Kate O’ Brien‘s series of “Lessons from Lockdown” returns this week where she introduces John Lockley a traditional shaman and one of the first modern white sangomas in South Africa’s Xhosa tribe. Sangomas are soul doctors or metaphysicians who help people connect to their immortality and the spirit world through a measured combination of chanting, bone divination and plant medicine. He was trained and initiated by his Xhosa teacher, MaMngwevu, who hails from the same tribe as Nelson Mandela & Desmond Tutu.
“Why is this happening,” Lockley questions. With illness and any major life trauma there is always a question of why.“For me, this pandemic is one of the greatest teachings of our time, as we are part of nature and this virus is teaching us that in order to harmonise, we have to become a part of nature again by befriending our fears, befriending our shadows and befriending death.”
He cites fond memories of time within Ireland with his grandparents and ancestors (Lockley’s mother is Irish) many of whom were farmers with soil encased in their fingertips. They were highly attuned to the sounds of the world around them. “Our ancestors could teach us a lot,” he adds. “Maybe we should think about what they would do if they were with us now: They would pray; they would spend time outdoors calling on nature; they would have faith and courage too – all these things natural disasters teach us and if we don’t pay heed, we succumb to panic and fear.” He believes we need to realise that this is a natural event and it will pass, so hold on to courage and faith.
In Lockley’s view the greatest shadow of the pandemic, rarely spoken about, is the fear of death. “Our ancestors were very aware of death. Now that we are so technologically advanced in the western world we have become divorced from it, but this virus reminds us everyday that life is short and we need to take stock about how we are choosing to live. Rather than seeing it as ‘the enemy’, we need to see this virus as a red light from nature, warning us of the urgent need to re-harmonise with her. Our cyber reality, glued to smartphones and screens is divorcing us from nature, as we have leant to expect instant gratification in everything, from relationships, to work to how we live our daily lives. Coronavirus is teaching us to slow down, to spend more time on our own so we can realise what is important in our lives. “I’m not saying this is good or bad,” he qualifies, “as things happen in nature – animals die, droughts happen and we die. Now is not the time to point the finger of blame, it’s the time to come together and support one another, as our ancestors would.”
Spending months each year with the township people living at the edge of South Africa’s mainstream culture is where this healer has learnt hismost profound life lessons. “These folk teach me how to let nature touch me, how to be more resilient and that’s what I have been doing recently.”
“Don’t be afraid,” he advises. “Many of your ancestors have gone through a lot worse than the coronavirus. They survived, they prospered, they became more poetic and their souls were nourished with wisdom and song. We have entered a time of new life with new songs. Nature is teaching us to adapt to change and this is my wish for us all.”
Tips for living your best life during lockdown
Practice Heartbeat meditation: This simple meditation connects us with that beautiful rhythm inside, that little drummer inside all of us. Close the eyes. Placing one hand on your heart, breathe deeply into the heart pulse and slowly let go into the spaces between each heartbeat.Do this for a few minutes every day and feel how your rhythm improves.
This virus is a call to put your phone down and let nature touch you. Stand barefoot on the earth as your ancestors did. Look up at sun and breathe in the life-affirming rays and welcome it – regardless of the weather.
Listen to the birds and ask about the wild ones outdoors untamed by the trappings of cyber culture – let them teach you how to live.
Breathe in, breathe out, laugh and don’t take all of this too seriously. We are all children of nature and right now, she is teaching us a lot.