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, July 25, 2012

The Notion of Forgiveness

There is something in the air right now. Ghosts are rising within me, and together we are revisiting old wounds. Many around me are experiencing a similar space for themselves. Old unresolved hurts may rise from the ether, but it’s never too late to heal them. Yet how do we heal when the one who hurt us, or the one we hurt, is no longer living?
If there’s anything my work with the spirit world has taught me, it’s that we put too much weight on the need for a physical body in cases where our journey concerns the emotional one. If what you want is for the other person to physically apologize to you or accept your apology and that is the only thing that will give you closure, you may be sitting in that pain for a very long time. Especially if they have passed. That is not healthy.
Whether or not you sit there is your choice. There are always choices in difficult situations. Choices to stay or go, to forgive or forget. Choices to accept or deny. To hold onto or let go.
The notion of forgiveness no longer has the shape that my early religious beliefs taught me. I took a four-day class in the Buddhist philosophy of LovingKindness as a means of healing my inner anger ball. I almost skipped the day on Forgiveness because my resentment towards it was so strong. When I told Whispering Deer that I thought it was foolish to forgive someone, as if you are supposed to forget what they did to you, she looked shocked that I would even consider it.
“Why would you forget what they did to hurt you?” she asked, and then she explained that you don’t forget. It happened. Forgetting what they did as if it didn’t happen is rewriting history, changing your experiences, and ignoring a painful lesson you learned.
We forgive others when we need to forgive them because the weight and anger of what we are holding onto is still harming us. Us. We do not forgive someone because they need it. It is not our duty to forgive those who have hurt us, for they can seek forgiveness without the weight of their actions evoking any true change in them. When it’s needed, we find a way to forgiveness so that we might rise ourselves out of the hurt that was done to us. We forgive, but we do not forget. And we forgive with the understanding that the other party must hold our relationship to a higher standard. By forgiving them we are telling them we believe in them. It is not an excuse to allow them to repeat the hurtful pattern.
Sometimes we can’t gift forgiveness because we are still trying to work past the event. Any forgiveness given before we’re ready would be false and the hurt would lay quiet, festering within. This is when we unleash the event like a weapon over and over again. Sometimes the path to forgiveness means removing ourselves from the situation, disconnecting from the hurtful party when that person shows no change. Staying to be hurt again would be the more foolish option. It’s important to always be honest about where you are in your process.
Reversely, when we seek forgiveness, we do it with the understanding that we wronged someone. Whether we believe we were wrong or not, we accept and feel regret for the hurt we caused. By seeking forgiveness we recognize a need for change in ourselves, perhaps within that specific relationship, and we are promising that other person that we will rise to meet that need. If we do not take responsibility for what we did, and change the behavior, our words are empty.
If we ask someone for forgiveness, we cannot be mad at the injured party for remembering what occurred. Forgiveness is not an eraser. It is not a clean slate. We have to earn it by not repeating that pattern.
If we seek forgiveness and it is not given, even if we have truly seen a change in ourselves, we have done all we can do. That has to be enough for our own healing. If we were honest in its seeking, we are at a place to accept that we may simply have to continue to show that we have changed and be patient while the one we hurt heals.
What if the person we injured is the one who has passed on? In some ways it may sound easier to forgive one who has died than to seek forgiveness from them. But they are two sides of the same coin. If one can be done, so can the other.
The answers lie within you and healing can be found. Ritualizing the action of it can be the structure we need to feel the shape of the magic of release. Making Amends with the Dead, coming next week, will speak more to manifesting forgiveness through personal ritual.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When We Fall

