Category Archives: 13 Steps

Step 11: Mgbaghara

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“Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya”

“He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.”

Welcome to Step 11. In Step 8, you learned the basics of how abundance manifests in your life. In Step 9, you learned that giving is one of the keys to increasing that abundance, and in Step 10, you recognized that success is a process, not a magic pill.

Step 11 is called Mgbaghara, which in Igbo translates to forgiveness. However, for the purpose of this step, I’d like to give you another definition, which is “unbinding.” Each us happens to be “bound” in one way, shape or form. If you found yourself tied to a fixed location, you will find yourself unable to move any further than the length of your rope. If you were chained to a movable, but heavy object, you would be able to move, but would find yourself very slowed down. And of course, if you were handcuffed to a person, you would be unable to move without them.

If you desire to become “unbound” from any of the things you happen to be shackled to, the best tool to achieve this goal would usually be a key. And today, I will give you 3 ways that you can utilize mgbaghara to unlock shackles you weren’t aware you had. 

Master Key #1

The first thing I’d like to show you is how to to “unbind” yourself from the shackles that have been put on you by a particular person. This individual is your biggest saboteur, harshest critic and all around worst enemy. As you’re going through the various people in your life that fit this criteria, I will reveal where to find this person. This may come as a surprise, but it’s someone you’ve known your entire life and is very close to you. To find this person, you don’t have to look any further than in the mirror

It will indeed be very difficult to someone who has done more damage to your life than yourself. Most of your dreams have been killed before they’ve started by your self doubt and fears. Over the course of your life, you have constantly beaten yourself up over mistakes you’ve made or actions you didn’t take. And as a result, you’ve attached yourself to “heavy” feelings of shame, regret, self loathing, etc. that weigh you down tremendously. 

But if you would not trip over what’s behind you, why should you allow your past choices to make you falter today? If you recalled in Step 1, you probably attempted to walk hundreds of times before finally getting it right. And once you successfully took your first step, you pretty much forget all the times you were not successful in walking. What would happen if you took a similar approach today?

Recognize that making mistakes is part of the learning process. If you never made mistakes, you would either never learn anything new or would already know everything. As you learned in Step 5, you are the one that is in charge of your destiny. If you are currently heading in the right direction, would it be wise to dwell on the time you spent following the wrong routes? As long as you are guided by Ako Bu Ije, you will be constantly learning from your mistakes instead of repeating the same ones. 

My brothers and sisters, the first key is to forgive yourself. You have the key to remove the shackles that bind you to your past choices or the person you used to be. As you recall from Step 10, everything is a work in process, including you. If you don’t like your present Ikenga, you can create a new one. Once you can forgive yourself, the other keys will be alot easier.

Master Key #2

If you remember the lessons from Steps 8 & 9, most of the good things you have in your life were given to you by others. However, the same can be said for many of the not so good things. The same folks who gave you the physical traits that helped you survive are also responsible for passing down the less desirable ones. The relatives that gave you the most in one area of life may have neglected you in others. To dive even deeper, many of the negative parts of yourself, may not only have been inherited from your parents but even go back several generations. In some circles, these are called family or generational curses.

Even if you aren’t engaging in behaviors that you or others would consider negative, you may want to consider a few things. As societal norms have changed, and cultures have evolved, beliefs and practices judged as acceptable in one time and place would be judged as unacceptable in another. Things that may have been taboo in the past may be seen as alright today, and vice versa. This inevitably means that some of the current beliefs and behaviors that you’re currently engaged in will be frowned upon by people in the future.

With that in mind, the second key is to forgive your family. They are humans just like you, and subject to the same flaws and faults as you are. Furthermore, as you learned in Step 5, you are not handcuffed to the path chosen by those who came before you. If you would like those that come after you to not be very harsh in their judgement of you, shouldn’t you afford the same courtesy to your own predecessors? Use this key to remove the shackles that tie you to negative aspects of your lineages.

