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 19, 2011

Unknown Ancestors

Our ancestors are more than just names and dates on paper. Whether we know their names or not, they exist within us, in our individual blood cells, evidence of their existence though we can’t see it. Whether we know who they are or not, they existed on this earth, and they lived their lives much as we live ours. Remembering individual ancestors is my way of honoring their journey across this earth.

I also do work with my Ancestors internally and energetically, as a way of reawakening the echo of them inside me. I use them as doorways, known touchstones, to connect back to the original pool of energy I believe we return to when we move on. I do this so I can learn the larger patterns of the world. All of this work I do, in order to better myself, so that I may be of greater benefit to the world while I am here.

When I connect to this idea, this visual, this energy- my ancestors- it is like sinking into a pool of water I can breathe in. I become part of it, where my physical body does not divide the water molecules but becomes one with them. It’s how I imagine I felt wrapped in the amniotic fluid in my mother’s womb, when the only thing I had to do was grow.

How do we connect to that energy if we don’t know our ancestors’ names?

The first time I walked the streets of Old City in Philadelphia, I sensed a layering of ages woven together, as if a rift would open at any moment allowing a horse and rider passage across its cobbled roads. I feel this same way when I speak the names of my ancestors. In a romantic notion, I feel as if I could weave a tapestry of their names and reach my hand into it, touching the weft briefly until the web becomes water and it stirs in its displacement, rippling out across the unknown mystery. Part of doing ancestor work is walking the world with a deeper mindfulness, one foot in this time and another foot straddling the memory of all the others that came before.


Somewhere in the sky, the stars sit in wait for darkness to reveal them.

Beneath that sky, a young girl plays on the sand of a beach that could be any beach. But this one, is the one she calls her own. She will spend her day under the sun collecting empty shells and smooth-shaped pieces of glass tumbled by the currents unseen. She sees patterns in the clouds and the flowers, as if they are mirroring each other though they are not the same things. She watches as light makes way for shadows to laugh and play along with her and her siblings.

This girl watches the waves come in and out and follows the chambers of the shells deeper and deeper inward, revealing their secrets as she goes through it, each chamber built upon the foundation of the one that came before. And when the chambers are too small for her to follow, her mind knows that the line will keep turning inward, past shell into dream ether, until even the first strand of it is built upon a wish and a hope, and a bang that rippled outward like the waves lapping at her feet on the beach.

While the stars wait to be seen, they watch the girl holding the shell with her feet in the water. The stars are witness as she comprehends, on some simple level, that in the now the past and the present are dancing within her. She sees the proof shimmering around her, echoes of light conceived eons ago. Even when the stars are sleeping, the water reminds her.


How do we connect to that energy if we don’t know our ancestors’ names? It is as simple as opening ourselves up to the world around us. Walk through the woods and open your eyes to the trees that the generations who came before you watched grow. Touch that tree and wonder at the centuries of hands that have touched that tree and moved beyond it. Stay open to images or pulls you get or feel as you wander through the timeless energy of those who came before.

Until that mindfulness became habit, I used a meditation tool to prepare myself. I used the image of the Ammonite, a fossil of a water creature that lived before and during the time of the dinosaurs, dying out 65 million years ago. The mathematical geometry and pattern of the shell fascinates me. For those who are visual workers, I recommend drawing out the shell, chamber sections and all, or printing out a photo to use.

Take a breath, and pay attention to the way it fills your body. Be sure to breathe deeply, down into your lower abdomen. Focus on the outermost chamber of the ammonite. This is you, in 2011, in your body. As you exhale, allow a care or worry tethering you to ‘here’ fade away. Speak your intention like a mantra: I open my heart to the ancestors who came before me. On your next breath, focus on the next chamber, spiraling towards the center. With each movement forward, repeat the exercise until you find yourself at the center of your own history.

Pay attention to places in your physical body that pull your attention, and to thoughts and images that pop into your mind. Learning to listen to the ancestors is often like learning to speak a new language. When you are ready, bring yourself back from the center with breaths, thanking the ancestors for opening the way (towards a larger-world consciousness).

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