Seashells, hyena and impala bones, a piece of vulture skull and elephant skin tumbled out of the wicker bag onto the mat, the seashell denoting my heart however rolled away onto the carpet. Niall, a practitioner of '"dynamic resonance"' -- a means to read and manage personal energies based on traditional southern African spitiualism -- was divining the situation my life was in using this ancient method of African bones. LONDON, England (CNN) -- By Dean Irvine for CNN
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"Dynamic resonance" uses elements of southern African spiritualism practiced by traditional "sangoma."
After quietly chanting in Setswana and then casting the contents of his bag onto a divining mat, he reassured me that I did not need to be too concerned that my heart, one of a person's seven souls according to African culture, took up the position it was in.
A divination, he explained, is like a diagnostic of a person's current situation. A little like a tarot reading, it can be used to answer specific questions or give a general reading. Things can change if the right steps are taken.
For my heart to be in the right place, so to speak, talking to my grandfathers about myself would open up all the possibilities scattered out in front of me. I couldn't think of two other people that I'd be less likely to talk about my day-to-day life with, even if they were still alive. As Niall told me in his southern African accent, "the best medicine often tastes bitter."
MIXING TRADITIONAL AND MODERN
Like other alternative therapies or more accepted western means of finding out about oneself, you can take as much from it as you want to. Most people would only visit a psychotherapist or new age healer if they had a problem they couldn't work out, felt they needed some guidance or that something was missing in their life.
"Dynamic resonance" takes ancient African spiritualism and its tradition of ancestry, plus more contemporary concepts and focuses on universal and personal energies as the means to create balance within life, something that Niall and his colleague Colin Campbell feel is absent in much of western society.
"In the African way of thinking there is the understanding of balance, and balance has different areas of a person's life. What divination does is look at all those areas put together in combination and sees where balance is not being achieved and the best way to recreate it," said Niall.
Divination is just one part of "dynamic resonance" that Colin Campbell has developed. Like Niall he's studied under a traditional spirit medium in Africa but also holds a degree in psychology from the University of Cape Town. Both have also studied other forms of spirituality from Buddhism to Native American beliefs and fuse these with their traditional African practices.
"Often when you immersed in life it's difficult to see what's going on. Divination is a means by which on one hand you can take a step out and look in to yourself with the assistance of someone doing the divination," said Colin Campbell.
Campbell has been practicing "dynamic resonance" for a number of years and now has clients across the world, outside of his Cape Town base. "The people who come to me are from all areas of life where their focus might be on business, the arts, and politics."
At the center of it all is energy. Most people will know someone who they find exhausting to talk to, or someone who they feel energized after being with. For Niall and Colin this is all part of the basic interaction of energy, not just between people and the wider world but the universe as a whole. Their basic contention is that we all have a finite amount of personal energy which we use each day, much of it wasted through anxiety, stress or uncertainty.
By better managing and building that energy, a person can direct it towards achieving things they've long wanted to achieve, gain a greater understanding of life and have a greater personal balance.
My advice to speak to long-deceased relatives sounded like a meditative exercise, as much about being in the present and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, as getting in touch with the universal energies passed on to me from my ancestors, and one not dissimilar to other spiritual beliefs or ideas of meditation.
The rest of Niall's divination resonated with other parts of my life and it was an interesting experience, but having answered a few basic questions before about my ideas of community and relationships I had a sense he had more than just the bones and shells to work with. However, it was nice to know though that the small button denoting a curse wasn't active in my life.
Skepticism aside, interpreting the scattered bones is based upon a long tradition of African epic poetry, an oral tradition stretching back hundreds of years. The position of the bones suggests a certain poem which Niall then translates into a more understandable context.
Beyond a diagnostic, "dynamic resonance" is something which Colin Campbell believes can lead to a greater understanding of life through better direction and storing of energy. Through workshops and courses Colin and Niall believe "dynamic resonance" is something that can be integrated into everyday life. In its most extreme forms this can mean foregoing human contact for a period of time, but can often mean just gaining a heightened state of awareness. I think I got off easy just having to talk to dead relatives.
Niall Campbell is a sangoma, a traditional doctor nyanga (medicine man) a doctor of traditional ceremonies as well as institutions as well as a Ngaka ua diKoma, a Doctor of the Law.