“Hasten to that which supports…” – I Ching
Are you trying to live on mere gas fumes in the tank? Despite lots of good personal and energetic work, do you…
- Feel empty, disconnected, ungrounded?
- Find it impossible to settle into work that is meaningful, supportive, steady?
- Reach for relationship but can’t really embrace anyone?
- Have a persistent sense of wrongness or a lack of belonging?
Then I begin to wonder: How are things with you and your ancestors?
In our busy, modern world, many of us are immigrants, disconnected from our ancestral lands and relations. Others are disconnected because of a tremendous ancestral trauma their forebears’ experienced. In either case, trying to live our lives fully is like trying to run our car on lingering gas fumes in the tank: without a proper connection to the energy of our ancestral sources, we don’t have enough gas to get anywhere.
I grew up in a very homogeneous suburb north of New York City, in a town my parents had moved to a few years earlier. Colorado, Chicago, Quebec—some of the places my ancestors lived—were very far away, not to mention Germany, France and England, where my immigrant forebears came from many centuries earlier. I was vaguely embarrassed of my ancestors: upstanding, apparently unimaginative people who were clergy, merchants, and politicians. Go far back enough, we probably have slave traders somewhere in the tree. For much of my life, I tried very hard to be something different and have a new family, one I could choose and that would be more the way I wanted family to be.
Talk about running on fumes! These were the people who had given me life, and I was trying to concoct a life that pretended they’d never existed.
We all have complicated ancestors. We all have ancestors who have been noble, honest, kind and creative. We all have ancestors who have been dishonorable, cruel and small minded. We all have ancestors who have thrived, and we all have ancestors who have suffered more than our minds can imagine. And each one was exactly where they needed to be to bring us into the world.
Energetically, there is no disconnecting ourselves from our ancestors, and deep down we don’t really want to (even for those of us with very, very cruel ancestors). The life they send down the line to their descendents is a present energy that continues to flow in us, and without it each one of us would immediately stop breathing. This is as true, by the way, for adoptees and orphans who do not know their ancestors, as it is for those of us who have inherited detailed family trees.
For many of my clients, the conscious or unconscious protest against being the descendent of their particular ancestors has limited their lives tremendously. So the first step is to consent to these people being our ancestors. Acknowledge them, see them, notice their difficulties and all it took for them to bring us into the world.
When I work with my clients we get very specific about the particular lives and challenges of their ancestors: the Irish Potato Famine, the Cherokee Walk of Tears, a great aunt that barely survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, a great grandmother abandoned by her parents in Kansas. These stories carry great weight through the centuries, and arrive in our hearts still powerful and unresolved.
Here’s an introductory exercise you can do, with whatever ancestral history you have:
Close your eyes, and imagine in front of you a big set of bleachers. Your parents are standing on the first level of the bleachers. Behind them are their parents on the next level. And behind them their parents, and on and on. Notice in about ten lines you have over a thousand in a line. This is your tribe, from whom your life comes. Notice the sad ones and the happy ones. The wise ones and the fools. The crazy ones and the sane ones. Just look at them all with respect.
Many of them have suffered, but they survived long enough to send life on to the next generation, eventually reaching you. You could not be alive without them. From your place, down the line, you can do nothing to assist the older ones, up the line. Their fate is theirs; it is part of their dignity to have suffered it and in their own way, endure. It is not your fate.
Now, in your mind’s eye, bow to them and say “I honor the dignity of your fate.” Hold the bow for a bit, feel that in your body, let the commitment to help them release, maybe just a little, maybe quite a lot. Instead of holding something for them, let them bless you and the life that is in you. Accept life and blessing from them.
Having done that, take a few breaths, feel your whole body, allow the image of your ancestors to disperse, and come back to here and now.
As Family Constellations author and practitioner John Payne says: “It takes a very courageous child to be happier than its parents.”
With humility, we can allow our ancestors to have their own suffering and their own choices; we can ask for their blessing as we choose to fully embrace the life they have given us. Then we commit to living a life that reflects the very best of their accomplishments and dreams, which becomes the precious inheritance we’ve been looking for all along.
We are no longer running on fumes. We’ve got a full tank, and we’re ready to go…
About Leslie Nipps
Leslie Nipps is a Master Neuro-Linguistics Programming (NLP) and Family Constellations practitioner with twenty years of experiencing helping people do deep change work. Visit her website, www.leslienipps.com, to schedule a free Ancestors Inquiry session. She’s also on Facebook…stop by, connect and say hi!