During the past year and a half, my work on the path of sacred sexuality, self-awareness and remembering has grown to encompass a greater appreciation for the role of ancestors — the support they offer, and the healing needed there. All the work that I’ve done over the last two decades I now see clarified into four resources of support — key relationships that are often ruptured in our experience. These include our relationships with:
I have seen a deepening relationship with Spirit emerge as a common thread as we connect with each of the four.
Breaks in these four key relationships represent the biggest obstacle to overcome as well as the biggest opportunity to find support and create healing for so many of us. Since the trauma happened in the relational space, the opportunity for healing happens in the relational space as well. I’ve found this to be true in my personal journey, and with thousands of folx I’ve worked with in our Western, US culture.
The thing is: we don’t know what we don’t know. Most of us live in a culture that normalizes broken or severely compromised relationships with the body, the earth, ancestors or community. Because of this, we often don’t know how these breaks and ruptures may be contributing to our problems. While all four of these areas require dedication and practice to restore conscious connection, ancestral healing often occupies a particularly large cultural “blind spot.” True, some people are aware of this missing connection. Others never lost that felt connection to begin with, and may not even realize what rupture from it feels like. However, the majority of people in Western cultures do not know that the experience of a felt, living connection with their ancestors is possible, or haven’t even given it consideration.
My experience is that restoring connection with any of these areas — body, community, nature or ancestors — makes restoring connection with other areas easier. As we do so, everything clarifies. Life becomes more easeful, more rich, vibrant, and colorful, and access to pleasure and even ecstasy is more available.
Let’s elaborate on these four foundational relationships. Connecting with my ancestors came most recently for me. I will touch on the three others first then elaborate on the ancestral healing that is very alive in me right now, and I believe also for many folx seeking their next level of personal growth.
Repairing, listening, trusting, and rebuilding our relationship with our bodies is the main subject of my upcoming book: Sacred Sexuality: Listening to Our Bodies. We meet the physicality of spirituality there. For me, my body became an access point into Spirit, and vice versa — bringing Spirit into matter. Often we are taught not to trust our bodies and that we should leave our bodies to meet Spirit. This teaching is perpetuated by many religious structures that break the connection between body and Spirit. What if we reframe awareness and instead see that the lived experience of spirituality is all about embodiment — of spirit coming into matter? That coming home into our own bodies is connection with the divine?
The body is an enormous bank of stored information. What's it like to slow down, remember, and unwind the information that's been held there? Further, this information is not only from our own personal body and lifetime. Our body holds intergenerational wisdom, communal wisdom, societal structural wisdom and the traumas associated with all these levels. When we touch our bodies, move, make sound and breathe, we open some of the many access points to increasing our body awareness.
As we repair our relationship with our body, we may feel more clear to be able to navigate, for example, our relationship with community. This is especially true if we consciously choose a community as a vehicle of healing our relationships with our bodies. The healing then works on both levels: Because our relationships with our bodies are to a large extent formed through person-to-person interactions, some people may choose to begin to build relationship with community first. We can remember that people love and support us, and this helps us to feel better about our bodies. By ‘community,’ I mean friendships and loverships and groups of people and chosen family that we can feel supported by and care for — webs of relationships that give us a sense of belonging, a sense of being held in community together. There's an “in-ness” of belonging, a sense of connection. This helps us connect with our own body. While it is true that some communities can be formed around shared beliefs and values that inhibit body awareness and empowerment, the invitation here is to choose relationships that support body sovereignty and care together.
Typically, our relationship with community, with each other as a wider human family, has been ruptured or compromised. While there was a rupture even before the global pandemic it was brought to a peak with COVID19 that has necessitated isolation and quarantine and intentionally distancing our bodies from other human bodies to slow the spread of the deadly disease. We therefore have not had the kind of social contact and connection that our mammalian bodies need for nervous system resourcing and co-regulation.
Whether in relationship to self or with others, touch is where physicality stops being a concept and starts getting real. Touch can be a literal point of connection between our body healing and our community healing. While hugging, snuggling and more overt contact with chosen family, friends, lovers are certainly a part of that, touch as a kinesthetic connector shows up in other ways as well. Maybe we carry a couch together to move it across a room. Maybe I hand you an onion to chop as we share time in the kitchen, preparing a meal for our friends. Maybe two people sit shoulder to shoulder to watch a performance, sharing space together. How do you experience touch in community?
