BE HERE NOW: Letting go of the past to be in the present

be here now 22

“We are human BEINGS, not human DOINGS or human TRYINGS”—Mary Burmeister 

Since I began practicing Jin Shin Jyutsu, I often think about BEING. For me BEING means being present in and to what is right now. BEING is about noticing how and where I am at a particular instant, really noticing. It is the noticing part that sometimes proves challenging. Sometimes my mind is full of all I “have to do”, often with some sense of urgency. I might notice hurriedly, thinking Ok, I am…and now I have to do x,y and z. I’ll really slow down enough to BE later. As it turns out, BEING is the foundation that makes any Doing possible. Over the last few years, through learning to BE with the discomfort of slowing down enough to notice now, I’ve come to realize that the speed and urgency I used to feel more of the time was just a distraction. It isn’t just speed and urgency that get in the way of noticing our BEINGness. For me, watching tv or surfing the internet or any other number of activities can be distractions from BEING in myself. What would happen if you simply noticed your BEING, really noticed? What would you discover there? Of course, sitting still is not the only way we can notice. Simply to bring our noticing into any moment, no matter what we’re doing, to notice our breath, the sensations in our body, our thoughts, our feelings, is possible in every instant.

One of the most profound impacts noticing my BEING has had in my life is in the realm of how I experience my familial relationships. A couple of months ago, I spoke with my brother Terfa briefly on the phone. He was in the States for a few days from Nigeria for a conference. I was hoping to see him and our brother Terhemen, who’d had just welcomed his first child into the world with his wife some weeks earlier. Terfa and I hadn’t spoken in about 2 years—not for any negative reason. We hadn’t had a falling out or anything of the sort. Before I continue, a bit of background: I am one of 13 children on my father’s side, while I am my mother’s only child. I grew up briefly with some of my siblings and then didn’t see or speak with them from age 5 until reconnecting with them at age 15. For a long time, I felt a deep sense of loss in not having spent those formative years with them. I longed for the bond they seemed to have with one another. This had been a quiet but defining longing in me. Don’t misunderstand, we get along well and love each other. While this is true, it happens that years can pass without me speaking with them. In years past, speaking with Terfa would have touched on that old longing, The wound of not growing up with my siblings. I had, at various points, romanticized a childhood I didn’t have and, when possible, aimed for a familiarity not actually rooted in real shared experiences and memories. For example, when I’d see a few of them during a vacation, I’d laugh at inside jokes I had no idea about or feign understanding pidgin or slang I didn’t actually. To have my experience of my family be rooted in memories I long for but which aren’t true, kept me slightly out of the present, out of being able to get to know one another as deeply as possible, which was easier with the two other of my siblings who also didn’t grow up with the clan.

On that March night, in my BEINGness, I felt present to the conversation, to the delight of speaking with Terfa, the delight of knowing we share blood and all that comes with that, the delight of talking about visiting him and his family next time I’m in Nigeria, simply the delight. For the first time, my longing for an imagined shared past took a backseat in a way it hadn’t really done before. I was HERE NOW, talking to my elder brother. Speaking to Terfa in 2013 reminded me of how curious and interested I am in each of my siblings and how much I want to get to know them better, as we are now. What a blessing that this is possible—no family feuds or other nonsense to stand as a wall between us.  I don’t need to hold on to an old wish, a wish to alter a past I didn’t create and cannot change. As most of my siblings now have children, and I grow in my womanhood, I realized that this long and old hankering leaves out the wonderful blessings and potential of now. It only took 26 or so years to understand thatJ It’s never to late to BE HERE NOW.


The (r)evolution continues

ImageGreetings dear readers!

It has been a few weeks since my last post. In that time, life has brought me some wonderful surprises and pointed me to creating more spaciousness in my being. This is just a quick note to say I’m still here and stay tuned.

Just now I’d like to share this little bite with you: Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 5-day workshop, Beyond Diversity (, facilitated by the amazing Niyonu Spann. Not only did I get to be a participant in the conversation about how we really take on being transformers for justice, healing and love, but I got to use Jin Shin Jyutsu to support my fellow participants in their journey. What a magnificent gift to work with people in that way! If you want to taste the power of Jin Shin Jyutsu for yourself, begin by simply holding your fingers for a couple of minutes each today. What do you notice? Click (r)evolutionary hands tab above to learn more.

What I got to notice up in the mountains of Pennsylvania, by the Appalachian Trail, was the deep core of peace in my being. In the ongoing conversation about divine alignment, over the last few months this deep core of peace has grown deeper. i feel anchored in a way that I know is beyond me and from which I can always draw what I need to fulfill my purpose in any given moment. It is a profound feeling. In fact, it is beyond the changeability of feelings, it is a knowingness that I am an instrument, ever ready to hum to the vibration of purpose. I am grateful.

