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4 February 2023:

Wednesday, I gave a presentation on my mental health and therapy journey to my Squadron. While I may never know what the impact of this presentation was, from the immediate feedback I received, the experience I shared was insightful to many and positively received. Sharing my story was EXTREMELY therapeutic to me as it felt like I was expanding my safe space for me, and others who may be able to relate to any parts of what I shared. My hope is that the story can inspire others to continue to grow in their own awareness of self, awareness of their environment and help de-stigmatize mental illness and seeking care for it. I'm over suffering in silence and seeing fellow humans, especially in the military community, doing the same.

After reflecting on sharing my experiences with my Squadron I thought of the feedback I received by one of my therapists during the intensive outpatient therapy (IOP), that I participated in back in September 2022. He told me that I need to "get connected to my African roots. The roots BEFORE slavery." Part of this journey for me has been learning more about African spirituality. While it was scary at first as much of what I’ve heard about African spirituality, I’ve been taught to avoid as it was referred to as "demonic" or viewed as "Pagan," I asked myself this: I've learned a lot about various gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, a form of historical European spirituality, how is this any different?"

So far, I've learned that African spiritual traditions and philosophies extend across the globe and include: Ifa/Orisa, Odinani/Odinala, Akom, Vodun, Obeah, Shango, Hoodoo, Juju, Conjure, Komfa, Winti, Kumina, Santeria, La Regla Lucumi, Candomblé, Spiritual Baptist, Palo, Macumba, Muthi, 21 Divisions, Umbanda, Rastafarianism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. With the exception of the last four, I've never heard of any of these before. And outside of Christianity, my knowledge of the spiritual teachings of the other religions is slim to zero.

In my quest for seeking truth and learning more about my African heritage, I came across who the people of Benin (anciently referred to as Dahomey) refer to as "The goddess of Cosmic Power, Mawu-Lisa." The story explains how Mawu-Lisa is seen as a literal representation of Mother-Father God. Some stories share how the two are twins birthed from the Supreme being and that they are the physical representations of the divine masculine and feminine energies living within each of us.

Mawu represents the moon while Lisa represents the sun. Mawu is the divine feminine and her power is inward, cool, healing, intuitive, emotional, and wise. While Lisa is the divine masculine and his power is outward, hot, action oriented, linear, firm, and adventurous. The two together make Cosmic power.

As I read on, it was immediately apparent of the imbalance of power within myself and honestly, so much of the world that I've experienced. So much of what I have been taught and observed in my professional and personal life is that qualities of linear, firm, adventure, being action oriented, leading outwardly- the "Lisa" energies, is what is best. THESE are the qualities that will get you promoted. THIS is what the people respect and what you need to consistently display in order to be worthy of being seen, taken seriously or be valued. Anything else is less than. Mawu, FEMININE energy is LESS THAN.

And then 2020 happened. Then last year happened. What's getting me through my depression is not the qualities so often associated with masculinity, but those of femineity. My Mawu energy. It wasn’t until I slowed myself down to cool off and look inward; until I embraced my emotions instead of resisting them; until I trusted my intuition rather than doing everything possible to block it-- where I FINALLY started on a path towards healing. And it was through this healing where I continue to discover wisdom.

Sometimes I wonder, what is it about femineity that seems to be such a threat to the world that so many of us women are taught to not trust ourselves? Throughout so much of the world history that I've read about, are stories of women being beneath men. Women being banned from obtaining education, deprived of human rights, deliberately excluded from powerful spaces and positions where decisions are made, used, abused, raped, dissected and so much more. I don't understand. What is it about women and the qualities she possesses, that being seen as equal to men, is such a problem?

I further thought of the concept of "Mawu-Lisa". How these qualities are not believed to be inherited based off of their gender. Example, only men contain masculine energy while women only have a capacity for femineity. The belief is that Mawu-Lisa, mother-father God reside in each of us. How both men and women contain both masculinity AND femineity. As a woman, I experience this to be true. I am both adventurous, and intuitive. I can lead outward and look inward. The list goes on.

What's stopping us, all of us, men, women, and everyone in between, from fully embracing both? Aren't people tired of hiding and devaluing pieces of who they are? Aren't you tired of playing "battle of the sexes?" I am. If fear is behind this resistance, maybe it’s time to ask the question of what is there really to fear? What is it’s source and is holding on to this fear truly worth the catastrophic damage it’s done and continues to do? Maybe it’s time to evolve and grow into a fuller and TRUER version of oneself.

What I do know, is that I like the idea that through embracing both masculine and feminine sides of me I can create a cosmic power; and that my power, "comes from within." I like not devaluing any side of myself or viewing it as weak or toxic only because it is different with fruits that birth different things. I like the spiritual realignment happening within me and no longer want to resist or be afraid of it.

Photo: Is from the book, “African Goddess Initiation: Sacred Rituals for Self-Love, Prosperity, and Joy” by Abiola Abrams


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