Master Key #3

If you can forgive yourself, and forgive your family, forgiving others should be pretty easy. The simple truth is that holding onto grudges, resentment, contempt, etc. towards other people binds you to them in an unhealthy way. By simply forgiving them, you unshackle yourself from this negative bind. 

On a side note, forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Nor does it mean putting yourself in a position to be wronged by the other person or persons again. It simply means that you choose to not allow what’s happened in the past to weigh you down in any way. If you truly want to set yourself free, you have been given 3 master keys to do so.

Step 11: I choose to forgive myself, my family and other people. And I will seek the forgiveness of others.

Action items: Forgive yourself, your family, and others. And seek the forgiveness of those who you feel you’ve wronged. And stay tuned for Step 12, which is coming out on July 9. Yagazie (It shall be well with you)!

Step 10: Ọgwụ

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“Ife na-azo na-egbu, ife na-egbu egbu na-dzo azo”

“What saves also kills and what kills also saves”

Welcome to step 10. By completing the first nine steps, you’ve now entered into some of the higher lessons. And as a result of you making it this far, I’d like to give you a few gifts I’ve prepared for you. The name of this step is  “Ọgwụ”, which is usually translated as medicine, but that is just scratching the surface of its meaning. For the purpose of this step, I’d like to give you an additional translation for ọgwụ, which is “change agent.” To those familiar with chemical reactions, the word “catalyst” is also a good synonym. 

Ọgwụ is something causes a measurable change. It can be in the form of an object or an action that is performed. The change from ọgwụ can be slow or it can be quick; it can be positive or negative; it can be subtle or very pronounced. Most of the time, it is associated with a change in one’s health (going from a state of disease to a state of wellness), but the type that I am imparting to you also has to do with your mind, spirit and overall situation in life. So take time to reflect on each bit of ọgwụ that you’re about to receive. 

Nke Ọgwụ Mbụ: The Magic Medicine

For millennia, humans have searched far and wide for a “magic pill.” Sometimes they called this a panacea. Othertimes it was known as the “elixir of life” or the “philosopher’s stone”. Regardless of the name, the magic pill was a singular item or action that one could take and magical results would happen. In some stories, planting magic beans would sprout a stalk that reached to the heavens. In others, ingesting it could give a person superhuman abilities or remove all of the ills in their life. Given its purported benefits it should come as no surprise that countless hours and lives have been spent in its pursuit. And I’m here to give you nke ọgwụ mbụ: There is no magic pill. 

Ironically, if you’ve made it all the way up to step 10, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you should it? Whether it’s in the form of a particular “ism”, a spiritual practice, charm or sacred object, there is nothing that will be a solution to all of your personal (or societal) problems for all time. Furthermore, there are few good things in life that come extremely quickly. In fact, the good things in life that come quick, be they fortune, money, etc., can leave just as quickly, and usually do. Just about everything that’s truly worth in life is a process. And again, if you’ve made it this far, you’re already aware of this, and this bit of nke ọgwụ simply served as a reminder

Nke Ọgwụ Abụọ: The Bitter and Sweet Medicine

The vast majority of ọgwụ used for medicinal purposes is the edible variety. Now when it comes to the ọgwụ that one consumes with their mouths, we are going to focus on two tastes: Sweet, which is pleasing to the tongue, and bitter, that which is not pleasing to the tongue. Pretty much everyone has a sweet tooth to some degree, meaning they enjoy consuming things that are sweet. And while things that are sweet aren’t by themselves bad, too much of such things will cause a number of negative side effects, including rotting of teeth as well as destruction of one’s health. Likewise, when ọgwụ is consumed via the ears, one can fall into the trap of hearing what they want to hear. Over time, this will result in one digging themselves deeper into delusion until they have an inability to tell verifiable reality from their fantasy. Being optimistic is actually very beneficial to one’s success, but excess optimism can be harmful and cause ruin. 

Now, regarding the bitter medicine, one will observe that those ọgwụ that are not sweet to the tongue usually have the biggest positive impact on one’s body and mind. Usually bitter things are associated with poisons (nsi). However, the idea that poison must be bitter is a misunderstanding. I’d argue that most of the poisons that people ingest (through the eyes, ears and mouth in particular) are indeed the sweet kind that will kill you slowly over time. With that being said, one can also ingest too much bitter ọgwụ, and slowly turn into a person with a bitter mindset and demeanor. 