Can you feel your deep core of peace?

Be well.


Going with the flow

Greetings friends!

I’m happy to be here with you again.

I’d like to share a story with you about an amazing experience I had last week. It reminded me of the truth that the Divine is magnificent and awe-inspiring. To remember this constantly is my intention.

So I’ve been avoiding the Nigerian consulate for weeks now. Going there and back home is a whole day’s enterprise. But last Friday was the last day I could go and still get what I needed in time. I fretted about how smoothly the process would go. As some of you know, certain countries’ consulates are no joke. Nigerian consulates are not necessarily known for being the most customer-friendly. To compound matters I’d stayed up very late into the wee hours of the morning to finish up an application for a project. I would be get less than three hours of sleep (no morning rituals for me). Since I really really didn’t want to go, before I went to sleep I thought to myself, ” okay God, if you want me to go you’ll make sure I get up on time.” My alarm went off a couple hours later and I turned it off in my sleep. At 7:12 AM exactly my eyes snapped open and I have 13 minutes before the cab comes to take me to the bus station. That I woke up with just enough time to get ready told me that I had been heard and in fact I was to go. Waking up with such a sureness that I was being sent, for reasons grander than a consulate visit though I couldn’t say what else for, lit up the day with a gorgeous light (despite the slush from the previous night’s snow). I was lit up. The light shone brighter than any fatigue and made the rest of the day so easy, and more than that, beautiful.

When I got the consulate I didn’t have to wait long at all. I learned that in fact I would be able to get the document I needed that same day, which I hadn’t expected! Normally when I meet other Nigerians, often my name looks unusual to them, being that a lot of us– even Nigerians– haven’t heard of my people, Tiv folk, before. One of the officers at the Consulate actually recognized my name and greeted me in Tiv. As it turned out, his brother went to school down the road from my home village! He told me that not very many Tiv people go through the place, just a few in a year. “I’m also Tiv,” a woman said from across the room and I was able to greet her also. This was a small thing but it made a difference for me in that experience. There are also lots of children present in a delighted me to watch them play and to see the delight their parents took in them as well.

As I was leaving the consulate it came to my mind that I had seen an email somewhere telling me that an elderly friend of mine was going to be moving to a different state a few hours north. She would be gone the next day. This would be my last opportunity to see her before she left. I spent a delightful hour with her. While I was there I reminded her that another friend of ours actually live close to where she was moving. “Yes, I’ve been calling him and calling him and he hasn’t called me back. Do you think he hates me?”

“Are you sure you have the right number for him?” I replied.

We discovered that indeed she’d been calling the wrong number all along. I wrote down for her the number I had. We got him on the phone on the spot. She was reassured that, in fact, he loved her and had not been ignoring her calls.

For me, waking up with such a strong sense of divine alignment literally changed how vividly I saw what was around me– people, sights and sounds, even the feel of pavement beneath my feet. And to think that such vivacity is available to each of us every waking moment of every day! Incredible.

Questions for your consideration:

  • What is the most recent experience you’ve had in which your senses were heightened?
  • What about that experience created such vivacity?
  • What would it take to experience your life in that way again?

Gratitude and Complaint

The theme of gratitude has been popping up a lot for me lately. I want to be more grateful for the constant stream of blessing flowing toward me, whether I recognize them or not. For example, I am alive. Whatever else is going on, this is true. It is also true that my ancestors survived a tremendous amount to make way for me now, something that is true for all of us at some point. Gratitude for that alone could take up all of my time, for example. I’ve been thinking about gratitude because I believe it’s impossible to be grateful enough. No matter our circumstances, there is always something to be grateful for.

Complaint has the power to take us away from our own hearts by making us forgetful and prideful.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our complaints, we stop noticing all that we have to be grateful for. Considering gratitude necessitates thinking about my relationship to complaint. There is a saying in Islam that it is best to complain only to God. I most definitely fail at this. I mention to this person and that how tired I am, how frustrated I am by this or that, how cold it is, etc. I intend to maintain an attitude of gratitude in most conversations but somehow those complaints manage to sneak in sometimes. I wonder what it would take consistently focus on my gratitude in my speech? I like to think I mostly do so, but I know there is much more wonder to remember and for which to give thanks. Many Muslims say simply “Alhamdulillah”—all praise to God. In Nigeria many people respond to “how are you?” with “God is good.” What would I have to let go of to say just that without adding “I’m a bit tired…” at the end of it, or some similar complaint? Sometimes I do get confused about the potential difference between complaint and saying a true thing.

