I had the utmost pleasure of taking several workshops by Indu Arora at the Minneapolis Yoga Conference. I always learn so much whenever she’s the presenter! And everyone who follows her workshops feels the same way—we all talk about how much we love and adore her! We are all huge fans of this amazing woman!
Her “Ratricharya” workshop—10 steps of Ayurvedic Night Routine was excellent! One of the many things she suggested doing to prepare you for sleep is a Yoga Nidra practice (Yogic Sleep) at night and that includes a “Sankalpa” or intention/resolve of heart and mind. Your Sankalpa is made with a one-pointed resolve to focus on a specific goal and it’s meant to be a noble goal that could possibly serve as a lifetime goal. It’s not just for light-hearted goals.
Since I’m in between Level 1 and Level 2 of Indu’s Yoga Nidra training, I have been practicing Yoga Nidra as part of my studies. I decided to use my Sankalpa last night before bed as I drifted off to sleep. I’m looking for “my one thing”. What is it I’m called to do—the one thing that will move my business forward? How do I get unstuck?
Last night’s dreams were like a mini-tutorial on the status of my mind and steps I could take to become unstuck:
At one point I was in line preparing to purchase an overflowing bag of what appeared to be very ornate “tacks” with beveled tips that appeared to be solid silver. In the dream, I knew that these tacks were meant for a whole other purpose than I was intending them for. Their purpose was so exquisite that most would use only one or two of them and even engrave their names upon them (my “one thing”). That’s how very special and expensive they were. They were held in the highest esteem by those who used them for a very special occasion. And here I was purchasing an overflowing bag full!
As I awoke, I realized this is my usual “M.O.”—“If a little’s good, a LOT must be better!” Well it’s not. I don’t need to acquire any more skills. I don’t need to have one more tiddlywink or doo-dad to work with. Stop the madness! I also need to focus on an “exquisite”, one-pointed goal in my business and then break that down into my daily activities. What is it I want to “tack” onto the vision board of my life? I need to choose my “one thing” and put my thumbprint on it to make it uniquely mine—to engrave my name on it. I spread myself a bit thin and many days never get to the one thing I wanted to accomplish. And my business offerings might need to be pared down as well. Less is more. The shotgun approach never worked for anyone. While I innately knew this, my dream was reminding me it was something I urgently needed to attend to.
Next I was back at an old corporate job and was moving things around in my office. My office had just been moved and I was rearranging this and that, looking at my phone monitor to see that there were customer messages blinking at me that I had to attend to, clearing away papers into a file, etc. In the dream my boss and her boss were walking around in the area and I chose NOT to be concerned with what they may or may not think about my activity. I resisted the urge to jump on the phone and appear to be in the heat of making sales calls. I had a job I started to do and was going to finish it without feeling judged upon—at least that’s what I was attempting to tell myself. Worrying about other’s opinions has always been a thing for me. But in this dream I did pretty good sticking to the project I had already started. So glass half full. Perhaps the dream was saying, “You put on a good front, but the inadequate feeling is still there. Work on it!”
Still in that office setting, I was having trouble getting my rolling office chair up to the desk. It kept bumping into an obstacle under the carpet that acted like a brake. Without the ability to get my chair where it needed to be, I couldn’t function. I pushed this way and that—No luck. I was getting frustrated but kept working around it trying to figure out what to do. Suddenly in the dream I realized the obstacle was from the previous old arrangement of furniture and all I needed to do was remove whatever that bump/obstacle was under the carpet. It no longer needed to be there and I wasn’t seeing that there was no need to keep it around.
“Doesn’t that sound just like me?” I thought as I awoke and analyzed my dream. Many of the obstacles to what I need to accomplish are unnecessary and remain from a past arrangement/condition/belief. I might go so far as to say that a good majority of the “obstacles” I experience are my thoughts about what I can or can’t do—my worthiness so to speak. I need to remove them. They are no longer necessary and are hindering me from my goal.
Many times when I’ve asked a question over and over just before I fall asleep, I’ll get some sort of response between sleep and awake. I’ve written about this before. It was how I named my business, Better Day Yoga, back in 2009 after I’d been teaching for over a year. It’s a fun memory. The messages come in a strange vernacular that always tells me exactly what I need to know in the most unique way that many times only I’d be able to interpret. Sometimes it’s like I’m reading headlines off a newsreel in my mind.