What are the takeaways of this nke ọgwụ? That even good things can be overdone and turn into bad things. Many things that taste sweet are poisonous and bitter medicine is often the best type. 

Nke Ọgwụ Ato: The Medicine Given After Death

Most of the time ọgwụ comes with instructions, not only how much to take but when to take it. It goes without saying that taking medicine early is almost always better than taking it late. Furthermore, when one takes a small amount of particular ọgwụ on regular basis, it becomes preventative medicine and minimize or outright keep certain misfortunes from occurring. One can have the best medicine on the planet, but the longer the delay in taking it, the less effective it will be. In this particular case, procrastination and delay are poisons that neutralize nearly every ọgwụ. At some point, even the most potent ọgwụ will be too little too late, and effectively would be like administrating medicine after death; which of course is ridiculous isn’t it? 

With all of that being said, however you desire to take your ọgwụ , just take it! You’ve already been introduced to several types of ọgwụ in step 7, as you learned about umu ndu

Step 10: There are no magic pills, everything is a process. What can harm can also heal and what can heal can also harm. I will not delay, and won’t wait for tomorrow what I can begin today.

Action items: 

Take an honest self evaluation with your current life and decide what changes you’d like to make. Secondly, assess the current things you’re doing that are either slowing down or outright blocking you from those changes becoming your reality. Afterwards, assess the things that you’re currently not doing, that if you were, would bring you closer to your dreams becoming reality; and then start doing them, without delay! And stay tuned for Step 11, which is coming out the next new moon, which is June 10. Yagazie! 

Step 9: Iwa Ọjị

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“Onye wetara oji, wetara ndu” – (The one who brings kola, brings life)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. In the previous step, you learned one secret about abundance and in this step, you will learn another. If you recall, you were taught about the power of counting blessings, transformation and sharing. Today we will dive deeper as to The Source of the blessings of your life, and 5 ways that you increase your Aku na Uba even further. 

Ultimately, the source of all your blessings is your Chi. According to Igbo philosophy, while your Chi is the most pertinent in your life, there is a collective Chi that all derive from. Some Igbos call this Chukwu (Chi + Ukwu), which translates to  the great Chi. Some also call it Obasi. Regardless of the name, the actual meaning is the same; Chukwu is ultimately the source of all good things (Aku na Uba). 

In many traditions, The Source of All Good Things (whom many called God or The Creator) needs your offerings and worship. However this raises a paradox. What would the source of all good things actually need from you? Nothing! However, just because The Source does not need something does not mean that you have nothing to give. And one of the main symbols of giving to those who are the source of the good things in life would be iwa oji (giving kola), and that happens to be the name of this step.

Oji (kola) is an integral part of Igbo culture. It’s the first thing broken and offered to one’s ancestors in the morning. Oji is also always offered to guests by their hosts. And during any type of public event, the event cannot begin without it being broken and distributed. However, before continuing any further, I would like to callback to the previous step. If one counted their blessings (igbako ngozi) , one thing that they would come to realize is how many things they had that were given to them by other people.

“Ngalaba mmadu kariri ngalaba osisi” – (Human connections are more useful than tree branches)

If you are alive now, it’s because someone brought you into this world. You were also given food, clothing and shelter for long enough until you could provide these things on your own. You’re still alive because someone was protecting you when you could not, as well as taught you how to protect yourself when you could. If you’re reading this article (or listening to it), then you were taught how to read and hear in this particular language.  When one properly counts their blessings, they will come to realize that most of the good things in their life were made possible either directly or indirectly by other people. Just like there is a Source of all Good Things, there are different sources for the good things in your life. 

Niger-Benue River Confluence

There are at least 5 things that one can give to the sources of blessings in their lives:

The first thing is giving attention. For you to properly be taught something, you have to give the person teaching you your attention, preferably undivided. This could be applied to your first teacher, who usually was a parent or another family member (older sibling, uncle or aunt or grandparent), as well as the other teachers you’ve had in life. Paying attention to their instruction is the main price that they ask of you.

