In my tradition before we come here, we all go into the Spirit office, with all the gods and goddesses (whatever name you like to call them) and we actually bring them a plan, like a dissertation. Based on what we present to them, they put their stamp of approval on what we are going to do. So when you come here you are backed by all of the gods and goddesses and ancestors, you are not coming by yourself. You are backed by powerful forces.
— SOBONFU SOMé, Keeper of the Rituals

Growing up I was always surrounded by family, friends, and neighbors. I was blessed to live with my maternal grandmother and have my cousins spend summers with us in the country. Love and laughter always filled our home, and those are my fondest childhood memories. At the time I didn't realize that I was growing up in a tight knit community, and reaping the rewards of connection.

When my spiritual mentor told me about The Spirit of Intimacy, I was intrigued. Reading and re-reading The Spirit of Intimacy by Sobonfu Somé made me feel alive and awakened. At the time I was working in mental health and I loved my job. I worked mostly with teen populations, helping them heal emotionally. The Spirit of Intimacy supported my work and took it to a deeper level. Sobonfu's words reassured me that I was on the right path, but that my journey was just beginning.

I learned that in the indigenous Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso, West Africa, you begin your life connected to Source. The Dagara believe that everyone brings something vital to Village life; something that is needed now, something that will be needed or something that they have been waiting for. Every GIFT is a thread in the vitality and life of the Village. Once you arrive, it is your community's responsibility to recognize, nurture and mentor your GIFT; and to keep you connected to Source through rites and rituals. I saw the parallels in my own childhood, growing up in a tight knit community with everyone contributing to the greater good.

I was so touched that this small village in Burkina Faso, had a ritual to celebrate every child bringing a gift into the world. This resonated with my soul. When your Mother is still pregnant, the village gathers for a ritual to hear about the GIFT you are bringing in, and about your life's purpose. All of the women in the Village come and gather around your mother. They sing, and chant and hold her, as Sobonfu tells us, "The Elders ask you, 'who are you? Why are you coming here?" You take over your mother's voice and speak back, 'this is who I am. I am coming to do this and this.' And based on that information, the elders prepare the appropriate ritual space to receive you. They make sure everything is ready here, before you are born.

After your birth the elders make sure they surround you with things that will help you remember and accomplish the purpose you have described. "They name you according to your GIFT," and "when you reach adolescence and go through initiation, you go back to the time before you were born to remember what you said."

Learning about these traditions lit my soul on fire. I gave this book to all my closest friends and I made them read it. I became so captivated by Sobonfu, that I made it my mission to find her. I was able to find the place where Sobonfu was teaching in South Carolina. I began calling that number...over and over again. Sometimes a woman would answer and say she wasn't home. That didn't stop me. Weeks later, having been calling continuously, I called again and to my surprise Sobonfu answered! She said "yes I will do what you want" and told me to contact her assistant to schedule a workshop in my town. I couldn't believe I was finally going to get a chance to meet Sobonfu face to face!

When I picked up Sobonfu at the airport, I was nervous and on my best behavior. This was my first time being in the presence of a true spiritual teacher and I wasn't sure what to say or how to act. That's when Sobonfu started telling me some off color jokes, much to my surprise. I didn't know what to do, so I just joined in on the conversation! I had no idea, that spiritual teachers had a sense of humor! Later she told me that if I hadn't joined in she probably would have left, because she doesn't connect with people who take themselves too seriously.

Sobonfu's teachings changed my life. She taught me about connection to community, honoring spirit, and living our gifts. I felt seen and even more than that I felt heard. We connected on a deep spiritual level, and our lives became intertwined. For the next 17 years Sobonfu mentored me in African Rituals. Through these rituals I learned the role that spirit plays in your life, and vowed to share this wisdom, by creating Living Your Gifts.