Scientific study has shown that we inherit across generations, not only through our psyches, but deep in our genetic makeup. Our genes are literally shaped by the experiences of our grandparents. Chew on that for awhile. Reflect on your grandparents’ lives. Are any of them survivors of war? Of childhood neglect? Of sexual assault? What might you be carrying in your body as their legacy? What fears have you consciously or unconsciously inherited?
In his book on fear, Zen monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh shares a meditation to help us heal our ancestral wounds. Much like the Monster Party, his practice helps us find peace through unconditional love and acceptance of our deepest fears. This exercise comes very early in his book, suggesting that before we even begin working on our inner demons, we must come to terms with those that haunted us in our childhood, and haunted our predecessors long before we were even born.
The meditation addresses our ancestors in unconditional love, and encourages us to regard them as fully human: no more nor less deserving of loving kindness than the rest of us. The intention is to make peace with our ancestors and accept them fully, so that we can then come to full acceptance of ourselves.
It is important to note that by “ancestors” Hanh refers not only to our blood kin, but to our spiritual ancestors as well. We cultivate compassion for our ancestors by recognizing that they, too, suffered and did their best, just as we suffer and do our best day to day.
Below I share Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation for healing the ancestral line and also a question set to adapt the basic ancestor meditation for receiving guidance around fear. You can do either as a standalone practice, or link one to the other (in any order). Or, alternatively, you can use the process of balancing between heaven and earth to lead you into the second meditation.
HEALING THE ANCESTRAL LINE
Turn inward. Visualize your ancestors within your body, mind, and soul. Feel all their aspects, “good” and “bad” alike. Open your heart to them fully.
Dear ancestors, I am you, with all your strengths and weaknesses. I see you have negative and positive seeds. I understand that you have been lucky and that good seeds like kindness, compassion, and fearlessness were watered in you. I also understand that if you were not lucky and negative seeds like fear, greed, and jealousy were watered in you, then the positive seeds did not have a chance to grow.
RECEIVING GUIDANCE FROM YOUR ANCESTORS
- What is the truth about my greatest fear (or name a specific fear).
- What stands in the way between me and my goal?
- What fear am I ready to face?
- How can I best cultivate a fearless heart?
- Ask a question of your own choosing.