Ancestral healing is a challenging but powerful practice. Learn four ways to access this practice in your own life.
The topics of ancestors, family trees, and lineage are ones that Westerners often don’t understand very well. Many of us raised in the West weren’t brought up to think about our place in a living lineage, or to consider how the land where our ancestors lived for generations is a part of our energy and our spirit.
We don’t only get eye and hair color passed down to us: we get everything associated with our ancestors. The lives of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are connected to who we are because they live through us. In Indigenous cultures, ancestors, family trees, and the life events of our ancestors are vital to who we become; they affect our mental health, emotions, perceptions, and overall sense of happiness and wellbeing.
How to Begin the Process of Ancestral Healing
There is a collective movement in our society today to understand who we are and where we come from. The skyrocketing popularity of DNA testing through various ancestry websites has become a worldwide phenomenon that just keeps growing.
Recent discoveries in science and the field of epigenetics reveal just how much the lives of our ancestors affect us today. People are making important discoveries about their ancestors, yet many don’t know what to do or how to process this new information as it pertains to their spiritual path.
We begin by understanding that we are all a part of a living lineage, and that we all have habits, beliefs, and tendencies associated with this living lineage. Understanding where we come from is important information for us to know because it can help us understand our personal suffering in an entirely new way.
As a teacher and shamanic healer, I have witnessed and experienced the pain that comes from feeling lost, misguided, abandoned, and without direction. I have also discovered that through ancestral healing and connecting to our ancestors, we can begin to feel a deep sense of inner peace, wholeness, and restored power.
Here are some ways in which we can begin the process of ancestral healing.
Connecting: Understanding Who They Were
To foster ancestral healing, it’s important to invite our ancestors into our hearts. In deep meditation and prayer we can begin to form bonds and make connections. It’s important to know where your people are from, what languages they spoke, and what cultures they were immersed in.
Sometimes, we must travel back to our homeland, country (or countries) of origin, family land, or a burial ground to open our hearts and to become more receptive. This is the beginning of building strong connections with your ancestors. You may have to go way back in your family tree many generations to feel this connection.
In the Western world, we often act as if we just appeared here on Earth with no deeper connections. We often believe that everything we do is for ourselves alone, and that our lives aren’t connected to past and future generations. But this isn't the way things are, especially not in Indigenous and shamanic traditions. We have much to learn about interdependence and how each generation is connected like an interwoven tapestry.
Listening: To Listen Means to Honor
We open the healing channel through deep listening. For those of us who can listen and those of us who can hear, our ancestors are always trying to communicate with us. Try to be open to your ancestors’ guidance. By listening and honoring them, we can also receive their protection and emotional support.
Our ancestors have important stories, messages, and gifts for us. We can begin to communicate with them by acknowledging their existence. We can begin to build relationships with them, which is beneficial to our own healing process. We can make offerings to our ancestors in the forms of food and flowers.
In meditation, practice envisioning yourself sitting in a sacred circle where all your ancestors are consciously invited to enter. Please don't doubt that they can hear you, because they can. When we are truly ready, we will learn how to hear them.
Forgiveness: We Commit to Making Things Right
Our ancestors are alive within us and around us, and we can begin to honor them by doing work on their behalf. Our ancestors are a part of our karma, and we inherit everything from their mental programming and beliefs to their spiritual debts and wounds, just as we pass that on to the generations after us.
We must begin the forgiveness process for those who have hurt our lineage and we must do forgiveness work for painful actions our ancestors have done. Sometimes we must repay debts, speak truths, and set old records straight as a form of spiritual reparations. Forgiveness work allows us to clear discordant energies and can bring great peace to our minds and bodies.
Collaborating: Working Together for the Good of the Family Tree
We are fulfilling our ancestors’ dreams, and our healing is their healing. As we visualize sitting in a sacred circle with our people, we begin receiving and sending healing energy. As we send healing energy to the roots of our family tree, we become the family tree. We can guide the healing process by bringing light, love, and forgiveness through the roots and branches, cleansing away deep ancestral wounds. We always begin and end with giving thanks and gratitude for everything we have received. We are collaborating with our ancestors, and we honor that work.
In Maya Angelou's poem “Our Grandmothers,” when she writes, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000,” she is referring to her ancestors. Whether we realize it or not, we are never alone. The spirit world is alive, and so are our ancestors. Maya Angelou felt the support of 10,000 ancestors standing with her. It’s one of the reasons she was so incredibly powerful. Each of us has important work to do, and healing our ancestral lineages will be of great benefit to us and future generations.
One day we will become ancestors—it’s time to consider the legacy we want to pass on.