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, August 8, 2012

Be Good Ancestors Now

Those of us who do Ancestor Work, who take time to research those who came before us, do so with the idea that our lives are one focal point on an energy ribbon that stretches out behind us and weaves a path before us, disappearing from view on the horizon. We fade as all time fades but our lines will continue onward. But that notion, that fluidity is important.
In this lifetime I chose not to have children, but I don’t believe that relieves me of my responsibility in what world I leave behind for future generations. I want my nieces and nephew to have a better world to live in, like my parents did for me and my siblings, like their parents did for them. Much of my work, looking backwards, involves being able to stand in ‘now’ and see the world for what it really is, to be able to stand here and hold myself accountable for my personal impact on this planet.
What will our children say in five generations, or more, or less, when they look at our names on their trees, when they look at this time period and ask why we didn’t try harder when we had the chance? I can imagine a world of abandoned steel and concrete cities and polluted drinking water. I can all too clearly see the finite resource that is the Ogallala Aquifer. What will we do when our farmlands turn to dust?
It’s not a world I want to leave for those still to come. I am already a Great-Aunt and I look at that little boy’s face and I want everything for him. In thinking about this work that I do and what I am trying to impart, it comes to me that we need to start thinking seriously about the fact that someday, someone will be looking at our names in their family history and wondering why we didn’t do more. Because those who come after us will have much less resources than we have now.
All children belong to all of us. We are all responsible for the welfare of the generations yet to come, not just our own. We are all responsible for changing the world to reflect what we wish it to be for our children.
We all feel lonely. And the way we go about solving it is to close ranks and do for ourselves because the world is too hard. It’s a pattern we repeat, like beating ourselves against a brick wall. It’s a pattern we need to change. We may be animals of skin and bone but we have evolved to be better than that. We are all struggling our way through this world.
My family has made some hard choices for our lives, which puts us at the outskirts of our society’s culture. We don’t have cell phones, we still have a land line. We prefer our technology second-hand. When everyone is updating to blu-ray dvd players, we are happily taking their old ones. We struggle really hard to consider the difference between want and need, and we watch which one we feed.
Over the years we have made small changes in our day-to-day lives and the choices we make with what little money we have that make us feel better that we cannot impact more change in the world. We try not to buy anything in a package that cannot be recycled as our city has a good recycling program. We buy most of our groceries from Wegmans, a grocery store which supports equality and has a lot of programs to benefit the communities around us.
We buy local as much as possible and support the small business owners. That way, our money goes going directly into our community and if we don’t want our city to become another ghost-factory town, it matters. A lot of the changes we made were because we had to, not because they were easy. But we survived them and found we felt better, and they have become the way we live.

Some Simple Steps to Start Change:
  • Cultivate a relationship with the natural world by starting your own garden, even if it’s one potted tomato plant. It puts you in tune with the land you live on as you watch the effects of weather, or lack of weather, and blight.
  • Be aware of the garbage you produce that we all expect someone else will take care of. Here’s a way of being mindful of how much garbage you produce on a regular basis. Carry a bag with you every day for a week, and put all of your garbage in it, instead of the nearest trash bin. Take a hard look at how much waste you produce a day (i.e. straw wrappers, candy wrappers, empty pens, scraps of paper, etc…). How much of that garbage can be recycled? How much of your garbage is unusable again? Think about what will happen to that stuff when our landfills are full.
  • Carry a bag with you to pick up garbage you see littered on the ground and dispose of it appropriately. Someone has to and it might as well be you. Teach your children to pick trash up off the ground.
  • RECYCLE. Look at what garbage could be recycled, whether you have a recycling program in your city or not. Is there a place you could take it where it could be recycled once a month? If not, could you search for products with less packaging than what you currently purchase?
  • Be kind to people around you. Let your children and peers see you holding doors for people behind you. Don’t have an expectation that anyone should notice or even say thank you. Do it because you would want it done for you. I know I do it because I am trying to live my life the way I wish the world was.
  • Stand patiently in retail lines instead of huffing, tapping your foot and having private conversations publicly on your cell phone. Everyone has somewhere else they would rather be. Look people in the eye when you’re at the register. Connect.
  • Look into composting your organic waste, instead of throwing fruit and vegetable matter or coffee grounds into the garbage (the nitrogen in coffee grounds is good for compost). Items like egg shells can be crushed up and put in the bottom of holes when planting your vegetables, as the calcium they add to the soil is beneficial.
  • Turn lights off in the rooms you aren’t using. Turn off your appliances when they aren’t being used. Turn off all of the electronics in your home and listen to the difference in the sound.
  • When gift-giving, get creative and recycle brown bags as wrapping paper.
  • BUY LOCAL. Put your money into boosting your community’s economy. Buying on-line is sometimes necessary when you need something specific, but do it thoughtfully. Shipping products cost gas and money, which your local shops have already paid for.
  • In the summertime support farmer’s markets. The carbon footprints are smaller and the local farmers need your support.
  • Buy clothes made of natural fibers, which will breakdown over time when you discard them (polyester is forever). Shop at thrift stores. When cleaning out your closets, organize a clothing swap day with your friends and family.
  • Learn to love receiving homemade gifts. A jar of jam made by a friend is better than the television box set you’ve been hoping for. Think of the energy your friend put into crafting that item. Every time you enjoy it, they’re sharing that energy with you again.
  • Walk, because it’s good for you. Walk, because the commercials for how many diabetics are in America are heartbreaking. Walk, because you will live longer and spend less money on gas. Ride a bicycle if you have one for all the same reasons. And when you can’t, car pool with friends.
  • Drink water. Allow yourself one sugary beverage a day but try replacing your other soda or juice drinks with a glass of water instead. As my friend Joanna said, “The only thing that tastes like not thirsty, is water.” Have gratitude for the clean water you drink. Someday it will be gone.
  • When you go out shopping, bring canvas or muslin bags with you instead of bringing home more plastic bags. Most stores are starting to carry reusable shopping bags.
  • Be mindful and try to buy items made in America. If you don’t *need* it and it’s made in a foreign country, leave it on the shelf. Stores won’t start changing what they buy until they can’t sell what they have.
  • In the summer, save on resources and put a clothes line up to dry your clothes outdoors.
  • Be aware of your reliance on technology. Remember that our ancestors didn’t have these luxuries, and yet they survived.
  • Be aware of how often you have private conversations in public spaces. Turn off your cell phone when spending time with friends and family. Don’t let it interrupt your time connecting with loved ones (they were meant to be for our convenience, not the world).
  • One day a week (or more), unplug. Turn off the televisions. Turn off your phone. Get off the computer and do something in nature.
  • Be grateful for what you have instead of worrying about what you don’t. 
Sometimes we feel like our choices won’t make an impact or change, so we don’t try. We feel overwhelmed at how large the world is sometimes, which just means we need to narrow our focus. In one summer my family cut our garbage refuse in half by being more mindful. Now we only put garbage to the curb every other week.
Bring change into your community and let your community’s change show the world. Every one of us matters. Every one of us can be a beacon of hope.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.
As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
~Mahatma Gandhi

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