Why Take this Journey into the Ancestral Realm?
Today I am sharing the introductory chapter of my book, Ancestral Impressions, Exploring Your Ancestry through Creativity, Imagery and Intuition.
This book has been designed to facilitate your own journey into the ancestral realms. It is meant to be an interactive workbook. There is narrative for each section which is followed by a collection of suggested exercises. The “Personal Reflections” are stories about my own personal experience which are interspersed throughout this workbook. These are meant to give you examples and to evoke your own thoughts and feelings about your personal recollections and experiences.
Introduction: Why Take this Journey into the Ancestral Realm?
Have you ever felt as if your life were following a script that someone else wrote? What if the choices that you have made and the beliefs that you hold belong to someone who lived generations ago? The life that you have created is a tapestry woven from the threads of many influences. Many, if not most, of these threads were produced by the people that came before you: your ancestral lineage.
This journey into the ancestral realm is a quest for meaning and guidance. It is a journey into the truth of your being. Embarking on this path can help you find the answers to some of your deepest questions, such as:
- What unknown forces have brought me to this place in my life?
- What mysteries lie in my ancestral lineage and how are they affecting me?
- What are the beliefs, patterns, illnesses, and family stories that are playing out in my life and how are they affecting me?
- How can I change or possibly benefit from the way these patterns affect me?
- Who are the ancestors that wish to help me through their guidance, healing, or courage? How can I access their wisdom?
Your ancestors were survivors. You know this because you are here now, living, breathing and reading this page. Just being conscious of this tells you that they had strengths, hopes, and dreams that sustained them, kept them alive and perhaps even enabled them to thrive. Their strengths also live within you and can help you navigate the difficult times in your own life. Working with the ancestors can help you identify and own the special gifts and visions that you have inherited.
You may have many questions about how you have become the way you are. Your ancestors are a tremendous resource for you, and they are just waiting for you to ask them for guidance and information about who and where you came from. Maybe they can help you understand the beliefs and attitudes that you carry? For example:
- Were there secrets, fears, or superstitions in your family that were passed on as “common sense”?
- Which inherited beliefs, strengths, illnesses, and family secrets do you carry into your daily life?
- Which ones do you try to keep buried?
- What about their coping strategies and survival skills: do you recognize these in yourself or have you forgotten them?
The journey that we are about to take together is a journey into the ancestral realms of the body, personalities, culture, geography, and guiding lights. We will be accessing these realms using the keys of curiosity, memory, imagination, and intuition. It is a journey that can be fun, exciting, revealing, and instructive. It can also be emotional, troubling, and disturbing. It is not one that we take lightly, but one that we take with reverence for the suffering and the will to survive that has triumphed. We look for signs and stories of redemption and of the power of love and joy to surface even in the midst of despair. Our ancestors lived through all of the problems and the trials that we face now. Yes, the context was different, but they were facing the same types of dilemmas and heart breaks that we endure today. Their wisdom is a well that waits for us to access. The ancestors are with us in our pain, and in our joy. They want their lives to have meant something. They want us to know that their love is with us, even if they couldn’t show us love during their lives. They want us to know that they are cheering for us. They are very close, hoping to be able to offer us guidance, wisdom, and courage. We can ask them for help, and that is all that they wish: they are waiting for our requests for guidance and wisdom, because they can only help us when we ask.
Our ancestors may have died holding unlived dreams, unmet expectations, and feelings of betrayal, anger, guilt or shame. Perhaps they died feeling love that was never expressed. I believe that the person who dies feeling completely finished with whatever they came to earth to do, is fortunate, and probably not very common. Our ancestors’ deepest wish is to help their family members reach a place of peace and joy before leaving this planet. Why? Because they care about us, and because our healing and mastery can help them move ahead in their own healing journey.
The ancestors are calling us because they want us to know what they can now understand from their place of wider vision: those things that they could not see during their lifetimes. They feel pain when we are in pain, and they feel frustrated because they cannot help us. How can they tell us that what we are anxious about at this moment is really not as urgent as we think it is? They have the advantage of perspective and hind sight and want us to know that we do not have to re-invent the wheel. They also want us to know that we can we can pass on their wisdom and our own while we are still here on earth. They are waiting and hoping that we will think of them as resources and supporters.
How can we get in touch with them? Through imagery, symbolism, intuition, and imagination. The written word can also work, but the channels opened by the intuitive right side of our brains are more easily accessed. When we try to reach the ancestral realm through our logical, left side of the brain, we may run into skepticism and “reasoning” which block our ability to hear and believe the guidance that comes through unidentifiable channels. The ancestors can speak to us through dreams, while we are washing the dishes, or running, or knitting…anything that gets us out of our thinking minds and into a place where we can let go of our own blocks to hearing their voices. That is why we will be using creative techniques to access the voices that are trying to get through to us.
