A Gift for our Ancestors

mini mushrooms

Mini Mushroom Family in Moss

Very little grows on jagged rock.
Be ground. Be crumbled,
so wildflowers will come up
where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.

~Rumi, excerpt from A Necessary Autumn Inside Each.

Stop trying to be somebody.

Just be whoever you are,

Mindfully sitting, walking, eating.

Just practice mindful awareness.

Don’t be concerned with being someone.

Because you are someone already,

Just as you are.

Who needs to be aware of this.

~William Menza

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Dear Friends,

It’s very important in our culture to be somebody. Not just anybody, but somebody who embodies our highest values, does brave things, transcends the past, someone we can be proud of. We are schooled from an early age, there are no limits to what we can accomplish if we put our minds to it. Relying upon ourselves, we can go wherever our dreams take us.…. That is so much responsibility. It is a huge burden to be faced with creating our life’s worth, as this small, single person…alone. Whatever we are is up to us. Talk about pressure, no wonder teens are stressed out and anxious.

What I am noticing is the spinning, twisting in the wind experience that people who are young, and those who are old, and those in between, experience as a feeling of separation. We are cut off at the roots. We do not have an ancestral lineage to hold us. We are up against the whole world. In the Plum Village Tradition, I learned a practice, called Touching the Earth. This involved prostrating to my ancestors. That means to bow and touch the Earth with gratitude for all my ancestors, including the Earth, the water, the sun, the air, all the conditions that gave me life and continue to do so.

I grew up in New England where we did not do much bowing, let alone, lying on the floor, or ground to show reverence, but this practice showed me a way to join with a larger presence and shifted my perception of who I am. I learned to bow with humility and thanks to my blood ancestors, the ones who gave me life. Thanking them for the beautiful qualities in myself and allowing the Earth to hold the energy of the not so beautiful qualities I inherited as well. My blood ancestors are still alive in me; I inherited their DNA, their traits and genetic material. I am their continuation. In this way, I see them alive in me right now.

I learned to bow and give my thanks and my regret to the Earth and all my land ancestors. The one’s who came before me, who cultivated the soil, the ones who fled from injustice, the ones who were exploited, the ones who were cruel and ignorant to indigenous people, or who were kind. I acknowledge the people I will never know, who make my existence possible, who lived in this place, this state, this country, with all their skills and weaknesses.

I touch the Earth for all my spiritual ancestors, the Buddha, my teachers, the lineage that goes back thousands of years, for my parents’ spiritual teachers, for Moses, and Jesus, Abraham, Mohammad, Allah, and God, who are all part of the stream of wisdom and love that manifests on Earth. When I do these practices, I am not a small separate self, a weak, little me, who needs to find their way in the world. I am a tsunami, a crashing wave of inevitability. I come from the depths of the universe and encompass the highest and best teachings of understanding; how can I be small? How can I be lost? When I touch my connection to my ancestors, I am found and there is no wandering, but a homecoming.

This week, I invite you to make an offering to your ancestors. Perhaps that will be a whispered, “thank you,” to a tall white pine, a letter of thanks to those who risked their lives to flee from a war, or a beautiful shell laid on your altar. This practice reminds us that we don’t need to craft a new identity. We don’t have to forge a future that is built on Teflon. We have deep roots. They are holding us to this Earth, to this body, this breath, to all those we love. We are connected in more ways than we can see. The universe is holding our place; it’s always been here, in the midst of those who love us and made this life for us, with their lives.

May we all trust our light,


Ancestor quote


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