The second thing that you can give is priority. What this means is that when given a choice, you will nearly always give priority to a particular person, group or people or thing over others. This is sometimes called deference.

The third thing that you can give is respect. One shows respect mostly by showing obedience. One respects the instructions of those who have authority over them. One respects the rules of the institutions they belong to. One respects the laws of the communities they live in. And one gains the respect of others by following through with what their pledges and commitments.

“Nze zere ibe ochie” –  (If an nze aspirant respects nze title holders, he will achieve his ambition)

Aretha Franklin knew a thing or two about respect

The fourth thing that one can give is thanks. This is also called gratitude. Magic words such as thank you are the most familiar ways of showing gratitude (imela, daalu, ndewo). Returning a favor for a favor is another method. If one observes traditional Igbo prayers (ekpere), you will notice that giving thanks makes up the vast majority of the prayer. 

Last but not least, is giving honor or recognition. This is really the same as expressing gratitude, but usually done so in a public manner. 

Iko ka ofeke ji anu mmanya, mpi atu bu ihe e chiri echi” – (The uninitiated drinks with an ordinary cup, but a buffalo’s horn is reserved for titled people)

Now what if I told you that each and every one of the above ways of giving is encompassed by the kola nut ritual? During the morning prayer, one gives attention, priority, respect and thanks to God and ones ancestors. While God is known as The Source of All Good Things, ones family is usually how one inherits the good that comes from God. So it makes sense that both given kola nut during the morning. 

“Nwata erighi n’ihi nn ya, orie n’ihi nna ya” – (Benefits from to a child through his mother or father)

The above also applies during a public gathering, with the addition that honor/recognition is also included. There is a particular order to the person who breaks the kola, the one that distributes it, as well as who receives it. Usually the people given priority are the oldest and most respected members of the community. On top of that the kola nut ceremony must be done in asusu Igbo (language), which goes into respect of one’s customs and traditions. 

When one receives a visitor, the giving of kola symbolizes the giving of attention, priority and thanks. Just as you have many sources of blessings, you are also a source of blessings in the lives of others. Now I’d like for you to think about the following question: Who would you rather share your blessings with? A person who gives you attention, priority, gratitude, respect or recognition, or someone who does not? Now the second question would be are you doing a sufficient job giving these things to those in your life who are the source of many of your blessings?

Step 9: I choose to give attention, priority, gratitude, respect and recognition to the sources of the blessings in my life. 

Action item: Identify the various sources of the blessings in your life, and see how you can engage in a form of iwa oji for them. And stay tuned for step 10, which is coming the next new moon, which is May 11. Yagazie

Step 8: Aku na Ụba

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“Abundance is something you already have. You simply must learn to change it from one form to another.” – Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikenga 

A few years ago, a book came out that took the world by storm. Entitled “The Secret”, the book taught people how they can manifest what they desired through something called the law of attraction. Now the purpose of me mentioning this isn’t to analyze the message expressed by that author, but rather draw your attention to an bigger secret that happens to be right in front of your eyes. 

In the last step, you learned the importance of breath. The next step we will focus on the next most important thing, which is water. Humans can survive for minutes without air, but days without water.  And if you were born and raised in Igboland before boreholes, you had two ways of getting water: Fetching or catching.

Let’s first begin with fetching water. The instrument of fetching water would be a clay pot. You would carry this pot on your head as you walked to and from the stream or lake that your community depended on. Now if it was rainy season, you can leave other types of pots outside and let the rain fill them for you. 

You can could utilize this water in several ways. You could utilize it to water your crops during the dry season, or let it happen automatically during rainy season. Of course these crops once harvested would be the main source of food, which is your nourishment.

You could utilize this water for bathing, either in a designated river or in the comfort of your own home. You could use it for washing your hands before and after a meal. You could directly use this water for drinking, or to prepare other drinks or other various meals. The list goes on and on. 

