaraka) can be revealed through them. And you’ve also learned that strengthening your intuition (Agwu) is the key to unlocking the state of “Ako bu Ije.” Now the next question is how does one strengthen the intuition, which helps bring Chi na Eke back in sync?

The great news is that the answer is something that you’re already currently doing without thinking about it. Let us go back in time to the first thing you did after you were born. Your first impulse would be to say that you cried. And while that may be true, there’s a crucial action that preceded that. In order to cry, you first had to breathe. Once you entered this new state of  existence, breathing on your own was the first thing you learned to do. You took the breath of life, which is the name of this step.

Newborn taking breath of life

Take a few moments and make an observation of the activities that you have engaged in in the past that make you feel “energized” either while you’re doing them or afterwards. An extremely important point is these must be energizing activities that do not have a “crash” afterwards. Now pay close attention to your patterns of breathing.

If you notice that this energizing feeling comes from you breathing rapidly, then you should consider regularly engaging in activities like exercise (i.e running, weight lifting, boxing, etc). People who engage in these sort of strenuous activities often describe something called being in “the zone” or in a “flow state.” Those who engage in competitive sports may also describe this feeling as being “on fire.” Whatever the term used, the result is you fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, clarity of mind, and enjoyment in the activity you’re engaging in. You not only know what to do, but how to do it well

Kobe Bryant “on fire”

Another highly physical activity that can lead to a similar state would be dancing. If you happen to be of African descent, you have likely observed that dancing (ịgba egwú) is one of the primary ways that folks “catch the spirit” or get filled by the power of the “holy ghost”, especially at religious ceremonies. Of course, people (usually) don’t dance without music, which brings me to the next practice of ume ndu, which is playing a musical instrument. If you have an affinity towards a particular instrument, play it! Not just by the book, but to your own melody, rhythm and beat. You may be surprised with what you may come up with if you do.

And the last musically related ume ndu activity I’ll recommend is singing. This practice also utilizes the breath, but in a less intense way than the aforementioned activities. And while many of us may be not be the best dancers, all of us are great singers in our own minds, especially when we are by ourselves. I’d say that for some people, singing (especially in groups) is not only the primary way we get our Chi na Eke in sync, but also supercharge our Agwu (intuition) and engage in high levels of healing body, mind and soul. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that folks describe certain people as “singing from the soul”, nor that there is an entire genre called “soul” music. Now as I stated earlier, pay very close attention to how you feel when you engage in any of these activities. Use your discernment to select music that uplifts you and others.

Whitney Houston uplifting the world with her voice

Very closely related to song and dance is the theater. Now, with this practice of ume ndu, one can either be a participant (actor or actress) or a spectator. For the purpose of this step, we will focus on the spectators. Theater can mean a live action play, movie or television series, but all 3 can have the same impact. Now, the predominant themes in theater are comedy and drama. Let’s begin with comedy. There’s a saying that laughter is the best medicine. After you laugh, you definitely feel much less burdened and stressed than you were before, maybe even lighter.  I personally feel that laughter burns away negativity like few other things. And the great thing is that you can engage in laughter whenever you want. While laughter dramatically increases your breathing, drama on the other hand can take your breath away.

Watching a drama puts you in a state of “suspension of disbelief.” This means that you temporarily suspend your reason and logic and believe what you’re watching. This is the reason that you respond with sadness when a particular character dies, even though you’re fully aware that the actor or actress portraying them is alive and well. The wonderful thing about dramas is that the really good ones have a lot of important symbolism, which if you can successfully notice and decode, can teach you extremely valuable lessons without having to go through the experience yourself. But again, use your discernment to find the right types of comedy and drama to watch or participate in. 

L-R: Cicely Tyson, Arthur French and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in the critically acclaimed, Tony-nominated Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s American masterpiece “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre.

Of course it goes without mention that prayer (ekpere) is an act of ume ndu, and so I won’t expound upon it. However, if prayer is talking to spirit, then meditation (ịgo chi) is the act of listening to spirit, and in my opinion, too many people engage in the former while neglecting the latter. Many folks have a preconception that meditation has to be a silent, solemn activity whereby one has to “empty” their mind for long periods of time, and a result, people often struggle to do it regularly and get any benefits from it. However I am here to tell you that there are many ways to meditate, and you simply have to find a method that works for you. You can choose to engage in what I would like to call a “moving meditation”, which may be walking outside, or engaging in disciplines such as yoga, qi gong, tai chi or pilates. For many people, they meditate while listening to music (especially instrumental). I’ve personally written a few of these articles while in a meditative state, usually listening to ogene (Igbo classical) music. 