Last night’s “dream tutorial” highlighted areas I need to work on and the wisdom of the presentation has me in awe. In ancient civilizations, dreams were considered messages from the heavens and the shaman would share their dream messages around the campfire to an eager audience. I, too, consider my dream last night a message from the Universe; or perhaps, a kick in the pants to get busy! “Sweet dreams”.
Indu and I after the workshop
A couple of days ago, one of my mentors, Indu Arora, posted about “Nava-Ratri”. She started her post saying that “In Vedic Texts, the feminine is celebrated in many divine forms and one of them is Durga. Four times a year there are nine days and nights which are considered to be filled with nine forms of divine energy each of them symbolizing a form of Durga.”
So I’ve been dwelling on “Divine forms of energy”. Along with the Blessed Virgin Mary (my mantra in my morning meditation is the “Hail Mary”/ “Ave Maria” salutation), I believe Quan Yin, Tara, Athena, White Buffalo Woman, Lakshmi, and yes Isis, among others, all embody the “Divine Mother”—the loving, nurturing, magical healing energy. I believe they are different representations of the same energy and embody different forms so they’ll appear in the correct form for you to accept. We are only open to that which we believe in—yes? So why wouldn’t “Divine Mother” energy embody many forms for all the world to appreciate?
Today I realized these many forms of Divine Energy are not that unfamiliar to this Catholic girl. They have roots in my history. Marion apparitions have influenced the Catholic Church and the lives of millions of Roman Catholics for thousands of years. These supernatural appearances sometimes appear to an individual or a few people a majority of the time, and sometimes to thousands of people over a period of time. Some of the apparitions have even received a “Canonical coronation” from the Pope, crowning the holy image. These Divine apparitions of Mary are often named after the town where it is reported, such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe; and my Polish heritage Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa. Other times, the Divine image is given a “nickname” of sorts calling out what her appearance is most noted for in that instance, like Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.
I grew up with a childhood book about Saint Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes. Sadly, I didn’t take it with me as an adult on my own. So it’s lost (but I just ordered what I hope to be an old copy of the same book!). I read that book over and over and over. I was enamored with Saint Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes. This is a prayer card I own:
I’ve written about Quan Yin and The Virgin Mary before (reposted in the post below this one). Fairly recently I realized that not only do I consider Quan Yin and Mary of the same Divine Energy, but Our Lady of Lourdes is the version of Divine Energy I associate with Quan Yin because they both have a water element. As I pray my Hail Mary’s and the mantra associated with Quan Yin, “Om Mani Padme Hum” (which means “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus”), I envision them both pouring their water over me as well as my husband when I share Reiki with him. We had a wedding day photo taken at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes at the University of Notre Dame in my home town. As my regular readers know, this grotto has a special place in my heart because my dad worked at Notre Dame when he first immigrated to America after WWII. He helped with the stonework on the grotto. So I find my visualization of water pouring over us very protective and comforting.
I also had two Miraculous Medals growing up. One of which I still have—I gifted the other to a friend in need. Catherine Labouré and the story of the Miraculous Medal became another one of my favorite stories. Another prayer card is pictured here:
We visited the Jasna Góra Monastery in Czestochowa when we went to Poland on our first trip there and purchased the framed picture below. The image of the “Black Madonna” also known as Our Lady of Czestochowa, is considered to have miraculous powers and is shrouded in numerous legends which trace the icon’s origin to St. Luke who painted it on a cedar table top from the house of the Holy Family.
During our wedding ceremony we were gifted a framed picutre of another artist’s version of Our Lady of Czestochowa by the priest that married us, Father Steven Avella. At our wedding, he said he felt like the Pope at the time, Pope John Paul II. The Pope was Polish and surrounded by Italians. He was Italian and surrounded by Poles at our wedding. (My husband and I are both 100% Polish as were many of our guests!)
As we celebrate the first day of spring and Easter approaches, I’m reminded of the many flowers associated with the appearances of the Blessed Virgin. The rose has symbolized Mary since the earliest times of the Church. Our Lady of Guadalupe is associated with the “Miracle of Roses”.
