My Path to the Ancestors
I am resurrecting my blog, finally! I will be posting chapters from my interactive workbook, Ancestral Impressions, Exploring Your Ancestry through Creativity, Imagery, and Intuition .
I hope that you enjoy gathering ideas, inspirations, and insights as you peruse the offerings that I plan to post weekly. I will begin with the forward to my book:
My Path to the Ancestors by Audrey Chowdhury
copyright 2017, audreyfchowdhury.com
I love to wander through vintage stores. When I enter the realm of trinkets, gadgets, porcelain angels, bone china plates, and cut glass bowls, I enter the realm of the everyday life of generations past. I can remember the toys we played with, the ceramic trinkets that decorated my grandmother’s house, the dishes that were brought out for special holiday dinners. I slip back into childhood, and even beyond to a time before I was born. As I reach out and touch these solidly real relics, I feel a connection to something that I cannot name. It is a yearning to touch the people that I loved and wondered about with intense curiosity. They were my grandparents, aunts, parents, uncles, great aunts, and second cousins. As I pick up a stoneware mug that seems like one my grandfather may have used, I feel a connection to him and I long to know him better. I feel a deep desire to retrieve a life line to the people, the time, and place of my ancestors. I want to know more about who I am, where I came from, and how I fit into the larger story of my lineage. I believe that knowing the truths, stories, and experiences of my ancestors can help me to know myself.
I was a child who was fascinated by old photos of my grandparents, their parents, uncles and great aunts whom I never knew. I wanted to know their stories, how they got to this country where I lived, what they loved to do, what they dreamt about. My parents didn’t have many answers, nor did they seem interested. Life had been hard for them, and their ancestors, and there was no need to revisit the painful past in their minds.
As an adult, I learned much about the process of dying, and of the process of reviewing one’s life through working in long term care facilities as an art therapist. My experience there taught me that letting go of life is a challenge process for many. Often people yearn to be free of their aching bodies but find themselves waking up each morning, disappointed that they are still alive. I felt my own sadness and bewilderment when the residents that I worked with would ask me: “Why can’t I go yet? Everyone I know has already gone on to the other side. I don’t want to be here anymore.” I had no answers of course, but I sensed that there were things that they were working on unconsciously before they left. Most of them sensed that they would know when their time came because their ancestors would start showing up in the room….and most of the time they were right! What determined when someone’s time came, I wondered, and how did the ancestors know?
My personal experience using art processes to access unconscious memories and traumas has taught me that imagery, intuition, and imagination are the vehicles that bring the buried emotions, fears, and vulnerabilities to the surface. Most of our deepest wounds live in the realm bodily memory. Our conscious minds try their hardest to shield us from the pain. The language of imagery, music, movement, and therapeutic play, can open the door to our true stories and help us find the hope, strength, and freedom that come from expressing our authentic selves. This work can be the key to accessing the lost voices of those who have gone before us. Perhaps they can express to us, through our work, what they could not express during their lifetimes.
I have found through my personal and professional work that intuitive art processes can open doors not only to the realm of my own suppressed memories, but also to the realms of the body, the ancestors, and the forces that guided them. I have studied and travelled with the International Council of the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, from whom I learned the power of ritual, ceremony and the importance of honoring the ancestors as our guides and mentors. Through these teachers and modalities, I have developed a deep respect for the most important ancestor that we all share: our original Mother, the Earth.
I have learned, through my own recovery from childhood trauma, that my family was full of dysfunction. There is much in my ancestral history that I am not proud of, and that I don’t even want my children to know. Yet, I know all of it is significant. I have had moments of deep anger and dread as I thought about approaching the work of speaking with family members that have left this world. But I find that when I do access the stories and the lessons that my great-great aunts and grandmothers want to share with me, I leave the session feeling the power and stunning grace with which these women and men carried the burdens of their lives. I am awed by their desire to live and find beauty wherever they could.
I have received much of the information that I will be sharing with you by working with my own ancestors using journaling, photos, collages that I have made for some of my grandparents and even unknown great grandparents. Through this work, I received the message, loud and clear, that the ancestors are waiting and hoping, and in fact getting a bit desperate, for us to ask them for their help. They know that we are in a turbulent time, they see us facing the same types of situations they faced, and they want to help us avoid the same mistakes that they made! The veil is thin, and they are much closer than we think. Talking with them, asking questions, feeling their love and guidance can only do us good. So why not give it a try? My great grandma is saying, “So what have you got to lose??”