“I write for the same reason I breathe because if I didn’t, I would die.” – Isaac Asimov

And speaking of writing, I will conclude my list of ume ndu practices with the very one I’m engaging in. Countless people utilize writing as a meditative practice, which allows one to not only get “in a zone”, but also have a record of the result. Writing each article has benefited me as much as it has benefited you, the reader, if not more. And I am extremely blessed to be able to share the light that I have been receiving over the years. If you haven’t already been doing so, I encourage you to keep a journal of the progress you’ve been making in each step. 

Step 7: I will find and regularly engage in activities that strengthen my intuition, get my Chi na Eke back in sync, while uplifting myself and others. 

Action items: Engage in an ume ndu practice of your own choice. Do not feel the need to limit yourself to anything I’ve mentioned. Explore and experiment and you will discover things you’re naturally intuitive at. Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section. And stay tuned for step 8, which is coming out the next new moon, which is March 13. Yagazie! 

Step 6: Ako bu Ije

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“Ako bu Ije”

(Wisdom is the way)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. In the last step Akaraka, you learned how your destiny is literally in your hands, and it’s completely up to you what paths you want to take and what vehicles (your Ikenga) you’ll need on your journey.

If you recall, when the question came up regarding the best way to reach your destination (destiny), my response was to use your spiritual GPS. Today, I will explain what it is, and how you can access it. But before that, I’d like to explain all 4 features of your internal navigation system, which are utilized in the journey that we call life. Buckle up and I’ll show you:

Feature 1: Learning Mode 

This feature is very self explanatory. It allows one to learn from experience. It comes with two settings. The first setting is learning only from your own experience. This is the natural setting you’re born with, and is the one that makes you touch a hot surface just once.

The second setting is also learning from the experiences of others. In essence, studying those who traveled the same or similar paths as you’re on or trying to get to. This can be done by studying proverbs (ilu), philosophy (nkà ihe ọmụma), parables, history, biographies of various people as well as directly getting mentorship or coaching. This setting will give you far better results than the first one.

Unfortunately, we all know some people who have this feature turned off completely. These are the people who constantly repeat the same mistakes over and over again and seem unable or unwilling to learn. Don’t be like them. I recommend that you use setting two.

Feature 2: Discernment Filter

Besides learning mode, your internal navigation system also collects alot of information from your environment. Some of this data includes the conditions in front of you, various signs (stop, go, slow down, etc.), as well as messages you get from fellow travelers. 

Instead of two settings, this filter has a range from low to high. If the setting is too low, you’ll believe everything you’re presented with, which is called gullibility. On the other hand, if the setting is put too high, you’ll reject pretty much everything that doesn’t already agree with you. People in this setting include contrarians and ndi ara (deluded people).

If feature one (learning mode) is on the second setting (learning from the experience of others), you will be able to find the right discernment filter much quicker. You will discover that looks are often deceiving and if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is. 

Feature 3: Judgement 

There will be times when you will be forced to make a choice. You may come to a fork in the road, or it may be a crossroad. Regardless, you’ll have to decide where you go next. How do you make that choice? You have to utilize your judgement. And just like learning mode, it’s something that should improve with more use.

The settings for this feature range from easy to hard.  You utilize your judgement on whether to take the wide way or the narrow one; the popular path or the road less traveled. You decide whether or not the speed of journey matters more than the ease of the path; whether you want to go the safe route or take more risks. At the end of the day, the choice is up to you. However I will say that if you’re reading the 13 steps, you’re exercising better judgement than most people.

Feature 4: Intuition 

Last but not least, we come to the last feature, which I call your spiritual GPS. For anyone who needs a refresher, GPS (global positioning system) works by having satellites hovering above the earth moving at the exact same speed as our planet’s rotation. It’s the most advanced feature in your internal navigation system, but ironically it’s the only one that you’re born with fully operational. When you come into the world, you’re only learning from your own mistakes, you pretty much believe whatever you’re told, and your judgement is quite poor. However your spiritual GPS is working quite well as a child, but usually gets turned down as you get older, to the point that most adults have it switched off entirely. 