Another flower associated with Mary is the lily, sometimes called the “Madonna Lilly”, which is often depicted in paintings of the Madonna and often seen during the Easter season when they represent the Resurrection of Christ. For those who may be unsure of my “Goddess” association the Catholic religion and Mary, let me remind that the name for “Easter”, Christianity’s most important holiday, comes from the pre-Christian Goddess Eostre, Ostara or “Eastre” who was celebrated at the beginning of spring.
How do you connect with the Divine? What are your rituals? How do you make your beliefs come alive and meaningful? This is my meditation. This is my way.
Each week I write about what the Universe brings to my attention. This morning as I awoke, my gaze landed on one of my favorite photos of a Quan Yin statue taken just outside Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, AZ. The photo is nestled in the mirror of my bedroom dresser and appears just behind one of my favorite statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary—a statue given to me by my mom. Their close proximity to each other is no accident. Their similar coloring (See photo below) practically screamed that I position them near each other. Also, I consider Quan Yin the “Asian equivalent of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.
Quan Yin is a bodhisattva, meaning she is eligible for Buddhahood. Yet she’s vowed to stay near Earth until all beings are enlightened. In Sanskrit, her name is Padma-pâni, or “Born of the Lotus. Many think of her as the Buddahist Madonna. She is known as the Goddess of Compassion who hears the cries of the world—a trait also associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I was dwelling on this topic, among others, as I was preparing lunch today. I thought perhaps I should save this topic for my newsletter and turn it into a whole focus—adding crystals, colors and wild life associated with Quan Yin.
While eating lunch, I tuned into a favorite television show that happened to be on and in the background was a statue of Quan Yin in a park area. That was my sign! Then as I was in the middle of writing this I received an e-zine that contained a story entitled “Crystals and healing in the Buddhist Tradition“. It mentions the mantra associated with Quan Yin: “Om Mani Padme Hum”, which means “Hail to the jewel in the lotus flower”—a prayer I have on my desk next to a Quan Yin statue—and also mentions Jade as a stone considered sacred to Quan Yin. Second sign!
I’ve written about Quan Yin before. Simply looking at her image has always made me feel peaceful and protected, even as a child before I knew more about her. I’d never questioned the beginnings of my Quan Yin attraction. It was just “there”, until I made the connection…
A kind lady in Shakti’s Books & Gifts in Madison, WI asked me if I knew who the beautiful Asian lady was on the necklace she was contemplating and I started to share with her what I knew. It was when I mentioned that I’d read Quan Yin was considered the Asian equivalent of the Blessed Virgin Mary, both embodying “Divine Mother” energy, that a childhood memory hit me like a ton of bricks.
I remembered we had an Asian lady statue/lamp in my childhood home. Looking back, I’m fairly certain it was Quan Yin, but I didn’t know that at the time. I made the connection as I spoke to the kind lady in Shakti’s Books & Gifts. I was in awe of this statue. My siblings, ever ready to tease me incessantly, knew this and instilled a smidgen of anticipation in me by suggesting that if I watched her intently enough (which I always did), she’d open her eyes. I felt as though she was watching over our whole household. Finding out she was probably the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion was simply an added bonus.
I connect with the “Divine Mother” each morning through my morning meditation mantra—the “Hail Mary”/ “Ave Maria” salutation. Along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, I believe Quan Yin, Tara, Athena, White Buffalo Woman, Lakshmi, and Isis, among others, all embody the “Divine Mother”—the loving, nurturing, magical healing energy. I believe they are different representations of the same energy and embody different forms so they’ll appear in the correct form for you to accept. We are only open to that which we believe in—yes? So why wouldn’t “Divine Mother” energy embody many forms for all the world to appreciate? “Hail to the jewel in the lotus flower” resonates “Hail Mary full of grace” and both prayers bring me peace.
This post was originally posted March 6, 2013 on a Prana Pages blog I shared with a colleague. That blog has been discontinued so I am reposting some of them as I have time.
My mom lost her mom to pneumonia when she was only 13 and was auctioned off as a prisoner of war to a German farmer during WWII when she was only 18. She never saw her family again after the war. My parents met in a displaced persons camp and immigrated to the U.S. on March 11, 1950—68 years ago. My mom’s dad died in 1968 after she’d already been in the U.S. for eighteen years, trying to make a life for her growing family of five children. She received a letter from her step-mom bearing the news of her dad’s passing. I remember she cried all day.