The third foundational relationship is nature or earth, landscapes, animals, plants, mycelium, soil — the very planet we're on that we're interconnected with. Most of us have inherited a broken connection with earth. This adds another layer to the ruptured relationships with body and community, and connecting with the earth can also be a point of healing that benefits the other two.
Reclaiming our connection with the Earth and soil is so important to our well being. And by reclaiming, I mean remembering. It’s always there — in some ways it can’t be lost — yet we have gotten really good at ignoring our connection with the planet, even putting in place barriers to the most optimal flow. We wear rubber or hard soled shoes, and we spend a lot of time inside structures or on cement that isolate us from the energetic and physiological connection with the vital force of the planet. In losing this awareness and connection, we lose access to the vitality.
For me, the practice of getting my bare feet on the Earth daily while I was still living in corporate suburbs made a huge difference in my awareness and growth. I did this practice for several years, then opened into spending one day a week in nature. I also explored earth-connected indigenous practices and ceremonies such as vision questing. And along the way, a curious thing happened in my physical body practices: I shifted from intensely linear, goal-directed athletic pursuits like triathlon competitions into the more 360-degree, omnidirectional and relational awareness that aerial arts and acro yoga can offer. This shift illustrates how connecting with body, community and nature can work synergistically. Building my spiritual awareness in all these areas set the stage for my current work as well, a new piece of awareness that opened up about two years ago: connecting with my ancestors.
The fourth foundational relationship is that with our ancestors. Like the other areas, rebuilding our relationship with our ancestors is a path of connecting to spirit. However, because most of our ancestors are no longer as accessible as body, community, and nature, it may be more difficult to undertake this path until one first feels resourced with their connection with Spirit. This is an especially important vehicle for our ancestral healing. Yet, many of us come from lineages fragmented from intact culture or relationship with spirit as well as our bloodline ancestors. Myself included.
Some of my family had their way of connecting with spirit. To me it looked like religious dogma, and simply never resonated. I resisted it, pushed it away and rejected it. I rejected the idea of going to church, and I rejected my extended family. I didn’t like them nor did I feel like I fit in; why would I want to hang out with them?
What I'm coming to see now is that some of my family — my immediate ancestors — were more spiritually connected than I previously thought. I saw the religious dogma, but I couldn’t see past it.
It wasn’t until the past two years that my journey with the ancestors helped me see more clearly and find forgiveness and acknowledgement, that yes, there was true spirituality there. Framing their spiritual experience within inherited religious frameworks was the way many in my lineage were able to do their best, to be able to see in their lifetime. And it’s ok. We can clear and repair and complete unfinished business working with our ancestors, to free ourselves, and them, and support our collective liberation as a human family.
What do I mean by rebuilding intact relationship with “ancestors”?
For me and many of us who have felt disconnected with cultural or spiritual practices in our family, it may actually start with borrowed tradition and spiritual practices we connect with through teachers in this lifetime or through lineages that we may feel at home with because of our past lives. This can create a lovely sense of connection with the ancient ones as guides. While this “borrowing” needs to be tended to to honor the original peoples of the traditions(1), I believe the resourcing and wisdom gained from this helped me open my eyes to the next crucial piece of the ancestral healing needed: repair of my actual bloodlines.
As we who have inherited a broken culture seek healing in traditions that remain relatively intact, what I have come to understand — clearly, distinctly — is that it’s also really important to include rebuilding our relationship with our actual bloodline ancestors. How did our people relate to Source, to Spirit? How did they successfully negotiate maintaining the connection with Life? We all have access to that. Even if we feel like we don't.
This is important: We all have access to that collective vitality and wellness via our actual bloodlines, even if we feel like we don’t.
Thus, while many and varied traditions from around the world can help us build our spiritual connection, we can then bring the capacity we build to explore, heal, and access the vitality and wellness in our own ancestral bloodlines. And the good news is, just as in any community — in making this connection, we are not alone when faced with the heavy lifting this may require. We only need to do our part, and then we can rely and rest in the support of the ancestors.