Your spiritual GPS is known by most people as the intuition. It’s the source of one’s instincts, epiphanies and innovations. In Igbo, its known as the Agwu. While learning from the experience of others is good, what about when you decide to go on a path that no one has gone before? Or down the same path in a new way? What is the thing that pulls you towards your destiny? What makes you ask questions in the first place? What gives you prophetic or revealing dreams?

Feature four (Agwu) when left on as an adult supercharges features one, two & three, and is what I would like to call the “Ako bu Ije” state. Ako bu Ije will allow you to go much further than other people that are not guided by it. You will be able to learn extremely quickly; which is sometimes called beginner’s luck, or a natural talent or instinct. You will be able to better discern whether or not someone is telling the truth, or if things are really as they appear. Your judgement will improve and will have more epiphanies. Reminder: Your intuition is already on when you’re born! If left on as you mature, you will be guided by Ako bu Ije. You must simply remember (Ncheta) how to bring your potential and kinetic energy (Chi na Eke) back in sync. And of course, learning how to navigate your dreamscape (Nrọ) is one of the easiest ways to do just that. You may be wondering however, if there is anything you can do while you’re still awake to get your Chi na Eke back in sync. And the answer to that question is resounding yes! However, you’ll need to wait until Step 7 to get the details.

In summary, if you allow all four features of your internal navigation system to remain on, you will be guided by Ako bu Ije, and you can know what divinely based self image (Ikenga) you need to travel along your destiny (Akaraka). 

Step 6: “Wisdom is the way. I seek to learn from the experience of others, have stronger discernment, and exercise better judgement. And I will stop getting in the way of my own intuition” 

Action Items: 

Devote time to studying proverbs, philosophy, parables, history & biographies.

Get a coach or mentor, if possible.

Ask questions. Even difficult ones.

Be willing to accept information, even if you don’t want to hear it.

Reflect on past decisions, and see how you could have made them differently.

Engage in a practice such as yoga, meditation, dance, exercise, etc.

Stay tuned for Step 7,  which is coming out on the next new moon, February 11. Yagazie (It shall be well with you).

Step 5: Akaraka

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Destiny urges me to a goal of which I am ignorant. Until that goal is attained I am invulnerable, unassailable. When Destiny has accomplished her purpose in me, a fly may suffice to destroy me.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

Welcome back to the 13 Steps. As a recap, in Step 1, you learned how remembrance is the basis for all of the other steps. In Step 2, you recalled when your Chi na Eke were in harmony with one another, and began to make plans on how to get them back in sync. In Step 3, you learned what an Ikenga was, and how to make one that works for you. In Step 4, you learned that you’re always receiving spiritual messages in your dreams and you must learn how to recall, and eventually direct them. 

Today, we will discuss a topic has crossed all of our minds at some point of time. Each and everyone of us has thought about our future. As a child you had likely had a list of the things you wanted to be when you grew up. And as you got older, you had an ever growing list of things you wanted to do and places you wanted to go. Perhaps you’ve achieved a fair amount of it by now. Or maybe you haven’t. Regardless, when it comes to one’s future, one can say that there’s a tug of war between what some folks will call “free will”, and one called destiny or fate. For this topic, we will deal with the second half of the equation. 

What is destiny? 

The word for destiny in Igbo is akaraka. And one of the literal translations is “hand in hand.” It comes from the idea that your future was written in your palms. 

For the purpose of this step, let us say that your palms are like a map. If you read a map, you will notice multiple paths to get to your destination, your destiny. There will be some paths that will be smoother and some that will be more rocky. Some paths that will be quicker and some longer. However you choose to get there, the end destination remains the same. 

What is your personal destiny? 

Philippe de Champaigne’s Vanitas

Well my brothers and sisters, to your surprise, I will be able to give you two answers to this question. As a warning, the first answer is tough to hear, but its one that you cannot afford to ignore. The first answer is that you are destined to die. For those of us that have a day of birth, an accompanying day of death is one of the few things in life that is guaranteed to occur. So whatever you decide to do in life (or not do), keep in mind you don’t have all the time in the world to do it. With that being said, the second answer is that happens between the day you arrived in this world and the day you depart is actually in your hands, up to and including when and how you die. However, that is a lesson that will have to come in the future.

