Welcome to our sixth lesson! By now, you’ve got several options for practices you can do. It’s easy at this point to start feeling overwhelmed or inadequate for not being able to do them all.
Today, we’ll be doing a contemplative ancestor practice. In the modern era, we sometimes have a tendency to only look at our ancestors with criticism and judgment – we see them as ignorant, violent, weak, selfish… examples of what not to become. It’s so easy to push away and focus on all the ways in which we’re better than them.
Unfortunately, this prideful rejection and severing of our connection to the ones who came before us can lead to a deep sense of isolation and confusion. It’s very hard to move forward if you don’t fully understand from whom and where you came from. And, even if you do move forward, you might struggle and be limited by feelings of anxiety and loneliness because you don’t understand how connected, protected, and loved you are.
Our ancestors weren’t perfect, but like all living things, they did the best that they could with the inner and outer resources that were available to them. If we can remember that and be merciful, we then have the freedom to call upon their strengths while also learning from their mistakes.
If this is the case, remember that you can even pick ONE practice to do and it will have positive impact. So what’s most important is that you make the effort to do something, rather than everything.
During Pitṛpakṣa, the veil between our realm and theirs is much thinner, and we can connect with them more easily. So if you’re stuck or confused, you can also sit quietly (preferably at your altar) and ask them directly what practices they would like you to do for them.
The response might be words, images, or just a subtle sensation in your body. Trust your instincts. Their presence is anchored in the subconscious, so try not to overthink this or analyze it too much.
Traditional wisdom says that whatever qualities, virtues, and strengths are in your ancestry are always available to you, inside. You are linked to everyone who you descended from, through your energy body. And what this means, for example, if your ancestors were farmers, some part of you has an instinctive ability to connect with the land. Or if they were successful merchants, you’ll always have that financial abundance instinct – how to create a lot from very little. Of course, to access this power requires a clean and clear inner connection to your ancestors.
For today, reflect on your ancestral qualities and strengths. Were they rulers and warriors? Yep, their courage, strength, (and stubbornness!) is in you. Artists and poets? Their creativity and expressiveness is available to you. Persecuted nomads? You have their resilience and perseverance. Pious villagers? They gave you humility and faith.
In fact, our ancestors left us with a pretty wide range of virtues to draw upon. And life is complex and crazy enough that they’ll all come in handy someday! This practice is a way of discovering the full palette of inner riches tucked inside of you – your true birthright.
And, once you’re familiar with these strengths, another traditional practice is to actually call upon your different lineages for guidance and blessing. This is a humble internal request made from the quiet space of the heart. It’s much easier to communicate with them because the veil between the realms is thinner during Pitṛpakṣa.
Here are some examples:
To my immigrant ancestors, please give me the courage to leave behind what is familiar and pursue my vision for a greater life, as you once did.
Beloved ancestors, grant me the courage and stamina to fight for what I believe is ethical. I am thankful for the example you set and it inspires me when I feel afraid. Please protect and guide me and my work.
Teach me how to be patient and kind. Help me to trust and surrender to the will of the divine. I find it hard to forgive what has happened, and I feel alone. Please guide me and be with me.
N.B. This practice is not about reinforcing racial, national, or other stereotypes. It’s about recognizing the unique gifts your ancestors embodied, and being able to access them within yourself. This sacred time is as much about receiving their blessings as it is about giving back to them.
If you have any questions, or want to share your experience, you can do so by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teacher: Shivani Hawkins