Asase Yaa: Living in Circles
“The new cycle is a simultaneous rise and fall. Things rise and return at the same time. It extends to everything, [including]change in the environment, and beyond what you can see, -Mama and Baba Akoto, 1999
As human beings, we are part of an illustrious world of cycles. Afrikan cosmology teaches us about heliocentricism; the concept that all planets orbit around the sun that is at the centre of the universe. This process has been used as a metaphor by our ancestors to explore how human beings orbit around their community while simultaneously fulfilling their own orbit, known as the cycle of life. In the contemporary world, it seems we try torturously to create realities with complexity, control, and counteraction. The patterns of nature, such as the solar system, are guides that can be used to live out our daily lives. There are simpler ways to tune into ourselves and tap into our highest creative potential. This can be achieved by TUNING INTO NATURE’S INTELLIGENCE. After all, grass doesn’t try to grow…it just grows.
Kind Planet defines circular living as a mind and heart-set, based on openness and discovering relationships with Earth (Asase Yaa in Akan cosmology). Our lives here on earth are connected and interdependent, however, the movements of individualism and mass consumption, have created a severe imbalance in ourselves and our communities. Asase Yaa is explored by scholars and critical thinkers, Mama and Baba Akoto (1999) in their book The Sankofa Movement. The authors express this concept as the union between an individual’s nkrabea (God-given life’s mission/purpose) and the balance of Mother Earth. The cycles of nature can inform how we navigate our lives.
Tapping into our personal Circle
1. Celebrating Failure
A circular mindset considers everything to be part of the process, especially ‘failure.’ Those who like to spend time in the garden will tell you that sometimes plants just die. What is most important is the state of the root; if you cut the dying plant from its root soon enough, it makes way for the growth of a new and healthier plant. The beauty of failure is that it comes with the opportunity to adapt to your environment and grow beyond what you may have if you succeeded. Let go of the linear idea the failure is a set back and celebrate each part of the process.
2. Release the ‘Time-LINE Mentality’
The approach that dominates society today, namely linear thinking and living are largely one-directional, setting precise standards that are in many cases unobtainable. With circular thinking, we have the opportunity to see life as a series of parts within the greater, circular whole. A circle has no beginning and no end, a new reality may begin for you and me at any point in our lives. Samuel L. Jackson received his first major acting role at the age of 40, and Ava DuVernay started her film career at the age of 32. Trust me, your time is written in the universe, breathe.
3. Reciprocity Between Mind-Body-Spirit
Too often our orientation on the tasks we need to achieve means that we neglect the fundamental parts of ourselves that help us live and be productive. How many times do we overwhelm our minds with tasks and deadlines, but forget to feed our bodies, and neglect the well-being of our spirit? All three of these components are interconnected and contribute to our success. If one is neglected far beyond the others, a severe imbalance is created in our lives. Eating well-balanced meals, exercise, meditation, and/or prayers are important for achieving our goals.
Tapping into the Communal Circle
“…the ultimate, the last test and proof. The work for which all other work is but preparation,” - Letter 7 by Rainer Maria Rilke
The Nguni people of Southern Afrika have well known saying, ‘umuntu ngu muntu ngabantu’ (a person is a person because of people/I am because you are). This idea essentially bridges the gap between Self and ‘The Other,’ a contrast from the movement of individualism we have adopted from Europe and the global west. The lesson here is the pre-eminence of humanness, and simply being a better human for yourself and the humans around you. Tapping into the circle of our community means aligning our purpose (nkrabea) with the communal orbit of humanity. This can be explored on several scales; how you impact your immediate community, meaning the people closest to you (physically and/or emotionally), your regional/national community, or your global community.
1. Skill/Value Exchange
The current global reality comes with pressures of acquiring an income (usually monetary) to sustain our lives. With limited resources and the economic pressures of Covid-19, there is an opportunity to explore more creative methods of transaction such as skill and value exchanges. Lets’ take two entrepreneurs; one is starting a branding and PR business, and the other is a musician. The musician needs a logo for their promotions, and the PR entrepreneur needs original music for their adverts online. The two are both skilled in what the other needs, so as a value exchange; the musician writes and records music for the PR brand designs the logo and develops a brand image for the musician. Value exchange is not a new phenomenon, it has been practised for centuries, some even refer to it as bartering. Here is a creative solution to a financial problem that promotes a circular flow of reciprocity between two individuals, and a ripple effect in the community. Is this type of transition more slightly more uncomfortable than a simple exchange of money? Yes. However, change, if it is truly meaning change requires a bit more creativity.
2. ‘It Takes A Village’
The work that we are doing on ourselves to be in harmony with Asase Yaa, can be extended into our communities. Many people feel alone, some single parents are struggling to juggle their responsibilities, and suicide rates are increasing exponentially. A flight of birds migrates together, bananas grow in a bunch, and stars join forces to illuminate the night sky. How can you as an individual use your skills to feed back into your community? If you’re a musician, host open music workshops. If you’re a boss at saving, take some time to share tips on financial literacy.
The void between Self and ‘The Other’ is one that continues to stifle our collective progression. How we see ourselves in relation to our community is key. We are planets orbiting around the same centre. To decrease collision and create a harmonious motion we need to tune not only into ourselves but into who and what is around us. In a world of that celebrates individualism, this approach is not as convenient or comfortable as a linear one. Which then begs the question, do you want to live a life of convenience or a life with meaning?
References and further reading
Akoto, K. A., & Akoto, A. N. (2000). The Sankofa Movement: Reafrikanization And The Reality Of War. Washington, Dc: Oyoko Infocom Inc.
Kambon, O. (2017). Akan Ananse Stories, Yoruba Ijapa Tales, And The Dikenga Theory: Worldview And Structure. Contemporary Journal Of African Studies Vol. 4. №2 (2017) 1–36\
Kamalu, C. (1998). Person, Divinity and Nature. London, Karnak House.
Howell, E. (2015, January 23). What Is The Difference Between the Geocentric and Heliocentric Models of the Solar System? Universe Today: Space and Astronomy News. Retrieved from: https://www.universeto-day.com/36487/difference-between-geocentric-and-heliocentric/
Chopra, Deepak. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfilment of Your Dreams. San Rafael, Calif.: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1994.