About 14 years ago I visited my friend Felicia in California. As she prepared for bed, she took out two bowls, one full of 100 marbles.

What are you doing? I asked

I’m doing my gratitudes. This is my gratitude bowl. Every night, for each marble, I say one thing I’m grateful for, and move it to the empty bowl.

Years later I am still amazed that she did 100 a day! I did it with her while I was there and as we got into the 70s and 80s it became a bit more challenging, and that was the most beautiful part of the experience for me. After giving thanks for the things that came relatively easy—family, friends, health, etc., when I thought I’d pretty much covered everything, how much more to give thanks for in all of creation! Considered on that scale 100 is a paltry offering!   

Not only is gratitude a must for your spirit, it also has an amazing impact on your health. Consistently, consciously giving thanks daily can dramatically reduce stress, improve your outlook and more.*

I am laughing at myself as I write this, noticing the part of myself that doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression, the part of me that wants to assure you that indeed I am very grateful, the part that wants you to think well of me. This is what Landmark calls the “Sea of Opinions—wanting to look good and wanting to avoid looking bad.” That’s a big topic, which we’ll save for another day. I invite you to notice what is coming up for you as you think about increasing your gratitude.


11 things I’m grateful for today, right now this instant

  • I am alive!
  • I am healthy
  • My beloved
  • My heart
  • Dhikr
  • I was able to get a bike
  • I rode my bike safely home after not having been on a bike in 10 years!
  • Some lovely conversations
  • Learning about Renaissance Souls (wow, very powerful for me!)
  • A warm home
  • You, dear reader




Questions for your consideration:

  • What are you grateful for today? In your life at large? In all the world?
  • What would it take for you to increase your gratitude and lessen your complaints?


*A couple of short articles on the health benefits of gratitude:


Waking Up

My first Zentangle!
My first Zentangle!

I’ve been thinking a lot about waking up. I don’t mean in a metaphorical sense this time. I mean literally. How do I wake up into the day? I’ve been a night owl most of my life. Sometimes dawn and daylight catch me still awake from the day before. But we live a good deal in a morning world. Having jobs that require me to be up and about early has meant staying up late and waking up with just a few minutes to get ready and out the door. I am a pro at the 20-minute turnaround. Rushing to get to early engagements has meant I don’t leave myself any time to ease into the day, no time to step into the frame of the day with clear intention. With only 20 minutes to get out the door, the list of things to do and responsibilities rush in. I’ve come to believe this way of waking up is not optimal in the quest to live in divine alignment.

Without something to rush to, I notice that I like slow. Waking up slowly, intentionally means noticing and giving thanks that I am alive again, writing (morning pages are wonderful!*), practicing Jin Shin Jyutsu and, most importantly, intentionally setting the frame for the day.

What does it mean to frame the day? For me, this means asking the Divine “How can I serve you today?” This simple question has made a profound difference in how I experience all that follows. As human beings, we have a tendency to get caught up in our feelings, our impressions, our opinions, our judgments, our assumptions. These can loom large in our view and, consequently, how we experience our lives. What I’ve noticed is that framing my day in terms of “How can I serve today?” has me pay keen attention, eager to recognize opportunities subtle and obvious, to be a vessel for something far bigger than myself, far more powerful than my desires, thoughts, assumptions, etc. For example, if part of my schedule for the day includes going to an event or obligation I am not thrilled to attend, saying to myself “I am going as a servant,” has me show up fully present and available to whoever I may meet and whatever may show up in that space. I find myself listening more carefully and giving of myself more freely. Service comes first, my agenda comes second. Of course, service is itself a blessing and through this lens things unfold far more beautifully than my myopic ideas about my agenda would have me imagine.  Needs and wishes, along with aspects of my purpose are unexpectedly fulfilled.

Last week I attended a Quaker weekend gathering. It was my first time going to a Quaker event. I wasn’t feeling well and nearly cancelled the trip but in the frame of “the Divine is sending me”, it was easy to trust that I would be well cared for. It was a wonderful experience and constantly remembering the frame created space to have conversations my fatigue might have had me rush from in favor of a nap. From one of those conversations came unsolicited news of a potential space I can use for an event I’m planning. Give. Receive.

I’m learning. There are still plenty of mornings I don’t leave myself enough time to really wake up into the day as slowly as I’d like, but now I know enough to make sure to ask “how can I serve today?”, jot a quick word and do even just a minute of Jin Shin Jyutsu before hopping to the next thing.