Many of our ancestors did not have “happy”, carefree, easy lives. They faced challenges and hostility that we may not be able to understand. Perhaps they did things to other people that were destructive, painful, and even hateful. They may not be people that would make you proud, or even want to revisit. What can we learn from them? Do you carry any of their hateful thoughts or destructive tendencies? These ancestors could be helpful and very enlightening in their way, but you are never forced to listen to or revisit anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable, or fearful. It is fine to set boundaries, in fact it is quite important to be firmly in charge of your body and energy field as you do this work. We will begin this journey by learning some techniques for becoming sovereign in our bodies, so that the ancestors honor your personal borders. You will be in charge.
What if you know very little about your ancestors? Can you do this work?
Information about your ancestors such as where they lived, their names, bits and pieces of their stories, can be very helpful as starting points for conversations with them. This information can help you decide what type of question you want to ask and what you are curious about. Many of us do not have much information, and this is OK. The data can be a starting point for the deeper questions about the dreams, motivations, passions, trauma and grief that have been passed down to you. We can also access the deeper recesses of our ancestral realm through our own intuition. We all have ancestors, and we can start with what we know, or what we would like to know. Whatever comes through our work will be a stepping stone to more information and further questions. Trust what comes and see where it leads you.
The larger story of humanity tells us that we are all related to each other. If we trace our origins back to the beginning of our species, we find that we all started from the same original people. Consider the possibility of having adopted or honorary ancestors in addition to known blood relations. These chosen ancestors could be authors, teachers, or people in your community who have inspired you or been role models. When you a sense resonance with another person, you are feeling something familiar and seeing a reflection of some part of you. Someone who has been a source of wisdom and support deserves a place in your family of choice.
Poem from the Ancestors:
Your Life Has Meaning
Your life has meaning
This is the truth no matter what
That you have lived on this Earth
Means that you have entered the realm of the Holy
Your presence has altered the atmosphere
Your presence has evolved the cells and atoms of which we are made
Every living being: tree, plant, frog, insect, cat, dog, human has an influence
On the evolution of this planet and of each other
Those who are conscious of this fact
Are the ones who can positively affect
The evolution of all of the beings who live or have lived or will live among us
You are one of the children who understands
What you do, say, think and feel has consequences
What you do, say, think, and feel matters
You are not living in a bubble
You are part of a great organism
This is a grand experiment called “Life on Earth”
Your ancestors know this now
They are counting on you to help their legacy be one of positive evolution
They send you love, guidance, and hope as you seek the nuggets of wisdom and truth that they have left behind for you to find.
I often feel stuck. Stuck in a rut. Unable to move forward, unable to take a step, unable to move. I want to sit and think about what to do next, even write in my journal about it, but actually doing it is another thing. I go to bed feeling ashamed of myself for not having taken the step that I had planned: writing this first chapter, making a commitment to taking or teaching a class, whatever the thing was that I thought I would surely do today, but didn’t. As I sit, I recognize myself in my grandmothers…the ones I knew. I only knew them when they were older of course. They each had their own favorite chair, where they could be found most of the time. One, my father’s mother, would be watching her “stories” on TV, with a Lucky Strike hanging off her lower lip. My mother’s mother would be sitting in her lazy boy rocker, rocking and muttering to herself. I felt invisible around both of them, but that was OK because I could just watch them and wonder: what were they thinking about? I sensed that they both felt sadness, even despair, because the lives that they had hoped for, the lives they envisioned for themselves were not possible anymore. They were old, and had to make do with what they had, which after all wasn’t so bad, right? They had a roof over their heads, shoes, clothes, a chair… a TV….a dog. I think about this as I sit in my own chair, today, at age 60, and notice that I am thinking the same thing.
So I begin journaling with my grandmothers, one at a time. They want me to know that they had come far from where they had been. That getting to a place where they had a home was an achievement, but they both had sacrificed their dignity to get there. They had to give up on the dream of having a husband that they loved and who loved them. They had to give up on the dream of having supportive friends. They had to give up on their dreams of becoming a seamstress or a beauty queen, or even a successful hostess. They settled for what they could have and were happy to have a home, and yet the sadness hung on. They remember the feeling of being told in either words or actions that they were not worthy to be alive. That is the greatest sorrow of all, and that is the belief they do not want to see passed on. They want me to know that getting stuck is a sign of despair, or hopelessness, and lack of confidence. They want me to know that getting stuck in the stuck, as they put it, is not helping anyone. They urge me to act on my ideas, to express my observations, and to tell their stories. They are so happy that I have asked them for help, and they are so happy that they have not “lived for nothing” because their words of encouragement, and lives, have meant something to me and hopefully to my grandchildren.
Gather Your Materials
- Have a blank scrapbook or sketchbook that you will use to do suggested exercises.
- Card sized pieces of cardboard or mat board, large sized index cards work fine.
- You can also collect larger pieces poster board if you prefer this size for collaging.
- Archival glue stick or other adhesive
- Colored pencils, markers or pens
- Oil pastels or crayons
- If you like to use paint, include your preferred type of paints in your supply basket.
- Copies of images of your ancestors (if you have them)
- Any objects (or photos of these) that your ancestors created
- Special objects (or photos of these) that your ancestors used or cherished,
- Construction paper (various colors)
- A stack of old magazines or books that you can cut up.