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Sacred Ritual and Spiritual Partnership

Sobonfu Somé's name means The Keeper of Ritual. Her life's work was set out for her before she was born. In Burkino Faso, the small village in West Africa where she comes from, they have a hearing ritual where the elders put a pregnant woman into trance and ask the baby questions such as "Who are you?" The baby announces what her purpose is through the mother's voice and the elders choose her name to reflect this. "We believe that everyone has a purpose, a gift to offer the world," she says.

Later in her life, her elders arranged her marriage to her husband, Malidoma, because the two had similar life purposes. Both Sobonfu and her husband were sent to bring their traditions to the West so that a healing could take place in our culture. Sobonfu teaches ritual so that we can strengthen our connection to Spirit, acquire a true intimacy with our life partners not based on illusions, and to build community. "I think there is a deep longing among people in this country to connect with something bigger -- with community and with spirit. People know there is something missing in their lives, and I believe that the rituals and ancient ways of the village offer some answers. It is a matter of finding the balance that allows you to be immersed in Spirit, sustain yourself with it, because if there isn't any kind of base, a way of replenishing yourself, then in the end you will use up all your energy and feel burnt out and useless.

In this culture most people tend to live unbalanced lives which are crammed with things to do and deadlines. They have no time to connect with the soul space within themselves, so they search for a guru of some form to take care of their spiritual needs This is why we must bring ritual, stories and myths back into our lives so that we can find that sacred space. But it isn't enough to do this mindlessly, we need to live aspects of the story. We solve problems only when we notice what we are feeling when we hear certain things. When we do not take this to our hearts and take responsibility, we give away our power, either to a relationship, a guru, or some kind of pursuit."

Sobonfu teaches how this responsibility for our spiritual lives extends to our partnerships and suggests this as a way to heal our culture of its codependency. In her book, The Spirit of Intimacy, she explores how couples are brought together because of a common sense of purpose rather than romantic love. Because of their commitment to this shared purpose, ritual can be a tool to honor the spirit that brought them together and ask for help in resolving conflict. "My husband, Malidoma, and I were brought together by the village elders. It may sound limiting to have the elders choose your partner for you, but they know you, they know what kind of person you are, and they stand behind you all the way and help you work things out. This is how community can be helpful and supportive. We need to create a sense of community here and a sense of spirit and a sense of reaching out to one another."

Sobonfu offers inspiration from the heart on how to prepare ritual space for intimacy, the sacred meaning of pleasure and the connection between sex and spirituality. She teaches how the ritual of a relationship allows Spirit to come in and be the driving force rather than the ego. This allows us to heal on a spiritual level and rise to higher levels, extending our limited perspective of what a relationship can be. "By reaching higher levels through ritual, you can experience a healthier and richer relationship and bring these gifts back to your community."

Sobonfu will be teaching ritual and sharing her stories and wisdom in a weekend retreat for women only, "Women's Wisdom," at Oregon House, October 8 to 10. Call 541-547-3329 for details.