Several years later she purchased a set of statues depicting an elderly couple. The grandfatherly figure of the pair was a shoemaker busily making shoes as the grandmotherly figure peeled potatoes. She shared that the statues reminded her of her parents—in particular, the shoemaker because my grandfather was a shoemaker. I was in my early teens when she purchased the statues and I grew to treasure them. I’d never met any of my grandparents nor were there any photos of them that I’d ever seen. So this was my only tactile piece to “remember” them by. This my mother knew. I mentioned my admiration for them often.
My mom passed away at 62 in 1987 with stomach cancer that spread to her lungs—which we didn’t know until the autopsy, but that’s for another story. My dad moved from the house they last shared into another one not too far away for a few years, and then he decided to move to Florida (from Indiana) permanently in the early 1990s. Just prior to moving, he got the idea from one of my older sisters to auction off his household belongings so he wouldn’t have to move them all; and he could start fresh in Florida. My sister had done something similar a few years prior with her possessions. It brought in some good money and helped clear the slate without a lot of hassle clearing out old stuff. That appealed to dad.
Not wanting to keep any extra cash from my dad, when he asked us to pick out what we wanted from the family house, I only chose a few precious pieces—some mugs I’d bought mom and dad with Polish endearments on them, a few nick knacks including a bright red candle base I thought I’d use for Christmas, and the elderly couple statue set. Two grocery bags contained the items I chose.
My husband and I lived five hours away in Madison, WI at the time. We were expecting his sister and boyfriend up for a visit the following weekend. So when we got home with our bags filled with memories, I put them aside to prepare our house for company.
It was a day or so into his sister’s visit when I had a brief moment and decided to pull out the statues and rinse off the dust in the kitchen sink. As I turned them over I saw my mom’s handwriting in ink on the bottom of the statues. She wrote fluently in Polish and spoke fluently in English, but she wrote phonetically in English. There on the bottom of each of the statues was written: “To Sandy ‘Lov’ Mom 1979”.
I burst into tears. I had no idea she had earmarked them this way for me. Needless to say, they are now one of my most prized possessions—a message from mom written to me eight years before she passed. You never know when you’ll hear from your loved ones. You may not know what messages they’re trying to send. Turn over your statues.
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation from “The Power of Shamanism” presented by Sounds True®. The speaker was Julie Kramer and her topic was “Sacred Stewardship: Tending to Your Home in Partnership with the Unseen World”. There were many points that made me smile about this presentation, not the least of which was one of her meditations focusing on the more subtle energies such as “sprites” or wee folk in or near your household. I had decided upon this webinar over a couple others presented for the day strictly because of the “unseen world” element (see my last post referencing my own fairy sighting some years ago involving a house fairy.)
During my Level 1 Yoga Nidra training with Indu Arora last month, I learned that “Yoga Nidra”, in addition to being the practice, is also a goddess represented by the night or lunar energy. Ancient texts used poetry to honor the beauty, strength and power of the nourishing, protecting Goddess that is Yoga Nidra. We literally complete the Yoga Nidra practice with a moon shower. We visualize the moon shining down over us, filling us so full that the moon energy shoots out of our fingers and our toes.
Yoga Nidra puts you in a highly regenerative meditative state. This state helps to support your immune system and increases your resilience and emotional balance. In Yoga Nidra we create a “sankalpa” or intention that is directly in line with what we would like to manifest over a lifetime.
In Julie’s “Sacred Stewardship” webinar, she led us through a visualization dropping down into the earth far enough to where no human being had been and then sensing how the energy of that depth and place felt. We were then to imagine infusing this earth energy into our being, sensing how it made us feel—how it affected our energy and well-being. We then visualized infusing this earth energy up into our home via a hose, filling up every nook and cranny of our home with this healing earth energy and noticing how this energy made us feel and made our house feel—how “animated” this energy made us feel.
The next meditation complimented the earth energy meditation and focused on the moon. We imagined pulling the energy of the moon down into our bodies, filling us up. Then we visualized infusing the moon energy into our homes as we did with the earth energy, filling every nook and cranny. Only this time the energy was meant to cleanse away the unnecessary energy not needed or wanted in the home. Again we were to notice how “animated” this energy wash made us feel—how alive.