Questions for your consideration:

  • How do you wake up into the day?
  • What helps you feel grounded?
  • What question(s) frame your day?
  • What questions help you keep track of a bigger picture?


A musical treat: 

In honor of Nina Simone’s 80th birthday, her tune “Children Go Where I Send You”. In joy!

Children Go Where I Send You


*”Morning pages” comes from Julia Cameron’s amazing The Artist’s Way, which I enthusiastically recommend.


Only Grape Syndrome

Only Grape Syndrome

I suffer from Only Grape Syndrome (OGS).  Some time ago I was a talk given by Shayka Amina Al Jerrahi. She spoke about how one of the essential roots of human hurts is the belief that we are alone. “Imagine, it’s like a grape on a bunch thinking it’s the only one.”

OGS is characterized by 4 persistent symptoms:

  • Believing you are the only grape on the bunch, that you are not part of a larger community
  • That you can only rely on yourself—even for small things
  • Forgetting that you are part of the larger bunch of your family, your lineage
  • Intense loneliness

I thought I had by and large kicked it until I began thinking about writing about it. This last week I’ve felt traces of the intense loneliness I experienced for a good chunk of childhood and adolescence. In my teenage years, I endeavored to get comfortable with it, thinking it was my lot in life; loneliness was a fact to be endured. Thankfully, I’m not there anymore. I’ve also seriously questioned whether it would be ok for me to write about something that feels so vulnerable to me.

OGS first came on when I was about 5 or 6. My mother and I moved to Los Angeles from Nigeria. It was major culture shock for me, with my accent and fancy dress. The kids in LA public schools were not impressed with my dresses and ribbons everyday. “Christmas Tree” they called me. I came home one day and told my mother I would no longer go to school dressed that way. With some dedication and many hours spent mimicking tv commercials, I lost my Nigerian accent, allowing me safe passage on the playground. From that experience and others in later years, I somehow internalized the notion that other people were, by and large not safe, even as I yearned for meaningful connections more than anything. Other people could not be counted on. Somehow disappointment always turned up. I remember walking around my high school campus, after some small slight, feeling reaffirmed in my belief about the unreliability of everyone but myself. There were a few exceptions but for the most part…

As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to notice more deeply the ways that friends, family and folks in brief encounters, can be magnificent, kind, loving, thoughtful, patient, funny and otherwise gorgeous, in my direction. I’ve learned to be more understanding and less attached to small disappointments—and to catch it when those disappointments arise because I haven’t actually communicated what I want. You know, that awkward moment when someone doesn’t say/do what you hoped they would and you’re disappointed that they didn’t just know to do it without you having to tell them. Sound familiar anyone?

“Are you mad?”

“You’re acting mad.”

“It’s fine.”

“It doesn’t seem fine.”
“It is.”


“by the way, here’s that scarf you gave me. I don’t need it.”

A week later—maturityJ

Remember last week?”

“I was really hoping you would surprise me by making dinner.”

“Oh! That’s what you were mad about. Why didn’t you just say something?”

“I’m saying it now.”


OGS has also seriously impacted my relationship with my family. It’s gotten a lot better in the last couple of years, but for the most part, I really forget that there is this network of people I am connected to, past and present. I don’t call them often. It’s a strange thing really, and it isn’t because I don’t love or care about them. It’s the amnesia of OGS.  I’m working on shifting this because I see the distance it has caused with people I don’t actually want to feel distant from. The irony is that the embarrassment and others ways I can feel bad about not reaching out to my family can become a further obstacle, which only compounds the situation. My cousin has been asking me to visit her for a very long time and I haven’t made it yet. It has actually caused some damage to our relationship.

“Heeey! Nice to hear from you. It’s been a very long time.”
“[slight pause of embarrassment], yes. I’ve been…[what reason can one really give if it’s been months, or years??] you’re right, I’m sorry about that. I’m working on it…How are you?”

Since moving to Philadelphia, I’ve been thinking a lot about connection and community. When I decided to move I knew that I would be leaving the physical proximity of friends it had taken me years to make, and new friends I hadn’t had enough time with. I tried not to think too deeply about it. Arriving in Philly and into the arms of a new relationship, I thought that it would be my entry point into a sense of community, something I’ve not felt very connected to throughout my life. As fate would have it my beloved took on a project that resulted in us not seeing each other very much for several months. Unexpectedly, I was left on my own much of the time. OGS kicked into super-high gear, working overtime in fact. I didn’t know where to begin in getting connected. What I have slowly gotten comfortable with in recent years, is the sense of belonging to communities beyond a physical location. I belong to the Muslim community, to the Sufi community within and beyond that, to the community of educators, the community of artists, and so on. I feel more and more at home in these global spaces, understanding that even within a community there are smaller communities as well. My heart is healing here. A year later, I’ve noticed enough to catch my OGS and put it on the side as I endeavor to build a community of friends in Philly.