“Onwu si, ‘Cheta kwam mgbe nile’ (Death says, “Always remember me”)

What is the source of your destiny? 

Well it would be the Chi na Eke of Step 2. If you recall, Chi can be described as your potential energy, and Eke as your kinetic energy. On the map, the destination is supplied by the Chi. Your direction and velocity (speed) are fueled by your Eke. And the vehicle that you will be driving in this journey is your Ikenga

Ikenga Mk III (1969). Yes there was an actual car named after Ikenga.

How do you find this destiny? 

I cannot emphasize this enough. There is likely no easier place to experience the divine than in the dreamscape. Stories abound in various mythologies whereby aspects of one’s destiny or fate were revealed in dreams. However other practices used in Igbo culture include divination near the time of birth (before or after), palmistry as mentioned before (known as amμmμ banyere akaraka), as well as observations of certain things that one has a natural inclination, talent and/or passion for. There are many real life examples of people whose talent was discovered at a very young age. 

Can you control this destiny?

If one is in a vehicle, the control of it is a steering wheel. Let’s call this the wheel of fortune. And this wheel of fortune has a driver. When you are born, your driver is your parents (and the co-driver would be “society”). However, over time, as one grows stronger and wiser, you will have the opportunity to get out of the passenger chair, and get behind the wheel. If you make that choice, you have now truly passed step 3. 

“Wheel of Fortune” Tarot Card

Can you change your destiny?

Igbos believe that destiny can be renegotiated. If you are indeed behind the wheel of the vehicle (Ikenga), you have options like making a U-turn, choosing where to turn at a crossroads, and plotting a new course altogether. Likewise, even if you’ve gone down a particular path that you know realize is a wrong one, you can indeed start heading in a new direction, right here, right now. You are not handcuffed to your past. Even if you were on a course that was driven by your parents and the parents of your parents (also known as your ancestors), you are by no means handcuffed to that destination, and can change course at any time. You are not handcuffed to the past of your parents or their parents (ancestors). Furthermore, you can also at any time change your Ikenga to suit your needs. The tank-like Ikenga that carried you through a very rough and turbulent road may not be the best vehicle for the smooth and narrow road that may be ahead of you.

Can others influence your destiny?

Yes. Along the way towards our destination, we will cross paths with others. Quite a few of them will distract us, slowing us down during our main journey. However, we can encounter those who will not only share our destiny, but those also accelerate it. For this reason, be careful when one selects your friends as well as life partners. And also be extra mindful in your dealings with strangers. A chance encounter could help make or break you. 

Can your destiny be taken from you?

Contrary to what some Nigerian pastors and prophets may have told you, your destiny cannot be taken or stolen from you. You can however surrender control of the wheel to others (i.e societal pressure). And most of you probably don’t have any type of “ancestral curse.” You’re likely simply refusing to take control of the wheel and switch course from the negative one that your ancestors set.

Driving off a cliff…don’t do this

How do you know the best way to reach your destiny? 

The same way that most of us find the best route to our location: We use a GPS. Yes, you read that right. You do indeed have a GPS system for your destiny. But you will have to wait until step 6 to learn how to access it. 

Step 5: I declare that my destiny is in my hands. I am not handcuffed to my past or that of my ancestors, nor am I cursed. I am welcome to change course at any time. No one can steal my destiny, but they can distract me from it.

Action items

Make an honest assessment of where you think your life is headed and compare that to where you would like it to go.

Recall the things that you were naturally good at as a child, as well as what you had alot of passion about.

If you’ve made an Ikenga, think about whether its the right type at this moment to get you the results you’re looking for in life.

Take a look at your dream journal and see if you notice any patterns or prominent symbols. 

Take an inventory of those who have the biggest influence on you (friends and family). Are they assisting you be the best version of yourself or hindering you? 

Mark your calendars for step 6, which is coming out Jan 13 of next year. Yagazie! 

“Our Journey” by Obiora Udechukwu

Step 4: Nrọ

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“Mmuo na mmadu na-azu afia, mana ofeke amaroo”

(Spirit and human beings are in constant communication, but the uninitiated does not know)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. If you’re still here, I will applaud you for getting this far and not allowing yourself to be discouraged or distracted. Today I will tell you something that will blow your mind (maybe even literally).

