It’s that this time of year - when the days are getting shorter and there is one holiday after another - can bring up a lot for folks, especially around family.

Let me tell you a little bit about my father before he was a father. He was a young man leaving his town in Northern India to cross Afghanistan on foot, wind up in Iran where he was held hostage when the Shah fell only to escape in the middle of the night and go to Italy to shovel elephant dung in circuses. This is, of course, was all before he traveled around the world doing manual labor on a cargo ship, eventually landing in the US and getting off the ship without documents. He was and still is a person of conviction, justice, creativity, adventure and curiosity. Yes, the lives of our parents before they were our parents. When they were human. The humanness of our families. 

I am bringing up my dad today because he has taught me a lot about ancestral healing, by inviting me to do my part in this love work. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

〰️ Spaciousness. Sometimes, we need physical space from our families. Sometimes we have family members who we don’t feel safe around and part of the healing is actually honoring our wellness by not being in contact with them. Sometimes space looks like saying “no” to our families.

And sometimes we need a different kind of space - rather, spaciousness. To give the kind of space that allows our family members to be human, allows us to see a panoramic view of them, allows us to understand them a little more. My relationship with my dad has helped to give this to me - spaciousness.

〰️ Releasing. Before being able to be in right relationship with our families, it’s so important to just be real. Real with where we are at, real with our emotions, real with whatever hurts we are still carrying. 

This is where support is really beautiful - especially from a practitioner who can hold the container for this kind of work. Releasing can look like many things, but it is moving emotions out of the body so that they don’t stagnate there, eventually leading to physical disease.

〰️ Nourishing our Roots. Chinese medicine (my South Asian ancestors would agree, I’m sure) says that if we are trees, then our ancestors are our roots. Practicing gratitude to our ancestors (including parents), is a powerful way of nourishing our roots. 

This is not an easy practice for many people! So start small. My teacher says that even if you can find one quality of beauty in your parents, hold onto this. Maybe write it on a card and put it on an altar. Maybe connect with the energy of this quality and feel how it’s a positive inheritance that shows up in you. Whatever it is, the intention is to hold gratitude for this and eventually for them.

Maybe there’s absolutely nothing you can see worth celebrating in your parent / caregiver. In this case, connect with an ancestor, elder or mentor who does elicit good feelings and do the same practice. This is also a way to nourish our roots. 

〰️ Be Tender with Yourself. We are the living expressions of our ancestors. One of the best ways we can honor them is by honoring ourselves. We get to end repeated cycles of wounding. We get to be tender with ourselves, essentially tender with our ancestors. This is deep work. Go slow. Be gentle. Keep going.