Though Only Grape Syndrome is serious, it can be remedied through the contradiction of catching it when it flares up, reaching out to folks—family, friends, supporters, mentors/teachers, community. When that temptation to forget the web of connections that are lifeblood, just picture imagine yourself as one grape on a full bunch on a vine with lots of other full bunches. As it turns out, we are not the only grapes. Alhamdulillah.


Questions for your consideration:

  • Do you suffer from Only Grape Syndrome? If so, what does that look like in your life? (remember that all or only some of the symptoms may be true for you)
  • What does community mean to you? What communities do you belong to?
  • What would it take to deepen your connections to/with those you love? With those you want to get closer to? Are you willing? Are you able?
  • What do you to do to kick OGS to the curb?



Divine Alignment

I celebrated my birthday my birthday this week. Happy New Year to me!  I enter a new chapter of my life with joy, enthusiasm, gratitude, and excitement.

About ten years ago I began giving a theme to each new year, birthday to birthday. There’s been the Year of Quickening, the Year of Reckoning, the Year of Transformation, and so on. A few weeks before my new year actually begins, I sit in stillness, take walks and listen for the name. It always comes.

This year the theme is Alignment. In the last year and a half, my life has changed significantly:

  • I started a new relationship
  • moved to a new city
  • went from full-time employment to unemployed/self-employed
  • came to some new understandings about myself, or more precisely, simply cycled back to remembering things I’ve known all along

From the time I can remember I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose, though I couldn’t quite say what exactly it was. The strength of that purpose compelled me and for much of my life – all of it really, until now – I made decisions about what to do or what not to do (become a teacher, get a PhD, etc.) according to intuitions that told me if I would end up closer to or further away from my purpose.

As 2012 came to a close, I realized that I’d spent the year getting comfortable with the new and first-time clarity about what I am here to do, getting comfortable with the possibility of answering yes or no to the question “am I doing what I’m here to do?” And 2012 I experienced what I call “divine alignment”. As I experienced the joy of feeling as if at any given moment I was in exactly the place I was meant to be a set of check and questions came to me,  guideposts by which to consider the day, the week, the month, the lifetime:

  • Am I in divine alignment?
  • If not, why not? What does my resistance look like?
  • If so, what does my surrender look like? What would the next level of surrender it look like?

In late 2011, I decided to move to Philly for love. I prayed about it and felt this decision was definitely in alignment. I was going to save money, move in the warm months – you know, do it prudently,  safely. In November I had a dream which showed me that my careful plan was nonsense, that by going in what I thought was a straight line I would actually be going in a circle. No, I needed to move by the end of December – in six weeks, not six months. By making the decision to move I had been in alignment but more was required. My resistance looked like “but…” And “I don’t…”  and waiting to get the ball in motion to actually move that quickly. Nonetheless, I leapt. I surrendered. Allah handled everything that could have been an obstacle. I was in Philly by December 28th.

Fear and bewilderment had me phasing in and out of alignment in 2012, or at least had me feeling as though I was phasing in and  out of it.  in 2013, I intend to be courageous. What’s the point if I’m not? I’ve been waiting my whole life to know what I now know about my particular purpose. So what does every day look like an alignment? Inshallah I’m looking forward to finding out.  Happy New Year indeed!

As the year gets rolling I invite you to consider these checking questions for yourself.

  • What does divine alignment look like in your own life? Are you in it?
  • If not why not? What does your resistance look like?
  • If you are in alignment, what does your surrender look like? What would the next level of surrender look like?

Wishing all of us courage as we each seek to fulfill our unique and divine purposes! Let’s love one another in the process. Ashe. Salaam. Shalom. Inshallah, inshallah, inshallah.



What exactly is (r)evolution?

(r)evolution: the space within the bounds of self, where the essential truths of being a human being are innate and constantly cycling into wakefulness and sleep, remembrance and forgetfulness. It is the process by which you forget key facts of who you are—What talents do I have?What do I really care about?–and remember them again—I really am talented at…Or I really care about…Its necessary components are the heart and the spirit.

(r)evolution is not to be confused with Revolution, a la the popular overthrow of particular powers that be in governance structures, institutions big and small. Though (r)evolution is necessary for Revolution, they are not synonymous.