I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in using the moon shower in our Yoga Nidra practice to the Shaman practice. The ancients used the energy of the Universe in similar ways. There is only one moon—yet these two practices from different histories and philosophies chose to use a moon shower ritual.
I often use new moons to empower a time of growth in my chosen affirmations and intentions—as did our forefathers before. My in-laws used the new moon to plant potatoes. It is considered a time of new beginnings. The full moon is a time of completion and fulfillment. So I ask my yoga students, “What are you done with?” The moon affects the tides of the ocean. Why would it not affect the energy in our bodies which contain a large percentage of water? Why not use the energy of the moon to magnify your chosen purpose and resilience?
There are numerous spiritual beliefs and practices that use the moon. Many depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, show her standing on a crescent moon. Easter’s date is determined by the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. Noticing the similarities in the use of moon energy left me with a sense of connectedness to a spirituality with no labels, only the moon energy being used for our greater good.
“I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me.”
(Photo of the art on my pullover purchased over 20 years ago now at an art show in Wayzata, MN)
There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day that brings with it the magic of the leprechaun. I have had a love affair with the wee folk since I can remember. I truly believe in magic and I know that belief allows my life to BE magical. Why would the magic come visit someone who doesn’t believe? You’re only open to receiving what you believe in and by the belief, you invite the magic of it in. Energy goes where attention goes, right? If you’re not aware of the energy, it will go by unnoticed. (As an aside, when you listen to your body’s messages, during your yoga practice, by tuning into the subtle body, you are exercising the intuitive muscles that allow you to be receptive to subtle energy, a.k.a magical energies. Interesting, isn’t it?)
I recently brought up my affinity for elves, fairies, and all things magical with my hairdresser. I think we were talking about spirituality and beliefs at one point and then as she came back after whipping up my hair color, I shared my new Instagram artist find: @theworldofjamesbrowne. His art focuses on magical beings, elves, gnomes, the man in the moon, mermaids, tree spirits—you name it. His work melts my heart. Who knew I had a kindred soul in my hairdresser who also had an affection toward the wee folk? Come on, you know you want to believe. Just let it happen. It won’t hurt. There’s a huge market for adults who follow Harry Potter books, Avator movies and the like. So you’re not alone. Judging by James Browne’s 38.6k followers, I suspect there’s more than a few of us out there.
When my hairdresser and I got to talking about magical beings, I shared the joy of finding my old childhood Golden Book of “Fairies and Elves” online some years ago and how I was brought to immediate tears when I received it in the mail and opened it. There within the pages were all my old friends waiting to mesmerize me as they had in years past. I knew every centimeter of that book’s art as though I were still the same child engaged in a trance as I gazed upon its pages. It carried me right back to my childhood. My husband knew to leave me alone in my reverie and when he heard me whimpering a bit later, he asked from the other room if I was okay. I mumbled through tears, “I’m reading about the magic slippers.”
Well, I must have triggered my hairdresser’s inner child too because while my color was “setting”, she found the book on eBay and ordered it! The whimsical belief in all things magical is contagious! I dare you to look up James Browne’s art and not be drawn into his world of awe and wonder. The illustrator from my childhood book, Garth Williams passed away in 1996. I just read he was the Stuart Little illustrator—another beloved book. James Browne’s art leads me down the infamous rabbit hole in much the same way as Garth’s illustrations do; and for that, I am so very grateful. We all need to visit that world more often. I know I do. How about you?
Since I trust my hairdresser implicitly, I also shared my fairy-sighting story. I wrote about it here. That post goes over all of my favorite magical movies too. I hope they’ll instill some magical moments.
So as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, be open to believing. Let the whimsy take you back to a time in childhood when magical elves and fairies were your confidants, when the moon smiled back at you with a wink and a nod, and when anything was possible. Happy St. Patty’s Day!
I have the honor and privilege of participating at the Women Veteran’s Conference again this year! I will be teaching a yoga class vs. exhibiting this year!
Sat, May 26, 2018
7:30 AM – 5:00 PM CDT
Ramada Plymouth Hotel and Conference Center
2705 Annapolis Lane North
Plymouth, MN 55441
We are honored to host retired US Army Brigadier General Pat Foote as the keynote speaker. We will also offer a variety of informative breakout sessions including VA Healthcare/VA Benefits, yoga and holistic therapy. Breakfast and Lunch will also be available for free.
