Caring for Our Ancestors, Ourselves, and Our World

Rachel’s Great-Great-Grandparents’ Extended Family,
refugees from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Toronto, Canada, 1918

Caring for Our Ancestors, Ourselves, and Our World

Discussion date: Thu, Aug 27, 2020 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
August 27, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
August 28, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

My ancestors have been very present for me recently. As I sit with the upheaval and uncertainty of this global pandemic, I’ve found myself wondering about the changes and challenges my forbearers lived through. As I strive to fight racism in myself and in the world, I’ve begun to look deeply into the nature of whiteness that I’ve inherited from those who came before me. It has been important for me to explore how my family went from old-world farmers and merchants to being part of an American culture defined by white supremacy, with both all of the privileges that it afforded them and the sacrifices to their history and traditions it cost them.

As a child, it was hard to for me to detect any evidence of their Eastern European Jewish linage in my grandparent’s ample and immaculate Long Island home. Gone was nearly every trace of the language, religion, or traditions their parents had brought to this country just a generation earlier. Only upon reflection does it occur to me what a head-spinning transition it must have been. They were born to immigrant families in crowded tenements, and as adults realized the American dream in a suburban home, complete with a Cadillac and country club membership. While it has always been easy for me to see all the privileges my grandparents had, I’m only beginning to recognize the connections, culture, and sense of belonging they may have lacked or longed for.

I used to see my ancestors as very separate from me – almost as if they were characters in a book that I had been randomly assigned to read. Slowly, through the practice of mindfulness, I‘ve begun to recognize the ways in which they are very alive in me. I now see myself as a river, and my ancestors are like tributaries that flow into me. And like garbage from a stream that shows up in the river it feeds, I have become aware of the history of pain and privilege that resides in me.

It is helpful for me to notice that I did not ask for any of the conditions around me or the emotional patterns that I have inherited from my ancestors. Neither did they. But I do have a choice about how I respond. When I can be open, gentle, and curious, I notice that I am more able to see their strength and their suffering, as well as their challenges and failings. I can take care of both the pride and shame that arise in me, and make an effort to nourish only those seeds I want to plant for future generations.

I hope you can join us Thursday or Friday evening as we address our relationships with our ancestors. We will begin our Dharma sharing with these questions:

  • What shows up for you when you consider your ancestors?
  • Are there times when you feel more, or less, connected to your roots?
  • How do you work to transform your relationship with your ancestors, or to transform their unhelpful seeds in you?

Below is a gatha and meditation  from Thich Nhat Hanh for considering our ancestors.

Warm wishes,

Rachel


Enjoying Lunch in the Historical Dimension
From Cultivating the Mind of Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Enjoying lunch in the historical dimension,

I feed all generations of ancestors

and all future generations.

Together, we will find our way.

 

Healing the Ancestral Heart: A Meditation

Breathing In, I enjoy my in-breath.

Breathing out, I enjoy my out-breath.

Enjoying In-breath.

Enjoying Out-breath.

Breathing In, I become mindful of my heart beating, sending blood and new oxygen to every part of my body.

Breathing out, I smile to this life, flowing inside me

Aware of heart beating

Smiling to life flowing through me

Breathing In, I feel my in-breath bringing life to every cell of my body

Breathing out, I feel my out-breath deepening my awareness of being alive

In-breath, bringing life to every cell

Out-breath, deepening my being alive

Breathing In, I know that my heart beating is also the heart of my ancestors, with all their dreams, joy, happiness, strength and courage

Breathing out, I am determined to continue to nourish this heart for them and for me

My heart, the heart of my ancestors

Determined to continue their joy, courage and strength

Breathing In, I know that my heart beating is also the heart of my ancestors, with all their fears, sadness, hunger, anger, hatred and discrimination

Breathing out, I am determined to practice to transform the afflictions of my ancestors in my own heart

My heart, the heart of my ancestors

Determined to transform their afflictions

Breathing in, I am aware of the very many hearts beating in this room right now, bringing life, blood and oxygen to many parts of the many bodies here.

Breathing out, I smile to this life flowing all around me

Aware of very many hearts around

Smiling to life flowing all around me

Breathing in, I am aware that all these hearts are the hearts of many ancestors, with their joy, dreams and suffering

Breathing out, I am determined to learn to embrace, accept and love all the people around me

Hearts around, the hearts of many ancestors

Determined to embrace, accept and love

Breathing in, I am aware of the Heart of the Earth under and all around me, beating in the trees, rocks, grass, water, birds…

Breathing out, I take refuge in the Heart of the Earth, in Her Love, Strength, Forbearance and Creativity, always bringing forth new life.

Aware of the Heart of the Earth

Taking refuge in the Earth

 

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Aug 27, 2020


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