“The Third and The Fourth Steps” by Boniface Okafor

What if I told you how to access a place where you could directly commune directly with your Chi na Eke? What if I explained that this place is not bound by the laws of physics or by those of time, and that you may even be able to visit events in the past and even get glimpses about the future. You’re feeling excited now aren’t you? 

Well before I tell you how to access this place, I want to talk about a universal human activity that we do at night (or during the day if you work night shifts). If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m referring to sleeping. Besides the fact that most of us don’t get enough sleep, there is something else that most of us are being deprived of. And to find out what, you should answer the following question: When was the last time you had a dream? 

“Throught It All” by Addis Okoli 

Some of you will respond by saying it was the last time you slept. Others will say its been weeks, months if not years. Whatever your answer, the truth is that we all have several dreams every single night, but the difference is that most of us don’t remember our dreams. Amazing to learn isn’t it? And what’s even more amazing is that the place I told you about in the beginning is a place you go to nearly everytime you go to sleep

“Of dreams, dogans and cockpits” by Promise Onali

If you haven’t made the connection, I’m talking about the dreamscape. Whether or not you’re remembering it, you’re constantly interacting with various spirits, as well as exploring your own subconscious mind in your dreams. The Igbo word for dream is nrọ, and that is the also the name of this step. Ndi Igbo, like most people around the world, placed a very large significance to dreams. In fact, an argument could be made that the dreamland (ala nrọ) is the primary place for spiritual experiences, whether its while one is asleep or while awake (i.e a vision, known in Igbo as ihu ọhụụ).

“In My Head 1” by Adaeze Obani

In Igbo culture, it was not uncommon for people to receive a significant “calling” in their dreams. If for instance, a person who had occupied a particular office/title in life, such a traditional priest/priestess, passed away, it wasn’t uncommon for them to appear in the dreams of the person who they wanted to be their successor. I myself started this website after a visit from a spiritual being, as I described in this post.

Not only that, having literal or figurative dreams about the future is another universal human experience, and likely the way the majority of authentic prophecy happens. It’s my opinion that what most people describe as deja vu as well as premonitions are usually when something in real life that triggers a recall of a precognitive dream. And it goes without saying that bad things can be averted if warnings in from a dream are heeded. I myself have received warnings in dreams about my personal life which have proven disastrous when not acted upon.

“Spirit of Earth” by Boniface Okafor

Ala nrọ is also a source of answers, including those that come from prayer as well as questions you have yet to ask. Throughout history, there are countless accounts of people who made a discovery, invention or came up with an idea from a dream. Many of these people went on to make radical changes in their respective fields or communities as well as attain fame and fortune.  More advanced dreamers have also reported being able to overcome their fears through reoccurring dreams or attain new skills by the use of lucid ones, in which they become aware that they are dreaming.

I would like to point out that most people’s ability to recall their dreams gets worse as they go from child to adulthood, for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that a fair amount of us are indeed sleep deprived, I think it is another example of us getting out of harmony with our Chi na Eke as we get older.

“A Dreamer of Fine Things” by Johnson Uwadinma

Now my brothers and sisters, consider the following questions. How many answers are you missing out on simply by not being able to remember your dreams? What do you think could change if you simply remembered more of your dreams than you are currently doing? How would your world change if you could consciously control what happens in your dreams?

Well the good news is that there are many tools available to help you not only remember your dreams, but also decode and even direct them. One of the first things that you can do to help is to start a dream journal. In doing so, you will begin to see patterns in the dreams you’re having as well as recognize things that were prophetic that you weren’t aware of at the time. I would also suggest getting a dream dictionary, but over time, you should able to create your own personalized one, which of course will take precedence over anyone that you purchase. 

“Contemplation” by Abigail Nnaji

You also have at your disposal an abundance of literature, websites and videos that discuss various techniques, practices, herbs, teas and elixirs that will help you recall your dreams, make them more vivid, and even become a lucid dreamer. I would suggest trying different things and seeing what works for you. 

Step 4: I recognize that I’m already in constant communication with spirit, in both the waking world and the dream one. And I must learn how to recall, decode and direct my own dreams.