For the purpose of this step, let us define water as a metaphor for the various blessings (ngozi) in life. Good health, wealth, wisdom, etc; Your talents, resources, achievements and so forth. What if I told you that there was an unlimited source of blessings that you could access anytime and anywhere? How much would your life change? How generous would you be with your various blessings if you knew that you had an unlimited supply of them?

Well my brothers and sisters, I have supremely good news to share with you. Circling back to your previous lessons, you’ve learned the importance of your Chi na Eke being in sync with one another. And I’ll give several reminders of why. 

What would happen if you tried to pour one pot into another but they weren’t in alignment? Most of the water would end up on the floor, and go to waste.  Another question is what would happen if the pot you carried to fetch water from the stream had a hole in it? By the time you return back home, it would be empty. Likewise, if the pot you laid outside was covered up by something, then it would be unable to catch water from the sky, and remain empty.

Your Chi na Eke being out of sync is equivalent to the negative scenarios I mentioned above. The Chi, which if you recall was your potential energy, is the source of the water (blessings). And your Eke is the pot that receives the water.  If you recall, your Chi is unlimited. If they are in sync, you will be able to catch all of the water you need. If you decide to either increase the size of your pot or the number of pots you utilize, you will be able to receive more water. If you share the water from your Chi, you can always replenish it because it never runs out. Isn’t this amazing?

The igbo phrase for abundance is Aku na Ụba and that is the name of this step. And the secret that I want to share with you is that abundance is something you already have. And once you learn how to tap into it, you can turn it from one form to another. For most of human history, crops were one of the main forms of wealth, and this continues until today. Its no coincidence that most festivals are agriculture related and involve food and drink.

A seed once planted in healthy soil and given adequate sun and water will eventually grow and yield a harvest. That is one form of abundance by itself, but does not have to stop there. I’d love to give some examples of other forms of plant based abundance that each of you are familiar with.

The edible part of crops when properly cooked and prepared can be transformed into fantastic meals. If you can think about some of your favorite foods and drinks, you will know how much of a blessing it truly is to be able to enjoy them. Some of those edible parts can also be turned into medicines. And when you or a loved one is sick, having the right medicine available can truly be a matter of life or death. 

The non-edible portions can be utilized in a number of ways. The clothing on your body contains fibers that came from a plant, as did the dyes that give it color. Every building you’ve ever seen has plant based materials from various trees or bamboo stems. And of course, paper, musical instruments, books, etc. None of these things would be possible without an abundance of water. 

Udu drums

And once you understand the abundance you already have, you can utilize it to get the type of abundance you want. How do you do that? I’d like to tell you about the 3 phases of abundance:

Phase One: Igbako Ngozi (Counting blessings)

The first phase is taking an inventory. I call this counting your blessings. And I do mean this literally. Take an assessment of your life and take note of all of the good things you have going for you, no matter how trivial or mundane it may seem to you. For people who don’t posses that thing you have, you are indeed more wealthy than they happen to be in that particular area. 

For example, a person who has happy healthy relationships is indeed wealthier in that area than a person who has alot of money but extremely toxic relationships. A person who has fame and fortune but bad health is actually not better than a person that has great health even if they aren’t very wealthy or well known. I will now remind you of some of the forms of abundance that you already possess.

If you are reading or listening to this, then you are literate in at least one language. That is a form of wealth and it opens you up to being able to acquire information, knowledge and information from others. If you recall, we covered this in step 6, which was Ako Bu Ije. And of course, you must have access to the internet, which means you can find information about pretty much anything you can imagine.  If you recall the lessons from Step 4, Nrọ, information and knowledge are actually revealed to you every night when you sleep, including important parts of your destiny (Step 5).

“Peace and blessings manifest with every lesson learned. If your knowledge were your wealth, then it would be well-earned” – Erykah Badu

The next type of abundance is your community, which includes your friends, family, and colleagues. They are the main source of the abundance you have but did not earn. This is the type of abundance that has been given to you as a gift from others. Those of you who grew up in a healthy home environment often don’t realize how much of a blessing it was until you encounter people who did not. The same applies to growing up and living in a safe and friendly environment. Having friends who can be there when you need them, as well as tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear. And there doesn’t seem to be a greater joy in the world than having a loving partner and sharing your love with children. 

