Falling Out of Grace Interview by East-West

A version of this article was originally published in East-West on February 17, 2004.

Sobonfu Somé was born in the village of Dano, Burkina Faso. She is the author of three books. Her most recent, Falling Out of Grace: Meditations on Loss, Healing and Wisdom, offers insight and guidance through this often dark territory. It is a book that can heal.

“Failure is not the enemy, but a life-changing experience. It is a human experience, and it prepares the way for us to grow and transform our lives”

What’s the most constructive way we can embrace the fall of others?

Sobonfu: First it is important to realize that failure exists. It will happen and it can’t be timed. The purpose of failure is to help us embrace a part of ourselves and a deeper quality of the other person who is going through failure; to realize that this could have been us and we must open our hearts in a compassionate way.

Another’s failure also gives us a chance to grow; perhaps in seeing where we may strengthen those same weaknesses in ourselves. We can provide them with a space that allows them to heal. When they are able to heal, they will embrace the gift of failure, and can then give something back.

How does humanity “feed our spirituality?”

Sobonfu: By being able to open to other people, you will learn from the interaction. For example, when you take care of the sick, you are also watering the part of your soul that might be getting ill from not being connected with other people. You open your heart to seeing how these people are suffering. It’s an enriching practice. It’s also difficult, especially when we are dealing with love, because we are taught not to look at people who are having emotions.

Why is that?

Sobonfu: In general people have a lot of emotions they’re sitting on. So, when someone begins to feel, we want him to shut down. We don’t want our lid to pop open by mistake. But the truth is that when we shut out our emotions, we rob ourselves of healing and of being able to possess the light.

You say that many times when we fall, community can exclude us, because they don’t want to face their own woundedness. They turn away from the person who has fallen. If you’re falling and alone, what would you suggest to help the healing begin?

Sobonfu: In my own experience, when I fell out of grace, most of the communities that I felt a part of basically fell apart. I saw who was willing to stay by me while my life crumbled. In being able to let go of my expectations of people, who I wanted to be present for me, and in making myself available and open to new people who were coming, I have now been able to create the community that is definitely more sustaining to me than the community I had before. When you are falling out of grace, the best thing is not to limit your support circle.

Failure is not the enemy but a life-changing experience. It is a human experience, and it prepares the way for us to grow and transform our lives.

How can we make ourselves more available to healing?

Sobonfu: By realize that we are not our wounds; there is a deeper self.

What can people expect from your workshop, “Transforming Failures into Gifts?”

Sobonfu: I want to help people explore the unknown dimensions of their wounds and see the gifts that are there. In the Dagara tradition, where the wound is, is also where the gift is. There are special techniques and rituals that I’m going to give to people, so they can transform their feelings of failure into gifts.