The topics of ancestors, family trees, and our lineage are not ones that westerners understand very well. We weren’t brought up to think about our place in a living lineage or how the land where our ancestors lived for generations is a part of our energy and our spirit. The lives of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are connected to who we are, because they live through us. In indigenous cultures, though, ancestors, family trees, and what happened to our parents and great-grandparents are vital to who we become. These topics are fundamental because they affect our mental health, emotions, perceptions, and our overall sense of happiness and well-being.
Understanding where we come from is important information for us to know because it can help us understand our personal suffering in an entirely new way. As a teacher and shamanic healer, I have witnessed and experienced the pain that comes from feeling lost, misguided, abandoned and without direction. I have also discovered that through healing our family trees and connecting to our ancestors we can begin to feel a deep sense of inner peace, wholeness, and restored power.
Here are some ways in which we can begin the process of healing our ancestral lineage:
Connecting – Understanding who they were. We invite our ancestors into our hearts, and in deep meditation and prayer we can begin to form bonds and make connections. It’s important to know where your people are from, what languages they spoke and the cultures there were immersed in. Sometimes we must travel back to our homeland, country of origin, family land or a burial ground to open our hearts and to become more receptive. This is the beginning to building strong connections with your ancestors. You may have to go way back in your family tree many generations to feel this connection. In the western world we have this “go at it alone” belief, as if we just appear here on earth with no deeper connections. We often believe that everything we do is for ourselves alone and that our lives aren’t connected to past and future generations. But this isn’t the way things are, especially in the indigenous and shamanic world. We have much to learn about interdependence and how each generation is connected like an inter-woven tapestry.
Listening – To listen means to honor. We open the healing channel through deep listening. For those of us who can listen and hear, our ancestors are always speaking and trying to communicate with us. This is a powerful time to receive messages, so try to be open to your ancestor’s guidance. By listening and honoring them we can also receive their protection and emotional support. Our ancestors have important stories, messages and gifts for us. We can begin to communicate with them by acknowledging their existence. We can begin to build relationships with them which is very beneficial in our own healing process. We can make offerings to our ancestors of food and flowers, and envision us all sitting together in a sacred circle where we consciously invite them in. Please don’t doubt that they can hear, you because they can. When we are truly ready, we can learn how to hear them.
Forgiveness – We commit to making things right. Our ancestors are alive within and around us and we can begin to honor them by doing work on their behalf. Our ancestors are a part of our karma, and we inherit everything from mental programs and beliefs, to spiritual debts and wounds, passed down from one generation to the next. We must begin the forgiveness process for those who have hurt our lineage. We must also do forgiveness work for painful actions our ancestors have done. Sometimes we must repay debts, speak truths, and set old records straight as a form of spiritual reparations. Forgiveness work allows us to clear discordant energies and can bring great peace to our minds and bodies.
Collaborating – Working together for the good of our family tree. We are fulfilling our ancestors’ dreams and our healing is their healing. As we visualize sitting in a sacred circle with our people, we begin receiving and sending healing energy. As we send healing energy to the roots of our family tree, we become the family tree. We can guide the healing process by bringing light, love and forgiveness through the roots and branches and this cleanses away deep ancestral wounds. We always begin and end with giving thanks and gratitude for everything we have received. We are collaborating with them, and we honor that work.
In Maya Angelou’s poem “Our Grandmothers,” she writes “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000,” she is referring to her ancestors. Whether we realize it or not we are never alone, the spirit world is alive and so are our ancestors. Maya Angelou felt the support of ten thousand ancestors standing with her. It’s one of the reasons she was so incredibly powerful. Each of us has important work to do and healing our ancestral lineage will be of great benefit to us and future generations. One day we will become ancestors and it’s time to consider the legacy we want to pass on.
Spring Washam is a well-known meditation teacher, author and visionary leader based in California and Peru. Spring is one of the founders of the East Bay Meditation Center, in Oakland, CA and is considered a pioneer in bringing mindfulness-based healing practices to diverse communities.
Spring teaches the special event The Spirit of Harriet Tubman: Awakening From The Underground, both in-person and online on Saturday, March 4, 2023 from 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM PT.
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