 “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1)

“Nwakego” (Children are better than money) – Igbo name 

Another type of abundance is one’s health. Your body is mostly water and not drinking enough will have adverse effects. If you are blessed with the 5 main senses, you are abundant compared to people who are not. People in good health are more productive, accomplish more and usually live longer more fulfilled lives than unhealthy people. 

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Phase Two: Mgbanwe (Transformation)

The type of abundance I’d like to discuss is one that is not the type you have, but the type you can do. If you recall the lesson from the last step, your main task involved things that energized you either after or while you were doing them. The activities that energize you while you’re doing them are usually the same as your talents. And the activities that energize you afterwards are often utilized by successful people before they perform a particular task. Now both of these tie into the next phase of abundance, which is the transformation phase. And also includes the lesson from Step 3, which was Ikenga.

Besides being your self image, Ikenga is also the source of your drive, as well as the tools you need to accomplish your tasks. Its not a coincidence, that in ancient Igboland, Ikenga was associated with blacksmiths. The same way that blacksmiths turn iron ore into various types of objects, you too can turn your time, talents, knowledge, etc. into money, prestige, power, etc. However one has to be willing to take the initiative, endure through thick and thin, stay the course, etc.

Ikenga also teaches you that you can achieve tasks quicker and easier if you work with others rather than trying to do everything yourself. Being able to work together with others will result in something known as synergy, which is energy that is greater than the sum total of all of your individual energies. And just like the blacksmiths utilize a tremendous flow of air in their forging process, if you utilize your umu ndu practices to supercharge your Ikenga, you can now turn the abundance you have into the types of abundance you want.

Phase Three: Inye (Giving)

And the last phase and one of the most overlooked of them all is that of sharing. As I said earlier, the blessings that come from your Chi are infinite. It’s not just a coincidence that the infinity symbol is the number of this step turned on it’s side. 

If you are tapped into something that has an unlimited supply, isn’t that more than you can possibly utilize for yourself? And if you have more than you need, why not share with someone who needs it more than you? My brothers and sisters, actively sharing your abundance in a sincere and wise way will not only keep the waters from your Chi flowing, but also increase the amount you can receive.

Sincere giving is one done without expectation of a return. It’s when you give not because you want attention, control or a favor in the future. A very simple test would be whether or not you would still give if you didn’t get any credit for it (i.e anonymously). Wise giving is when you give in such a way that it helps further the growth of those who receive it. For some people, receiving too much or too soon can be detrimental to their growth, especially if they need to eventually learn to be independent. Utilize your judgment (Ako bu Ije).

Regardless, the key thing to remember is that increasing the abundance of others does not have to diminish your own. In fact it can do the opposite, in ways you may not expect or realize until afterwards. Despite what you may have heard, life is not a zero sum game. A person does not have to win at the expense of others. Win-win scenarios are what you should strive for.

As a recap: If your Chi na Eke is in sync, you can tap into an infinite source of abundance. You first must take inventory of what you have by counting your blessings, and then utilize what you have (blessings + talents) to get the things you desire. You will have better success if you work well with others than if you try to do everything on your own. And of course along the way, give sincerely, wisely and cheerfully to those who need more than you do. 

Step 8: I recognize that I already have abundance, and must learn to change it from one form to another. Increasing the abundance of others does not diminish my own.

Action Items:

Engage in regular practice of igbako ngozi. Whatever the frequency, make sure you keep up with it. I recommend a journal or a visual representation that you can look at frequently (Such as a vision board but for your blessings)

Take initiative on a task if you haven’t already done so

Find ways for collaboration on tasks you have already started

When the need arises, give sincerely, wisely and cheerfully, without any expectation of getting anything in return

Stay tuned for Step 9, which is coming out the next new Moon, which is April 11. Yagazie! 

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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.