One of the projects featured is the ‘I’m Not Invisible” campaign, an awareness campaign designed to honor our women veterans and educate the public about some of the unique challenges women veterans face when they come back from their service. Now they are ready to unveil the campaign to the public, with a portrait exhibit featuring 33 of Minnesota’s women veterans and a multimedia PSA campaign.
Please join us, INVITE ANOTHER WOMAN VETERAN. Click here to register.
Two nights ago, my husband and I watched a Hallmark Christmas movie about Reindeer Lodge. Reindeers were hailed as a sign of true love. I’ve read they are also a sign of positive things coming into your life like new beginnings, good news, and even new love. They remind you that you have the ability to achieve whatever you want as long as you come from the heart. (Source: http://dreamstop.com/reindeer-dream-symbol/ )
I’ve always found flying reindeer to be as magical as those depicted in so many Christmas films. We own two magical prints that we display during the Christmas season. This year the one entitled “Earth Magic” has fallen off the wall twice now….reread that. “Earth Magic has fallen to the earth” as if to say “I’m bringing magic to the earth this time of year”. The other one entitled “Caribou Moon” also fell once—probably around the time of the recent full moon now that I think about it. Why they fell isn’t as important as the fact that they fell. They make a stunning presence on our wall but this year they are making a statement I think we all need to hear.
Did you know that reindeer used to be plentiful further south across the world in ancient times and in the U.S. as far south as Nevada and Tennessee? There’s more: “Throughout the grasslands of northern Mongolia and southern Siberia are planted hundreds of stone pillars, ranging from three to fifteen feet tall, with carvings that seem to show reindeer in flight. The stones have been dated to approximately 3000 years ago. The Reindeer and its association with the sun is an important element in Siberian Shamanism.
That is interesting on its own, but what’s even more intriguing is that, because of climate change, at the time these stones were carved, it had been a thousand years since actual reindeer lived in that local landscape. The people who carved these flying reindeer on the stone pillars had likely never seen a reindeer.” (Source: http://www.drummingthesoulawake.com/blog/reindeer-in-the-dna-of-the-land)
Flying reindeer are part of actual history? How cool is that?! I like to think they did see them or at least believed in the stories told of them by their ancestors. Who’s to say?
How much magic have we overlooked thinking we need facts? The solstice is tomorrow celebrating the darkness as we wait in anticipation for the return of the light. Be open to the magic this time of year. Look up! Merry Christmas!
Our Ancestors: “We Are Them; They Are Us.” And they can help us—or not. Within our DNA are our ancestors’ memories, which can nourish the dreams of our souls.” ~ Cyndi Dale
In 2008, my husband and I visited Poland—the homeland of our ancestors—for the first time. I was having some issues with my left hip prior, but the pain was off the charts when we landed. The pain in my left hip wouldn’t allow me to walk more than half a block at a time without doing a “last resort” lunge wherever I could to alleviate the pain a little so I could walk another half a block. We had not rented a car so travel by foot was our only option within the various cities we were visiting.
It was still a beautiful trip with unforgettable, precious moments. I refused to let the pain dull the time there or the memories. We had an absolute blast visiting many of the top tourist spots like Krakow, Zakopane, and Częstochowa; as well as the larger cities near my parent’s birthplace villages: Kielce and Rzeszów. We were not in touch with Polish relatives at that time. So our visit did not include family.
More than one person shared their belief that the pain in my hip was a reflection of ancestral healing needed within either my family or even my homeland, Poland. We carry the stories of our ancestors within our energy field. Unresolved conflicts, emotional wounds, damaging judgments, and other limitations held by your ancestors past or present will continue to influence generations to follow. Our ancestor’s memories lie within our DNA. Deep, unexpressed emotions such as grief, anger, guilt, shame and fear can also be passed to us from our ancestors, just like our eye and hair color. Energy from our ancestors passes through the family tree. It’s an amazing thought, isn’t it?
When friends and therapists shared the concept of ancestral healing and connected it to the pain in my hip, I have to say I was more than a little intrigued. As a yoga teacher, I’d learned that we store a lot of emotions in our hips, especially the emotions we don’t want to, or can’t, deal with. Your hips generate any movement forward in your life. If you’re feeling stuck or blocked in some way, your hips are usually involved. The idea that an ancestral block was lodged in my hip resonated with me—especially since the pain went off the charts once we landed in Poland.
