Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ancestors for Mindfulness

None of us walk this earth alone.

We all know it. Most of us experience that reality when we run errands or hear the traffic of the apartment dwellers above and below us. But even as our world population is physically expanding and growing, our culture is pushing us towards isolationism. We have more people but our technology is moving towards more automated services. Our world moves so fast that we need help staying on top of things.

When I was a kid, my dad used to chit chat with our mailman and knew all the bank tellers names and stories. They all had families and children that he’d ask after. We couldn’t go shopping with my mother without running into one or two people who knew her. It was a sign to me that the world I was growing into was much bigger than I imagined. Every person my parents knew was one more person with a spouse and children, one more blossoming unit of life that existed like our house did, somewhere in a part of the city I had never been. My childhood taught me that the world was bigger than I could comprehend.

Sometimes it’s hard to care about that fact, much less apply it to the day-to-day of trying to pay bills and feed our families. The world moves faster than most of our brains can keep up with. I work hard, daily, to pay attention to where I’m walking, what I’m saying and to generally be as present in every moment as I can. I do consider it a luxury that I can carve out the time to focus on it. To help with this endeavor, I like to have a tangible reminder of the larger world to give my brain some rest.

I don’t like to forget that the world is full of individuals going through life just like me. Every person matters and deserves kindness and patience. Every individual journey has merit and meaning, and every journey is a thread on the greater web. One of the tools I use towards this mindfulness is one that grows every year. I have a personal calendar I created on my computer that is my Ancestor Calendar. For every date known on my family tree, I marked a name and year down on the appropriate date, notating with ‘b’ for birth and ‘d’ for death.

Imagine yourself as a seed in the earth and your life as a journey that spirals straight upwards. From an aerial view, the spiral resembles a complete circle. Any point you touch on the circle runs down beneath your finger through multiple levels of the spiral. Beneath your finger lays a chronological record from points of your life connected by one date, a visual interpretation of time from an alternative point of view.

I see my own history as if I were lifting the veils across time at the same fixed point. Every year, on my birthday- whatever else occurs- it is also the same day that Hannah Ann (Treadwell) Eaton died in Michigan in 1884. On Summer Solstice I honor it as the day that Elsie was born, my great-grandmother who was the light of those who loved her. One hundred and forty-five years after the day Ammi Smith was born, his grand-daughter Hattie Eva died, a birth and a death on the same day, over three generations. Or that over the generations of multiple family lines, there were more births in July than any other month. I include the births and passings of people who were family to me, blood or not.

This calendar reminds me that at some point in my life, my feet will stand on the same space of earth that my ancestors trod. I had that sensation the first time I stood in Old City in Philadelphia, my sandals on cobbled streets. I could hear the traffic and I could palpably feel the movement of horse and buggies clopping past me, as if I were that finger touching on multiple events at one moment. Being more aware of the past fleshes out the experience of the present moment and allows me to be more mindful of the footprints I leave on the world for those who will walk it after me.

1 comment:

  1. Your last line, "Being more aware of the past fleshes out the experience of the present moment and allows me to be more mindful of the footprints I leave on the world for those who will walk it after me" is so very important. When I started working at the credit union over a year ago, I printed out a quote and taped it to my computer monitor. It says, "live as if your soul is eternal". Regardless of what one believes or what is the reality of souls, thinking and behaving in this way can do only good for the world.


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