Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Asking the Ancestors for Help

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Anyone who knows me well knows that one of the most transformative periods of my life took place during the years of 2003 to 2006.  During this stretch of time I was a student of Naropa University when there existed a campus in connection with the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California.  In 2003 I met my primary professor and mentor Dr. Pamela Colorado.  Dr. Colorado has made it her life's work to focus on fusing Western science and indigenous scientific inquiry into a synergistic methodology of seeing, experiencing and inhabiting a dynamic and ever evolving world in which we see and know everything is alive.  Meeting her profoundly affected the course of my life.  I dream of one day (sooner rather than later I hope) more effectively integrating her teachings into my professional life.  I sense the time is nearing...

Perhaps one of the most essential lessons I learned during my training was how to cultivate a relationship with my ancestors...regardless of whether they are alive or passed on to the other side of the veil.  At the time I first began working with her in September, 2003 all four of my grandparents had already passed on.  And yet ancestors can mean much more than your own grandparents.  If you want to do a truly mind blowing exercise contemplate the very number of people had to come together for you to ever have been born.  Your four grandparents were the offspring of eight great-grandparents who were themselves the offspring of sixteen great-great grandparents.  And the further back in time you go the more people had to somehow find their way to each other to one day, so many years later, make it possible for you to come to be.  We're all indeed interconnected.  You might be more related to the people you ride next to on the bus each day than you currently realize.

I also learned how to make offerings to my ancestors.  Such practice is not unlike the ritual I was exposed to while growing up and attending Sunday mass within the Catholic Church.  Sometimes it's only when we are brought to our knees through immense difficulty that we find ourselves willing to pray or contemplate reaching out in other ways we might not otherwise consider.  Prayers of petition can require a genuine humility.  I have been through difficult times before and can remember the feeling of being 'a voice crying out in the wilderness'.  Lately I have been feeling myself perhaps approaching a time when I need to throw open my heart and again 'cry out' a bit.  And here is why:

Ever since my most recent (and final) falling out with my father I have found myself wondering if perhaps I did not know my father very well.  I think most of us have experienced moments in which our initial impression of someone later proved to be very incongruent with who that person fundamentally is.  When the scales fall from our eyes and we see a person or group of people in an unflattering light it seems only natural that we will feel a range of feelings such as anger, disenchantment, betrayal and the like.  A related challenge that can then prove difficult to bear is how we decide to cope when we have many unanswered questions...and when we become convinced that we may never know the answers to many of our questions.  This is the journey that people whose loved ones disappear without a trace must surely experience to some degree.  This is the journey that people take when their loved ones unexpectedly die (perhaps through accident, sudden illness or murder) and there is no easy way to obtain sufficient knowledge about the circumstances such that you can experience that relative luxury known as 'closure'.  Yes indeed, is it possible to find closure when there are many, many unanswered questions.  It doesn't seem likely.

I dedicated my studies under the direction of Dr. Colorado partly in honor of my own ancestors.  I also wanted to explore my ancestry for my own personal edification.  In taking the journey of learning that I did I had hoped that the prize of knowledge would bring joy, wisdom and healing to my paternal family of origin.  Whether it did that for other members of my family is unclear.  I remember that time as so amazingly transformative.

As I have thought through my relationship with my father in recent months I have begun to wonder just how accurate my perception of him was.  And as I have allowed myself to ponder some heavy questions I have similarly wondered how correct my impressions were (and are) of the people my four grandparents were during their earthly lives.  It has been a bit easy for these questions to bubble up and tickle at my conscious awareness given what has been happening in the world at large.  Hearing about the conflict in the Ukraine reminded me of an anecdotal piece of information my father once shared with me about my maternal grandfather...namely that he apparently had a low opinion of the Ukrainian people.  I do not know much of the backstory on that so I cannot easily speculate about his reasons for having such a sentiment.  My understanding is that my maternal grandfather would have journeyed through the Ukraine while serving under the Nazis in World War II.

In short, I have been feeling a bit unmoored and wondering just who my ancestors truly were.  Have I been living in a fantasyland?  Are my grandparents the people I thought they were?  It's important for me to have a genuine sense of where I came from.  Healthy personal development ideally incorporates a healthy knowledge of one's origins.

I'm feeling the need to make a prayer to my ancestors as I am experiencing heightened anxiety this week.  It's my first week going back to work after being out of paying work for some nine months.  I'm not doing a job I want to be doing indefinitely but at least it is something that will hopefully move me forward in the direction of my bigger goals and grand dream.  I find myself struggling to remain optimistic at times because from the outside looking in it would appear many of the fundamental core elements of my life are unchanged.  But when I look more closely I realize this is an illusion.  I am successfully attending to the resolution of an anxiety disorder that I had borne for over three decades.  Resolving such a major burden is no small task.  Just accomplishing this task alone makes the last nine months of my life noteworthy.

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!