My Polish ancestors definitely had deep, unexpressed grief. Undeniably, negative influences from the past affect us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; and as we’ve learned from mind/body science, they also affect us physically and energetically. Since the hips are where every initiative starts, any pain or trauma we have stored in the hips that’s stopping us from physically moving forward will also stop us from energetically moving forward.
Perhaps visiting Poland without connecting with family on our first visit stopped my hip from moving forward with ease on our trip. Perhaps my ancestral homeland was “holding on” to my every step insisting I do more than just visit the tourist stops. Who can say?
“Emerging trends in psychotherapy are now beginning to point beyond the traumas of the individual to include traumatic events in the family and social history as part of the whole picture. Tragedies varying in type and intensity—such as abandonment, suicide, and war, or the early death of a child, parent, or sibling—can send shock waves of distress cascading from one generation to the next. Recent developments in the field of cellular biology, neuroscience, epigenetics, and developmental psychology underscore the importance of exploring at least three generations of family history in order to understand the mechanism behind patterns of trauma and suffering that repeat.” ~ Wolynn, Mark. It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are And How To End The Cycle. New York: Penguin Books, 2017.
My ancestors were immersed in traumatic events. Poland’s geography placed them in the middle of fighting powers resulting in much destruction, tragic losses and World Wars. Even knowing very little about my history, and after having only written of my grandmother’s lives thus far, their history includes loss of a mother, father, husbands, children, and a suicide attempt. Both of my parents were prisoners of war.
There is research based in neuroscience, psychology and medicine called the “Adverse Childhood Events” (ACE) study. This study documents exact ways childhood adversity biologically alters us for life. Adverse childhood events alter our brain function and immune system, affecting both our physical health and our longevity in life. (To review the study, go to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, May 1998, Volume 14, Issue 4, pages 245-248.)
This makes sense, doesn’t it? Research shows the rational part of a teens brain isn’t fully developed until they’re 25. If traumatic events affecting your immune function, nervous system, and physiology are occurring while your brain is still forming, how can it not affect the brain? The environment within which we form affects the results of our genetic make-up. It affects how we react in the world, how we parent, how we work, how we make friends, how we love, and how we age. It even affects the threshold of when we respond to stressful events.
“In other words, when a child is young and his brain is still developing, if he’s repeatedly thrust into a state of fight or flight, this chronic stress state causes these small, chemical markers to disable the genes that regulate the stress response—preventing the brain from properly regulating its response for the rest of his life.
….early chronic stress biologically reprograms how we will react to stressful events for our entire lives. That long-term change creates a new physiological set point for how actively our endocrine and immune function will churn out a damaging cocktail of stress neurochemicals that barrage our bodies and cells when we’re thirty, forty, fifty, and beyond. Once the stress system is damaged, we overrespond to stress and our ability to recover naturally from that reactive response mode is impaired. We’re always responding.” Nakazawa, Donna Jackson. Childhood Disrupted. How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal. New York: Atria Paperback, 2015.
We all know what stress does to the body long term, right? It creates inflammation in the body and we are literally “…marinating in those inflammatory chemicals for decades.” It’s no wonder diseases such as autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, heart disease, migraines, cancer, and many others are the result.
Having an adult in your childhood that you trusted, who “had your back”, and who listened when you needed to talk helps to buffer adverse childhood experiences. These relationships help to build your resilience factor.
Other ways to increase your resilience include staying positive and hopeful, having goals you set and move towards, fostering connections within your circle of family and friends, and accepting change as a fact of life. Taking care of your health by exercising regularly, eating a nourishing diet, reducing stress through mindfulness, meditation and yoga, and making time for fun are ways you can improve your brain’s neuroplasticity. We can all do this.
This is why I teach trauma-informed yoga. This is why I incorporate Ayurveda (the science of life and self- healing) into my life and my teachings. It has been through my trainings that I discovered some of the answers to my physiology—why I worry so much, why I may have developed an auto-immune disease, and why I feel so much better after yoga and meditation. We teach what we need to learn, don’t we? This I do for me. You can too. Do more yoga.