Building these relationships through inner connection requires clear and strong boundaries, just like with the living. I am not suggesting torturing ourselves with relationships with bloodline ancestors that are harmful. Instead, it’s about meeting and tending to relationships with the really vibrant and well ones, and those in our bloodlines who best align with our healing intent. Often these guides are from 1500 or more years ago. Our most well-resourced, most intact ancestors see where we are today. They know what happened, and they want to help. We are, after all, their children.
As we repair our relationships with our bloodline ancestors, it feels like: “Ahhh… my people have my back!” There’s an accessibility, a power, a potency for everything else in our lives.
Spiritual practice is essential in this healing process. Just as with our relationship with community, body and nature, touch and physicality can also be a pathway to connect with the ancestors. The ancestors are the land, their bones returned to the Earth. What do we notice when we walk the lanes of our ancestral village? In 2015 I was encouraged by a very conscious health practitioner to return to the place of my grandparents and find forgiveness as a part of the journey of healing my gut. I was struck by the suggestion, yet resisted it or at least didn’t really pay it much attention at first. Several years later I actually did it, and it was crucial. Visiting the houses, the cemeteries, the land, the space that my ancestors lived, breathed, drank of the water, ate of the food, returned their bodies into the land… all these are acts of touch and contact. Some people will notice powerful sensations and even receive messages by holding an object that belonged to an ancestor.
In the cultures that maintain physical touch, physical community and physical communion with nature, people tend not to lose connections with their ancestors.
Ancestor healing is the leading growing edge for me right now, a new green shoot. It feels really important to recognize that this is happening now because of my 20-year journey of connecting with my own indigenous wisdom, my own body sense.
The word ‘indigenous’ gets confusing for some folk, especially those of us in white bodies whose ancestors came here from other lands. By ‘indigenous wisdom,’ I mean the inner wisdom we all have access to through our intact relationship with wellness in our bloodlines. Every human on this planet has a lineage that, if we go back far enough — and sometimes that may mean thousands of years — had intact relationship with the land and with collective wellness. And further, the more we connect with our own indigenous wisdom, the better the practices of any tradition (working with breath, sound, movement, touch, energetic practices etc) will work for us. Ultimately the truths and understandings we are accessing are our own.
Regardless of where we start: with the body, healing community, connecting with nature, or even with ancestors, healing happens as we meet and rebuild each of these foundations. While becoming aware of the multiplicity of breaks can feel daunting, the opportunity is to see that every break in the system can be seen as a point of effective focus in healing it. Just as fragmentation and loss can lead to further fragmentation, so too can the reintegration process build on itself. It’s a journey, a dance and flow. We can start anywhere.
Through this work we build capacity in our organism for meeting big energy. Whether that be the power of our sacred sexuality, feeling the depth of grief, meeting the discomfort of anti-racism and our collective liberation work, or simply remembering who we are, we are meeting big energy and building our resilience and capacity to be present for it and each other.
The conversation between us and our worlds is now open. Get curious about your relationships with your body, nature, community and ancestors. Feel into each one. Which of the four do you feel drawn to place your attention on next?
If you would like to explore ancestral healing work in more depth, see Daniel Foor’s work and his book Ancestral Medicine.
Also, Elisheva Simon Wolff, somatic practitioner who offers ancestral and cultural healing in service to collective liberation, has been an incredible resource for me personally as I have worked with ancestral healing.
I'm also happy to support you, please book a Discovery Call so I can support you into clarity on how to proceed, whether that is with me or other options, no further commitment is required or expected :-)
I am honored that this article has been published in the March 2022 issue of Body Mind Spirit Guide, read it here.
1 For me, this includes guides in the many traditions I have been blessed to learn from and resonate with but weren’t part of my family’s cultural teachings: Native American shamanism, Peruvian shamanism, tantric yoga, kundalini yoga, hatha yoga, Bon sect Tibetan Buddhism, Taoist sacred sexuality, and Egyptian sexual alchemy. I have deep gratitude for these teachings and the teachers I have learned them from. However, the work continues from there. If we rest only in a borrowed tradition, while ignoring our own need for repair, we risk cultural appropriation and continuing the harm that has been carried through our past generations. I now see this as an ongoing conversation, with no single answer. I am taking action to pay reparations and bring equitable relating such that I honor the original people of these traditional practices and healing modalities, as well as the work itself. And I also see that more is needed.