 “Your first parent was a star.”
from Weight by Jeanette Winterson

I do a nightly meditation to relieve my stress and remove the chaos of the day before I sleep. We all carry weights on our shoulders that no one else sees. We are each together in our unspoken burdens. Like our ancestors before us, we soldier forward, unknowingly adapting and evolving to bear the burden of time and knowledge, and we learn to shine brightly despite the residue it leaves behind.
We are each stars in our own dark night. We are each the thing we need to survive, our own bright knight, our own magical kiss to break the spell. We are the conduit between the past of our spirit world that lives in star energy and the past of our physical world that lives in the earth beneath us. Our bodies are the space where earth and sky meet.
I do this as a meditation, pulling energy up from the earth into me and calling energy down from the stars into me. I do this with the lesson of Tree, and I become rooted, hands dancing in the exhalation of breezes softly blowing. I use Tree because they breathe in seasons, slowly. In this meditation, the excess stress and worry drains back into the earth for transformation and transmutation.
I become the root in the earth and the tree staring into the night, and the star lighting up the sky. I am all these things and I am me. I stand on the bones of my ancestors and I look to their memory. And in the dance between yesterday and today I find myself in Now, even if just for a moment. And my world stills, as the world around me continues on. It becomes music, percussion, orchestration that is but does not distract. In this stillness, my weight disappears. I become light. I am light. I exist in the dark night and I am not tarnished. I shine in spite of. I am brilliant.
Yet even stars fall sometimes. We all fall sometimes.
The weight becomes unbearable and we spin out of control. We all have moments in our lives where our worlds lose their compass and we have no sense of direction. We just want to grab onto a buoy and hold on until the storm passes or the waters calm themselves. We need to hold onto something. Anything. We are leaden and forget we can fly. We forget we can shine a beacon so fierce that it will push the gloom away.
What was your darkest night? What, in your life, shook your world to its core so much so that all you wanted to do was to build your own cave, crawl under the covers and pretend nothing existed outside of them? And we have to let ourselves revel in the fall momentarily, to feel the impact it has on our bones and our tissue. To feel the change rippling from within us, moving with an outward trajectory. We have to feel the change before we can stand in it.
There are lessons lying in wait for us in all the events of our lives, if we can see them. Our ancestors who came before us forgot as well, when they fell. They also had moments of hardship where it didn’t seem like things could possibly get better and they sat in fear that they could, or would, get worse. Living and surviving are not easy, even though we have built comforts up around ourselves to pretend they are. We all have these moments because we have always had these moments. But now, in the spirit world, our ancestors remember what we forget in this one.
In shedding the physical they remember the lessons. I call in the wisdom of their bones as I pull energy up from the earth. I call in the guidance of the history of ancestors who are starlight above us. I pull it into me to feed the fire. With their strength, I burn as brightly as I can. I am the only flame I need against gloom and doubt.
Falling is clumsy and painful. Grace lies in how we pick ourselves up. In whether or not we can shake ourselves off and move forward despite the weight of it. And we can. For generations, we have. We must shine brightly, to show others that it is possible. To show others the way.
Who wants to stare up at a night sky devoid of stars?

*photo is courtesy of

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Experiencing Death III: Squirrel in the Road

This is the third installment in a monthly thread, where I will be looking back at the early experiences I had with death and reflecting on how those moments shaped my views and fears of it. In order to change my relationship with the concept of death, I have to understand what shaped it to begin with. Our ideas and philosophies are meant to evolve and change, to grow as our own experiences do.

It was a quiet afternoon. I was young enough that we still played to the edges of our block and looked multiple times, both ways, before running across the street to the other side. Halfway down the block, in front of the only house of apartments, there was a squirrel in the road. I thought it was dead, another casualty of an automobile on our mostly quiet street. But I thought I saw it breathing.
I looked back and forth many times and darted out into the road. I think the fact that in my memory the road seemed bigger than I know it to be, is telling of my age. I was glad I did because the squirrel wasn’t dead. He was gasping for air, looking at the sky. And then he turned his eyes to me.
He started trembling, every instinct telling him to run. His tiny hand opened and closed with his labored breath. He was still alive but I knew he was dying. I wanted to scoop him up and run him home but I worried that the grown-ups would be more mad that I had touched a wild animal than that a squirrel was dying.
I’d seen dead animals in the street before, flat shapes in the road. We all have. All I knew was that I couldn’t leave him in the road, half-alive, to be crushed as he died because he couldn’t run away. I talked very softly to him, told him I wasn’t going to hurt him although it might hurt a little. I remember promising him I wouldn’t touch him, having been told that some animals would reject other wild ones that smelled of human.
He was laying atop a large cluster of leaves and I very slowly and very gently pulled the leaves closer to the side of the road, obsessively watching for traffic. He made no sound and didn’t move. He just opened and closed his little fist as he struggled for air.
I calmed a bit when he was no longer in the open and I sat on the curb, my knees pulled in, sitting with him. Even then I had a sense that he shouldn’t be alone. Who knew how old he was, if he had family? What if animals could feel the way we felt? What if he was scared? It must have been autumn. In my memories leaves fell softly while we sat there.
I talked quietly with him and sang softly to him. I wished I could save him. I’m pretty sure I prayed for him to be okay, that he might get up and walk away. After that, my memory splits.
I remember my mother coming to find me. I remember her sitting beside me for a moment. She asked me if I touched it and I told her I knew I shouldn’t. She wanted me to come home but I didn’t want to leave it alone. She said that I was right that it was dying. Its breathing was already slower and less urgent. She told me I did a wonderful thing for the squirrel and it was time to come home.
I also remember a woman sitting beside me, more ether than flesh, with chestnut hair and a weathered housedress. She wrapped an arm around me and we watched the squirrel as I cried. I think I apologized for not being able to be more help. Maybe they both happened. Maybe the ghost arm became my mother’s when she came to see where I was. I remember there was a woman. Maybe my mother was never there and my brain imposed her face onto another, because she is known to me. All I know for sure is that it wasn’t just me and the squirrel at the curb.
There’s no clear lesson in this experience for me except that I have always remembered the look on that squirrel’s face. It was the first time I recognized the shadow of death without having seen it before. I have never forgotten the feeling of knowing that death was imminent, as if I saw it every day. Often our intuition knows better than we do.
Once we see that shadow, however it manifests for us, we are altered. It is our fear that changes us in harmful ways, closing our minds to the reality of it. Sometimes the alteration is as simple as awareness and we open ourselves to a larger cycle of life. Life and death are intertwined, interconnected and those who can embrace the inevitability of death are the ones who can embrace the wonder of the living world more fully.