Action item: Create a journal of your dreams and visions and explore various tools to expand your dream experiences. And stay tuned for step 5, which is coming out on the next new moon, December 14. Yagazie (It shall be well with you).

“Expectations” by Abigail Nnaji

Step 3: Ikenga

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“Ikenga m kwalu otu, njee mge ona mmuo”

(As long as my Ikenga is active I can wrestle in the land of the spirits)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. In Step one, you learned how ncheta (remembrance) is the basis for all the other steps. In Step two, you learned on the power of your potential & kinetic energies (Chi na Eke) and how important it is to make sure they are kept in harmony with one another. Now we will again return to a common experience that nearly all humans share. Unlike the first 2 steps, you should have quite a  few memories of this one. 

Do you recall the various things you wanted to be as a child? If you were anything like me, that list included alot of things through various ages. And do you remember what you did once you decided to be something? Well, you began in what is now called “make believe.” Without being coached or trained, you and your various playmates could pretend to be whatever you wanted and engage in any activity your minds could muster. You likely pretended to fight battles or engage in space exploration. Maybe you pretended to be a director and used dolls and toys as actors. The key takeaway here my brothers and sisters, is that you used the power of your imagination to create the reality you desired, even if it was a temporary thing.

Now today, if you happened to stumble upon the “self help” section in any bookstore, or undergo any form of coaching or training, you will likely be told about something called “creative visualization.” A very simple definition of it would be utilizing the power of your imagination as an aide to getting better results in your life. Countless people have used it to beat addictions, overcome their fears, as well as acquire new skills. Sound familiar? It’s once again a reminder of how you need to remember things as an adult that you did naturally as a child, isn’t it?

Now remembering the lessons from “Step Two” and Eke have been with you as long as you’ve been on this planet, even if you’re not as in sync with them as you once were. And as I said in that lesson, Igbo culture (along with many others) left a number of reminders for you of the various things you came into the world knowing. The one reminder we will cover today is the one that goes by the name “Ikenga.” 

This figure is shared amongst the Urhobo, Edo, and Igala, but the Igbo version is the most well known. Just like Chi na Eke, an entire series of books would be needed to properly expound upon Ikenga. One popular definition of Ikenga is “place of strength.” However,  for the purpose of this step, we will say that Ikenga is a symbol of achievement, especially through the use of your right hand. On a sidenote, it goes without saying that for most human beings, their right hand is their dominant one. For the 10% of you for which that’s not the case, just apply this same rationale to the hand that is your dominant one for this step. 

The first aspect of Ikenga we will discuss is its appearance. They come in various shapes and sizes, but one key aspect is horns, typically that of a ram, which is prizes for its aggressiveness. Just like the ram, Igbos believe that  one must plunge into a venture in order to succeed. Contrary to misinformation by Igbo Christians, Ikenga, much like other sacred objects, was not an item of worship but a visible representation of things that were invisible. In this case, Ikenga represents your divine self image. In other words, a self image based on your Chi (your unlimited potential), working in unison with your Eke (your limited kinetic energy). Ikenga is thus said to be a gift or symbol of one’s Chi. Anyone who has either achieved consistent success or studied/coached those who have, is aware of how critical having a healthy self image actually is. With an unhealthy self image, your numerous self doubts will usually defeat you before you even get started. Even if you do happen to achieve success despite a negative self image, you will likely be the victim of your own self-sabotage.

Ebune jị isi éjé ogụ” (The ram goes into a fight head first)

Ikengas were not limited to individuals, but communities could also have them (sometimes called Ikeoha). These communal Ikengas were representations of the achievements and ideals of a community. The Ikenga of the United States of America holds a torch in her right hand, and stands tall in Liberty Island in New York Harbor. 

The second aspect of Ikenga we will discuss would be its adaptability, meaning its ability to change. Young men would typically get an Ikenga carved when they began their various vocations. In some ways, you could say it would be very similar to receiving a diploma in today’s world. However, an  Ikenga was not permanent, and it could evolve as the owner’s roles changed. A young man whose main task was defending his village would receive a warrior’s Ikenga holding a sword, whereas when that same man became a more accomplished elder, he would now have a title holder’s Ikenga holding a sacred staff. Alternatively, if a man chose a profession that didn’t bring him much success, he could throw away the Ikenga (self image) that was not helping him and choose a new Ikenga (and possibly a new profession) that did. 

