Doing the Work

What Does Time with Ancestors Look Like?

In Western culture, there isn’t much guidance on how to connect with and spend time with healthy ancestors. I, myself, looked at Ancestral Reverence practices as something people did who didn’t know better. It was fine for indigenous cultures and “New Agey” people. It wasn’t something I did.

Over the last three years however, I’ve experience positive shifts in my life because I have been healing ancestral lineages and connecting regularly with my wise, healthy ancestors.

So what is it actually like when you spend time with “dead people?”

I’m going to describe a typical session for visiting with my ancestors. In this session, my intent is not to heal a lineage. It is to do “maintenance” with those who are healthy.

I often find that the best way to describe my time with my ancestors is to talk about how similar this time is to hanging out with the living.

“Maintenance” for me is very much like the time I spend with friends and relatives when we catch up. Like the living, my ancestors delight in my showing up to share my life with them.

For example, to prepare for time with my ancestors, I’ll make a pot of coffee, prepare two mugs, add snacks, and bring the tray to my ancestral altar. I’ll put one mug along and some snacks on the altar. The other mug and snacks are for me. Exactly the same as how I would offer refreshments to an appreciated guest in my home.

Once at the altar, I spend time getting present in my body. I often sing or hum because I find doing this helps me tune into my body faster. I then say a short invocation inviting my healthy ancestors into my space. It’s always important to specify who I want to share my space with. This is because there are the spirits of the dead who are not well and who may or may not be related to me. I’m specifying that I want to hang out specifically with those who are related to me by blood and who are decisively well.

Once I clear my space and invite my well ancestors to be with me, I quietly envision the guides of my well lineages. For each lineage (for example the women of my mother’s mother) there is a guide I speak to. A guide is a healthy representative for the lineage. My guides look human although that isn’t always the case. The guide for my mother’s mother’s lineage usually appears as an elderly woman dressed in clothes of the middle east. She sits in a comfortable walled garden full of flowers and fruit trees. She is always happy to be with me, loves that I bring coffee and sweets, and encourages me in my creative projects.

I usually briefly greet each guide and check to see if there is anything they want to share with me. Then I share my intentions for our time together.

In this particular session, my intention was to connect with my ancestors and get current on what was going on in my life. I also shared that I wanted their blessings for different things I’m working on.

This is not a business status meeting. This is me surrounded by kind, wise, loving beings whose greatest wish is that I, their blood descendent, express lineage gifts in this world. They want me to be happy and fulfilled. They love when I use these gifts in ways to make a positive difference.

Unlike a lot of time spent with living family, the ancestors do not criticize, rebuke me, or complain that “We haven’t seen you for over a week!” This isn’t to say the ancestors don’t challenge me. They do. But the challenge comes from a place of love and kindness.

In this particular session, I told my ancestors that I was feeling sad and disconnected. It was Easter Sunday an, on holidays, I’m especially aware that I don’t live near my family. I tell the ancestors I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I don’t have events to attend or invitations for dinner. I also told tell that I was still feeling dissatisfied with the progress I’ve been making in my business. That I haven’t experience much that feels like momentum.

Not everything is negative. I shared how much I enjoyed a long walk that took that afternoon. How it feels like nature is waking up and suddenly there are green leaves and flowers everywhere.

After I share, I spend time with each guide to hear what they have to say in response to what I shared. When I began the practice spending time with my ancestors, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they sound like characters in the Old Testament? Would they sound characters in Game of Thrones?

It turns out that my ancestors speak in ways that refreshingly concise, compassionate, and actionable. My ancestors are more like to say, “Bake a chocolate cake to honor your father’s birthday. Make sure you eat a piece, too” My ancestors are good about meeting me where I’m at and asking only what they know I can do.

Here are a few things my ancestors shared with me in this session:

  • Enjoy Spring. It’s such a beautiful time of the year!
  • Do a simple, easy to complete art project. Something a child would enjoy.
  • Embodiment is about what you can do without thinking. Those things that you just “know” how to do.
  • Keep things simple. You don’t need to take on any additional projects right now.
  • Watch or read something that makes you laugh.
  • Complete the collage you’ve been working on to honor your Father’s Mother’s Father’s lineage.

These suggestions can look deceptively simple to do. However, most of these are things I predictably put off and resist because they are activities that are fun and joyful. I have a real problem with doing things in my day that I find fun and joyful.

This is why the ancestors are wise. And if I don’t do these things because of resistance. That is a sign that there is more healing to do. Which brings me back to the ancestors for their help.

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