Thursday, February 11th, 2016
According to Buddhist and many native traditions – including the Maya with whom I trained – we are born into our family due to the thrust of our previous karmic action which connects us to our parents and relations, as well as the place and time of our birth. The patterns of energy, in terms of emotions, behaviour, psychology and make-up of mind are shared commonly between both our parents and ourselves alike. On the one hand it seems that we are a product of the ‘family barn’ – the psycho-emotional environment into which we are born – that of our parents and grandparents; while on the other hand we manifest this environment through the force of our karmic traces. While growing up under the influence of these strong parental and ancestral patterns, our individual processes often become dissolved into the collective sea of our family processes. Healing must take place on both levels if it is to be effective in the long run.
When we come of age and leave home for the first time, we begin to feel a sense of independence and freedom as we learn how to navigate our individual path through life. The body of the elephant leaves the family barn and breathes in the fresh air of the surrounding world. Very quickly, however, we begin to manifest the same stuffy barn environment in our relationships and life situations, both emotionally and energetically. Although the body of the elephant has left the barn, its tail is still trapped in the door. Deep ancestral shadows and karmic patterns of the past still need to be worked through.
Ancestral healing begins by going back into the family barn to work through one’s ancestral patterns, which keep repeating through each generation, with traumas and disturbances resurfacing until they are transformed. This may involve opening up positive dialogue with one’s family, especially where there are rifts or divisions. On a deeper level, it means recognizing the same patterns of behaviour and obstacles within oneself as part of a collective disturbance. The cellular memory within one’s bones and mind-fabric is ancestral and carries with it the resonance of our ancestors, their wisdom and guidance, as well as their pains and impulses. Jung called this the “collective unconscious”, or the “psychic life of our ancestors right back to the earliest beginnings”.
Reconciliation and healing come about when we bring the ancestral energy of our unconscious to the surface and into the foreground of everyday experience. In native traditions we practice ceremonies such as sweat lodges, fire ceremonies and vision quests to merge the ancestral realm with the consciousness of the individual or group to help bring out and liberate deeply rooted traumas or afflictions. These ceremonies also provide a sacred space in which we can turn to the ancestors for help and counsel. Meditation, dreams, visions and contact with nature can also help us reconnect with our primordial past and gain greater insight into what shapes, inspires, or obstructs our lives.
As ancestral patterns and archetypes are assimilated into our consciousness through these healing practices, and we are able to feel through the emotional and energetic tide of our past conditioning, we can begin to experience a breathing space between ourselves and these deep karmic currents. At this point, the transmutation of energy becomes automatic because we have experienced the whole, rather than merely ourselves as part of the whole. Our dark or rejected parts surface and self-liberate as we surrender our defences and allow vulnerabilities and cracks to become visible and workable and the unresolved issues of our ancestors gradually work through to resolution in our own healing journey. This is a life-long process. If we practice mindfulness on a daily level and choose not to repress uncomfortable emotions and not to resist what life throws our way, we can develop a far greater understanding and wisdom of what it means to work with ancestral energy. Our greatest responsibility in this life is to bring to fruition the unfinished labours of our ancestors and thus enhance the health and wholeness of our families and communities so that future generations can benefit from our healing and dedication.