“Ikenga adighi ile, azilaa ya nku” (An Ikenga that is ineffective, cut it for firewood)

The third aspect is persistence. Once an Ikenga was established, a routine was established to straighten it. Regular offerings of kolanut, alligator pepper, and libations were made to it, often during the igo ofu ututu (traditional morning prayer). To the uninitiated, it would appear that the Ikenga itself is being worshipped, but I want to reveal a secret to you: If one makes a prayer, whether spoken out loud or silently, your mind cannot help but create a mental picture of whatever choice of words you use. For example, if I mention a pink elephant, you can’t help but imagine one. The same applies to things like positive thinking, affirmations, proverbs, etc. What would happen if you constantly reminded yourself of your goals? Regularly repeated words of encouragement and positivity? And returning back to your childhood, how powerful could your imagination be when if it focused on a long term goal? And even more so when you also dedicate yourself to constant practice and honing of your skills? 

“Ikenga chim nyelum, taa oji” (Ikenga, gift of my chi, participate in the offering)

So in summary, an Ikenga is a divinely based self image, that changes as needed, and is fed/reinforced by persistence and dedication. And here’s a final thought my brothers and sisters. One thing about dedication is that you must accept that you’re typically not going to be very good at most things at the beginning. In fact, you’re very likely to be quite bad. However if you stick with it and learn from your mistakes, not only will you improve, you will likely become quite good.

At some point you did not have the ability to read these words at all, but through repetition and practice over time, you gained that ability didn’t you? The same applies to just about everything you now have the ability to do (walk, talk, drive, write, etc). So instead of saying that you cannot do something, you should say you haven’t done it yet.  The former may or may not be true, but the later definitely is. With a harmonized Chi na Eke (as well as working in conjunction with others), the only real limit in this universe you probably have is time. So if that’s the case, why are you limiting yourself?

Step 3: I choose a divinely based self image that helps me creates the results I want and can change it when it no longer does so. 

Action item: Create an Ikenga. You can draw it, or just write a description of it. Make sure to mention it in your daily prayer from step 2. Include the type of life you want to create as well as some of the goals you want to achieve. And stay tuned for step 4, which is coming out on the next new moon, November 15. Yagazie (It shall be well with you).

Step 2: Chi na Eke

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“Otu nne na-amu mana obughi otu chi na eke”

One mother can beget many children but all the children will their own Chi and Eke

Welcome back to the 13 steps. You are now ready to begin step 2. In the first step, you learned the importance of ncheta, which is remembrance. You will see why this is indeed the foundation of all other steps. For this step, we will again return to a common experience that all humans share. You’re not going to remember it but we have this reminder on our bodies. In the months that you were being carried in your mother’s womb, you were literally connected to her, and dependent on her for your sustenance. However, there came a time when you had to leave that place and begin a new type of existence. And so you emerged from her womb, but were still physically connected to her.

However, for you to ever be a fully functional human being, that connection had to be severed. And in doing so, the physical connection to your mother was cut. You are reminded of it every time you look at your stomach and see your belly button. An Igbo custom (ili alo), which was also shared amongst our neighbors, was the burial of a newborn’s umbilical cord & placenta, usually near a newly germinated tree.

This tree, which would be known as nkwu alo, was a child’s tree of life, and had significance for a child’s future. One belief was that the nkwu alo would  become fruitful  in  proportion  to  the  fame  of  the  child’s  subsequent  achievements as an adult. And during the obi umuaka (hearts of children) rite, the tree is used as a location for teenagers to be reminded of their relationship to Ala (the earth mother), their ancestors and their community. 

Well similar to the severing of the physical connection to your mother, another, more traumatic severing happened, but this was not a physical severing, but a mental one. And the question that’s likely running through your mind right now is who or what was that mental separation from? Well the answer to that question is what Igbo people called “Chi na Eke” (Chi and Eke). 

If you’re of Igbo descent you may have heard the shortened form “Chineke”, and been told that it means “God the creator.” Unfortunately, this definition came from the Igbos who were among the first to convert to Christianity, who by the way, were usually the people who literally knew and understood the least about Igbo customs and metaphysics. To be honest with you, a series of books would need to be written to do justice to what Chi na Eke are, but for the purposes of this 13 step program, we will define each as the following: Chi is your potential energy, and Eke is your kinetic energy.

