Create a Home Base
So here we are…grab a cup of something soothing to sip and sit back in your chair, with your pen, pencil or crayon and sketch book nearby. Take a deep breath and feel yourself in your body with your feet on the ground, your hair on your head, your heart beating, your lungs filling with air, your stomach digesting….just notice what is going on in your body. Notice any tension and let your shoulders drop, soften your face and jaw and ease into your home, your body. Maybe today you can only ease into your little toe…go wherever you can feel yourself being present.
Now, take a moment to reflect on NOW: where are you? What type of place? What city? Where in the world? What time is it? What day? What season? Imagine yourself surrounded by a protective light, a bubble or a shape of some kind…and the see this light grow into layer upon layer of protection for you and for the people around you, for the city, and beyond.
As you sit in this safe place, in this moment, ask yourself, how did I get here? Where did I come from? What journey brought me to this place? Who journeyed before me to this or similar places? That is the work of this book. Together, we will start where you are, look around, and search for signs of those who came before you and the memories that they hold. We will explore the realm of your ancestors with them, holding their hands, blessing them, and gently allowing them to tell us their story. The bits and pieces that they share: their needs, their prayers, their wishes, their passions, their instincts, their drives will help you discover how you got here, to this place you are now, and how you can ask them for guidance in moving forward to the place where your deepest Self feels at home. If you don’t know what that is, your journey with the ancestors will give you many clues and point the way toward finding it.
Create an Altar or Shrine for your Ancestors
The ancestors respond to any attempt you make to honor them, or remember therm. They want to be remembered and acknowledged. Why? Because they want you to remember that they lived, that they are still with you, and that they have something to say. Creating a shrine or altar is just a way to tell them, and you, that they were real, that they mattered in life and still matter in death. Creating this “remembering” place can be as simple or detailed as you like. If you have many objects that were special to your ancestors, or that they created, and photos, then you are fortunate. You will have fun choosing what would be most meaningful for your altar. Maybe your grandma had a menorah in her home, or a mezuzah on the door. If you find an object like that, include it in your shrine. Pieces of jewelry, doll clothes that they made for your dolls out of the scraps from their own dress fabric (I have these), can be very meaningful. Maybe you have a special recipe that is hand written on an index card, or a letter or postcard that your ancestor wrote. These may belong on your altar.
If you don’t have any mementos, or creations of your ancestors, you can go to thrift stores, or vintage stores and scour them for items that remind you of your grandmother’s house. For example a cookie jar, or a clock, or a tea cup, or a doll. Many sacred objects, such as Madonnas can be found in these places. Those objects that were prayed to and considered sacred have special meaning and energy. If you know anything about what your ancestors found beautiful or moving, such as a piece of music, a favorite book or poem, or a work of art you can find a way to represent this on your altar. Maybe you can find a copy of the book or poem, or a photo of a famous painting. Perhaps you will run across a recording of a favorite song or piece of music that your ancestor played, sang or listened to. If you remember a portrait of a famous person on your grandmother’s wall, perhaps they could be represented on your altar as well.
Feel free to be creative and put together a shadow box, or collage using copies of photos. This is meant to be fun and expressive. You can create a “tableau” with the objects, arranging them so that they tell a story that has meaning for you. You can create commemorative boxes or hats by gluing pieces of costume jewelry to them with a hot glue gun. Look in art supply stores, or arts and crafts books or websites for ideas for creative things to do with found objects. Alternatively, a simple basket or bowl to hold your commemorative objects is fine. The point is for this to be a sacred space and reminder of your ancestors that has meaning for you.
Find a place for your Ancestral Altar that is easily seen and accessed in your daily life, especially while you are working through this process. You want the ancestors to be part of your world now, and they want to be remembered often. The more that you think of them, the more they are here to help you. Place a cloth on the altar that gives it a sacred feeling, add a candle, a special stone or crystal, a feather, and a mirror or bowl of water. In this way, you will have the elements of air, fire, water, and earth represented. You can add to this altar as you follow through with the work outlined in this book. Symbols and signs of your family lineage may show themselves along the way. You can acknowledge these by creating a tangible representation through creative art processes, or through words. For example, you may see animals or birds, trees or landscapes as you experience the guided imagery exercises in this book. Perhaps you will learn of important items that have been passed down through generations while having a dialogue with your ancestors in later chapters. It is possible that memories will surface and mental snapshots that have long been buried will show themselves to you as you delve into this realm.
This altar will continue to grow and evolve through this process, so it would be instructive to take a photo of it when you begin, and keep a visual journal of this living memorial as you add (or possibly subtract) to it from it during your work with your ancestors.