Listening to and Learning from Everything

“Look, she’s bald,” whispered the young girl to her friends as I approached the house where the toque for Ogun was being held . The expression on her face was a mixture of shock, confusion, wonder, and something else. The three other girls with her turned around to look for the source of her comment. After seeing me, they all began to whisper amongst themselves. They couldn’t have been older than 10.

An hour or so before I had been dressing and preparing myself for this ceremony. Just as I was leaving the house it came to me to remove the lace-like white headwrap I had so beautifully tied on my head. I resisted the message for a bit, but then realized I needed to surrender. The piece felt so much heavier than usual, despite the fact that it was a relatively small amount of fabric. It also felt tight even though I had made good efforts to loosen the wrapping, which usually works. Covering my head had in no way been done out of a need to hide—been there, done that, have broken through the negative beliefs that led to doing so in the past. I was more so wanting to be respectful of what I imagined would have been the requirements of being in the space.

In the majority of the Lukumi ceremonies I've been to, peoples’ heads have been covered—even if just by hair, and often both hair and some sort of head covering. I imagine this practice is consistent with other traditions across the African Diaspora. Our heads our sacred. We adorn them for various reasons. Additionally, covering the head during ceremony can be considered a form of protection in light of the intensity of the energy such higher vibrational spaces create and contain. The songs, dances, rhythms…birthed on the continent we call Africa by (in this case) the Yoruba ancestors and carried by their descendants and others…are powerful. Some can be overwhelmed for various reasons unless they have been trained or are naturally able to maintain their groundedness.

Even though I had attended a number ceremonies with my head uncovered (covering it at specific moments when I felt the energy strongly or was instructed to do so by elders in light of the arrival of specific Orisa) and had been fine, for some reason a bit of concern crossed my mind. But I listened to the inner voice that instructed me to not cover my head, atleast initially; and doing so opened the door to and cleared the road for a seemingly simple yet utterly profound encounter.

Hearing this young girl's comment triggered a flood of the ideas, conditioning, and insecurity that past versions of me held about being bald—beliefs about beauty, femininity, desirability, strangeness, conformity, acceptance, etc. Reactions and responses those and subsequent versions have had whenever someone (adult or child) pointed at, commented on, or was fixated on my head came up as possibilities for me to repeat in this moment—ignoring, rolling my eyes, feeling awkward, lecturing that people get to be bald, explaining why I was bald, giving passes due to youth, etc. I began to walk away and figured I wouldn’t say anything. Much of my mind chatter had subsided and I knew I was pretty neutral. But then, I had a bit of inspiration and chose something different:

“Yes I am bald!” I said proudly, happily, and with a defiant smile on my face. I continued walking saying nothing further. But I stopped as I heard the dialogue I had inspired by speaking up.

“Whoaaaa. She has good hearing!” Exclaimed another girl.

So I continued engaging. “Oh, it’s because I’m bald that I can hear really well,” I said with a mischievous grin.

“Oh yeah…because she doesn’t have hair covering her ears she can hear a lot of things,” repeated a third girl with the understanding her own insight created. I casually looked at the face of girl who had made the initial comment and could see something new in her eyes: change.

I nodded in agreement with the last statement, said goodbye, and walked away leaving the young minds to ponder their newfound information and awareness.

The friend I came with and I had a good laugh about this great conversation. And I was proud of my ability throughout it to find humor and connection when I could have made into something else in light of past beliefs. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized the importance of what I had done:

  • First and foremost, I had listened to the guidance from my inner voice to not wear the headwrap despite my initial reservations (mind activity). I had already made a practice out of listening, yet in some circumstances I often differed to things outside of me. And it should be noted that in making this decision, I was ready for whatever it lead to—including possible instruction by someone to cover my head if it was preferred for the ceremony. I would have respected their space.

  • I had maintained the power and wholeness of the current version of myself—one that has never experienced any of the doubt, insecurity, or any other feelings generated by negative beliefs about my bald head—by not behaving in similar ways to past versions of me. I stopped connecting to their scripts and making their perceived reality my own.

  • I had stepped into some trickster energy and utilized comedy, naiveté, and the ability to engage in playfulness to teach a valuable lesson to young girls and break some of their conditioning. Coyote is my Shadow Animal Spirit Guide (read my reflection “Hello Shadow” for some key terms for this energy and to learn a bit about my shadow work), and this encounter provided me with a wonderful way of being in positive and neutral alignment with it.

Consider the guidance you are receiving from that all knowing inner voice…your higher self…the calm and neutral voice that gives you each step to take on the journey and path that is YOU. Consider that in every moment you are a completely different being starting at a zero point (literally, Literally, LITERALLY) that has not had ANY of the experiences that past versions of you have had. The present you can be a beacon of light and an example to the others, and has the ability to make completely new decisions that break the continuation of what is not preferred. Consider really healing, learning from, and inhabiting your shadow aspects in order to be your whole self, to hear well, and to learn some of your most valuable lessons.

I’m really grateful for Life and everything it brings me. I will continue to listen to my guidance.

Thank you to the Ogun within and outside of me for each breakthrough I experience.

Photo take by Iya Aileen during the Toque for Ogun at the home of Baba Felipe.

Photo take by Iya Aileen during the Toque for Ogun at the home of Baba Felipe.

Felicia Richards