Black, conscious and spiritual

2014-11-06 06:45

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As Milisuthando Bongela grows older, she wants her higher self to play a more active role in her daily self. But society doesn’t make it easy

As soon as I could think critically, I abandoned religion. I was 17 and it was right after I had been confirmed as a Christian.

All those Sunday afternoon classes spent trying to become closer to abstract mythology turned out to be well-spent afternoons eating pizza, and spending time away from home and homework.

University life presented true relief from having to pretend the Holy Spirit had any influence over me because the wrath of home was a few hundred kilometres away and seemed even further in my new life’s company – heathens of all shapes and colours.

I still think I’m too “cool” for organised religion, but I wasn’t naive enough to believe I could go through life without searching for any semblance of meaning to it in the realms of the esoteric.

Despite our many time-saving devices, the paradoxical condition of modern humans is that few of us have time to spend being mindful, thinking about the condition of our lives, asking life’s big questions.

For many of us, engagement with our higher selves, or God, exists within the confines of dedicated spaces and particular days of the week.

Our culture does not celebrate the true value of spiritual consciousness. We bow down to lovelessness, greed, selfishness and daily pontifications from the myopic to the irreverent on screens that control our daily interactions.

As I grow older, I want my higher self to play a more active role in my daily self. I yearn for the wisdom of being able to love, to truly love others, and to have a real spiritual relationship with whatever it is that is responsible for all life.

But I wonder: are love and spirituality as they are presented in popular texts and institutions sufficient to address the social ills particular to a society that is still undergoing a very particular decolonisation?

I am concerned with the existence of black people in South Africa; the history and the current state of black children, women and men; and, as a result, I notice the exclusion of the black experience in religious texts.

Black theology, which addresses the injuries of liberation societies, still lives in privileged and isolated literary spaces.

One of my favourite books, All About Love by bell hooks, teaches the path to self-love and the love of others.

But it falls short of addressing the difficulty of navigating the path to self-love if you are black and female, and are burdened with the requirement of first swimming through the mire of invisibility, violence against your body and abandonment by your man before you are able to exercise the same loving kindness the spiritually developed, who are not black and female, are able to step into.

The uniformed black woman has found solace in the church. She has claimed that space as hers as one to deal with her joys and sorrows. But as the child of a Thursday Wesleyan woman, those spaces merely help her cope with her personal life and not the fundamental problematisation of her kind in the larger social context.

Spirituality, prayer, mindfulness, meditation, yoga and other means of accessing our higher selves are not only trending at the moment, they are genuinely transforming the way people engage with their lives.

As a practitioner of these, I wish there was a dedicated addendum on how to be black, conscious and spiritual – a guide on how to have faith in those who have hurt and continue to hurt your blackness; a standard epilogue to what spiritually conscious leaders like Malcolm?X and Steve Biko had begun to teach before their violent murders.

The questions I ask myself are: how do I see beyond race when my faith in a nonracial South Africa is constantly incapacitated by our society’s failure to deal with the racism that manifests itself in seemingly innocuous hiccups like the blackface sagas, or a superficially random act of violence by Tim Osrin, or the audacity of Steve Hofmeyr on our national consciousness?

We should not be ashamed that we are a racist and sexist society. We cannot evade the realities of centuries spent realising these powerful delusions.

I went back to church in Soweto recently to see if the church is using its power and influence over black people to empower them with self-knowledge.

I have recently begun praying and meditating in an attempt to reconcile my lower, foggy, critical self with my higher, enlightened, loving self.

I am trying to find the answer to merge my political consciousness with my spiritual consciousness and, at the moment, I don’t know what will seal the outlet so many of us need in order to overcome what we know.

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