“Eke na chi wo otu mana eke siri na chi bia”

Eke and Chi are one, but Eke came from Chi

If you recall  from your science classes, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes forms. And two of the major forms that energy can take would be at rest (potential) or in motion (kinetic).  According to Igbo belief, it is your Chi that created your physical body, and it remains with you all your life. As a newborn, your connection to both Chi and Eke were still fresh, but as time passed, and without reminders, you began to get out of sync. This explains why as I reminded you in “Step 1”,  that as a child you seemed to be more confident and full of life than you  probably are now. However, and I cannot stress this enough,  this loss of connection was ONLY in your mind. 

Potential and Kinetic Energy

Unfortunately due to you being born in this time and place, various physical memorials were not setup to remind you of your connection to your Chi na Eke. You likely didn’t have the rite of  ili alo done, nor do you have an nkwu alo to perform the obi umuaka rite with. That’s the bad news. However the good news is that you can create your own reminders that suit you. And even better news is that just as you happen to have a Chi na Eke, every other human being you encounter also has one. 

What does this mean for you? Well If you have ever played a musical instrument of any kind, you know that something magical happens when multiple instruments are played in harmony. What would happen if you not only got your Chi na Eke in tune with one another, but also found other people who did the same thing? What kind of reality could you create?

Step 2:  I recognize that Chi na Eke, the greater power that can help me overcome my negative feelings, resides in myself and in others. I can create my own reality and can do anything within reason, but cannot do it by myself or at the same time.

Action item: Start to write your own personal prayer that says something similar in your own words. Choose a time and place to say it on a daily basis. And stay tuned for step 3, which is coming out on the next new moon, October 16.

Step 1: Ncheta

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Ndu bu ahia. Ahia ka anyi biakwuru iz n’elu uwa nke a

“Life is a marketplace. We have come into this great wide world to buy and sell”

Introduction

Nnọọ (welcome) to the 13 steps. Each step is designed to help you rediscover yourself and remember what you came to offer to the world. A journal is strongly encouraged for you to keep track of your progress through each step.

Step 1: Ncheta

Do you remember what it was like to successfully make your first step as a baby? Well if you do not, let me take you on a trip down memory lane. After being carried in your mother’s womb for 9 moons, you arrived into this world and spent a lot of time being carried in the arms of other people or on the back of your mother.

When you were not being carried, you were crawling on all fours. Despite your situation, you knew intuitively that you had the ability to do more. As you attempted to go from crawling to walking, you fell hundreds of times.Yet, you did not let that deter you. You did not give up. One day, you finally did it…you stood upright and made your first step, and then another, and then another. Soon afterwards, walking was second nature, followed by running. 

Flashing forward to today, despite being far more capable, you likely are full of more doubt than when you were a baby. You’ve probably felt crippled by fear, frequently finding yourself frustrated, and wondering what your life purpose is. You’re less likely to step outside of your comfort zone and when you do try new things, you probably quit if you don’t get immediate results. What happened to you? How did you get this way? And most importantly, what can you do to make a change for the better?

The answers to most of these questions can only be answered by you. However, for the last question, I can be of some assistance. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to make another first step. And that entails that recognizing that your negative feelings of powerlessness, of limitation, of self doubt, of aimlessness, etc, are due to beliefs that are not based on reality

Your false beliefs about yourself are due to your own forgetfulness;  due to you not remembering the very things you knew when you came into this world. Maybe you forgot while trying to “fit in”, or maybe you were forced to forget due to religious and educational indoctrination. Regardless of the how or why, the key thing is that you did indeed forget what was real, and as a substitute, took on beliefs that were not. By doing so, you decided to outsource the control of your life to others. 

Well today, you can take another first step, which we will call ncheta, which means remembering in Igbo language.

Step 1: I admit that my negative thoughts, feelings & actions have mostly been due to false beliefs about myself, and I aspire to remember the things I already came into this world knowing.

Action item: Seek out people, places or things that trigger some of the happy memories from your childhood. Recall your sense of imagination, your curiosity, and your intuitive confidence. Remember the things you were good at, what brought you joy, as well as some of the things that both scared but intrigued you at the same time. Take the first step and get ready for step two on the next new moon, September 17. Stay blessed.

First step on the moon