Relevant Posts:
Introduction to Death: The Unborn Baby (published May 16, 2012)
Introduction to Death II: My Father’s Father (published June 13, 2012)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My People in 1776 America

In 1776 America, colonists were fighting a war of Independence for a freedom from English rule and taxes. I am proud to know the names of my ancestors who stood on this soil when the Declaration of Independence was signed. I am grateful to those of my ancestors who took up arms to defend and create the vision of what this country could become.
We are not perfect, nor are we equal, but we have freedoms many people in the world do not. I do not take them for granted. I know where, in this world, my bloodroots are tethered. I know of the soil where my ancestors were living the day the Declaration was signed.
There were many in Sharon, Massachusetts, including Lemuel Lyon, 47, and his wife Lydia Perry, 46, along with their daughter Silence, 20. Samuel Bird, age 47, and Anna Atherton also lived in Sharon with their son Enoch Bird, 24, who would marry Silence five years later. Thomas Ridel, 36, and Rebekah Moulton, 33, lived in Monson with their son Joseph, age 16. Capt. Freeborn Moulton, 58, and Rebekah Walker, 58, were in Brimfield, Massachusetts. Jacob Wicker, 53, and his wife Abiah Washburn, 50, lived in Leicester. Their son William Wicker, 28, and his wife Susannah Parker, 21, resided in Hardwick. John Parker, 51, and Jane Pearson, 50, were in Reading. James Kittredge, 49, and his spouse Mary Bailey, 45, were in Andover. Abner Whittier, Jr., 41, and Elizabeth Dow, 40, called Methuen, Massachusetts home.
In Ridgefield, Connecticut were James Sears, age 71 and Desire Tobey, age 68, as well as their son Knowles Sears, 37, and his wife Susannah Townsend, 35. Benjamin Eaton, 45, and Hepsibah Skiff, 44, lived in Tolland with their son Joshua Eaton, age 5. David Dutcher, 34, was located in Salisbury, Connecticut. Alexander Hannah, 49, and Mary Calhoun, 43, were in Woodbury. Wheeler Gillett, 31, and Julianna Merchant lived in Milford.
Some of my ancestors had already found themselves in New York, like young Jennie Palmer, 13, in Cairo and Oliver DeLozier, 28, and his wife Eleanor Erkells, 20, somewhere near New Amsterdam. Baltus Goedemoet, 53, and Gertrude Michel were in Kinderhook, New York with their young daughter Annatje, 16, as well as Walter F. Dixon, 21, the man Annatje would marry four years later.
And among those ancestors were the soldiers who took up arms, from oldest to youngest, were Capt. Freeborn Moulton, Jacob Wicker, Baltus Goedemoet, Lemuel Lyon, Thomas Ridel, William Wicker, Oliver DeLozier, and Joseph Riddle.
Today my family has spread across the country and the descendants of these few names are numerous and overwhelming. They were the seeds that sparked new life throughout a new world. They had the best of intentions and an open vision to the future, that served as the foundation for our constant growth and struggle towards equality.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.