I sincerely hope this finds you all healthy and safe with this current environment! You and your families are all in my thoughts and prayers!
A couple of newsletters ago I wrote about longing for a deeper connection with my grandmother’s spirits. My past connections have been by signs and messages between sleep and awake and other magical happenings during the day. I thought putting out the “call” for messages might wake something up.
As you recall, the next day my husband had a dream filled with relatives from years past—many of whom I’d not met—who all trailed into our house for a visit like they used to on the farm in his youth. So the call was heard—just not by my grandmothers! Or so I chose to believe.
I’ve not had the joy and pleasure of ever meeting or speaking to my grandmothers and only have a photo of my paternal grandmother—a photo I didn’t even realize were my paternal grandparents until my 50’s a few years ago.
I’ve struggled to create a connection by recreating their lives in writing as best I could with the small bits of knowledge I’ve gathered. It was an effort to understand just who they are. Using their history: when they lived, where they lived, what their environment was like, when they got married, buried a loved one, had children, or lost connection with their children who travelled to live in the U.S. after World War II. I’ve collected mainly the negatives of their history—world wars, famine, being held as prisoners of war or wounded as a result of the battles.
During the current environment, I’m reminded of all our ancestors have gone through. Many have jokingly compared their ancestor’s history and what life has required of them to our current history and what’s being asked of us while sheltering at home. Of course, there’s no comparison.
Yet I’ve always acknowledged that our reality is ours. There should be no comparison. Someone else’s reality being considered harsher or more difficult should not make what we are experiencing less worthy of emotion.
Happiness comes from within
During my recent Zoom yoga class, students stayed after for a “happy hour” (or two) of sorts. We chatted and shared our lives as we might have in person. One shared that she’d read an inspirational reading reminding us of the importance to grieve, to feel, to honor life’s challenges and to move through them as we must. Life is meant to live not to hide from. Acknowledging and experiencing all the emotions and feelings of all our ups and downs is part of this beautiful experience we call our lives. We can’t always be happy and that’s okay; but we can, and we must, continue to find happiness in many ways.
Perhaps we’re finding happiness again in isolation as we reconnect to family and friends in any way possible, going for long walks in nature and having the time to just be. We’re learning that happiness is within ourselves—nowhere else. We can’t expect to find it “out there”. We must learn to find it within.
So I got to thinking. I’ve taken the time to recreate historical timelines for each grandmother. I’ve put myself in their shoes, trying to experience the joys and sorrows they may have felt with each monumental happening I uncovered. Since I had no record of conversations, this was all I had—or so I thought. How about I take my own advice and find that connection within?
If I can consider how my grandmothers may have felt with bombs flying overhead, marrying their spouse, the birth of a child, or the loss of a loved one; why not consider what they might share with me right now, as grandmothers would, if I were speaking to them directly today?
So I started sharing my thoughts with them and asking silent questions. How would you handle the fear we are all experiencing right now? What would you do?
Then I’d imagine what my paternal grandmother, Agnieszka, might say:
Excerpt from “My Grandmother’s Smile”:
Whenever the Germans came through their village again Agnieszka took her remaining family of three children and hid in the forest. Children as young as ten years of age were “recruited”. So my dad’s siblings were fair game. My cousin’s daughter, Agnieszka’s great granddaughter, recalls Stanislawa telling the story that they ate from the field at night, finding a potato or two. So it was cooler outside.
One of my yoga students is also from Poland. Her parents remained in their house when the German’s came through and demanded they vacate. Of course, they resisted. Because of their resistance, they were sent to the concentration camps.
I would expect that word of the Germans approaching your village and knowledge of what resistance could bring, prompted a “Fight/Flight” survival instinct to hide in the forest. Agnieszka couldn’t possibly fight the German soldiers alone. So fleeing to the forest to hide was her best option for survival. When the “Fight/Fight” part of your sympathetic nervous system turns on, it’s good when you need it to survive. It’s when it stays on that PTSS becomes a problem. I can’t begin to imagine the fear my grandmother had without a husband to rely on and after having lost her oldest to the Germans as she hid her family in the forest. Upon returning to the farm, the German tank tracks were visible near their home, some chickens missing, the house disheveled.”
I could hear her let out a long sigh, perhaps a bit of a chuckle as she tried to find the words to gently remind me that “You’re safe right now. It’s okay right now. You have easy access to all kinds of food and supplies, and you have your husband close by and your friends (via technology) are just a phone or zoom call away. You’ve got this. Approach each day anew.” So I like to imagine no sarcasm here. It’s my choice, right?
Now for my maternal grandmother, Zofia’s, response:
Excerpt from “Finding Zofia:
My mom was born June 14, 1924 in Rzeszów, Poland. Her mother was Zofia (Sofia). This was Zofia’s second marriage. Zofia’s first husband froze to death while in the U.S. for his job. I don’t know the details of why he was in the U.S. Sadly, I don’t even have his name—first or last. I don’t even know my grandmother’s first married name. Gaps in my history like this sadden me to no end. Zofia had three children in her first marriage. The first two children were twins, Simon and Mary, and they died when they were “about three”.
I often wonder why I didn’t ask more. How did they die? Why was Zofia’s first husband in the U.S.? How did he freeze to death?
Salka (Sally), Zofia’s third child, survived and was mom’s half-sister. Salka was nine when Zofia remarried for a second time to Jan (John), my grandfather, in 1922. Zofia was 13 years older than Jan. She was 37, he was 24. If Salka was nine when Zofia remarried, Zofia would have had a one year old when World War I (1914 – 1918) broke out.
I have to believe that marriage was considered a matter of survival or convenience during these times. Marriage was the cultural norm. It was expected. Losing your first husband and having a nine-year-old daughter to care for probably meant you needed to marry as a matter of survival. Marriage to a man 15 years your junior may or may not have been for love. My mom never shared details of her parent’s relationship.
When I’ve been worrying about our health, our lives and our path beyond the current environment, I imagine what my maternal grandmother, Zofia, might share:
Again, I imagine a sigh. Zofia recreated her life during very difficult times with much more responsibility than I have. I imagine she might say just that: “Recreating your life is not an option. It needs to happen. So it will. You must continue living your life to the fullest the best way you can. You have a solid, loving marriage. You have each other. You are both healthy. What more do you really need?”
These imagined conversations with my grandmothers have given me much peace. And you know, they don’t feel unreal or imagined at all. On the contrary, they feel very real and quite comforting. I feel more of an emotional connection with these “talks”. I plan to continue asking “what would my grandmother say here?” and listening for their sage advice.
Praying with my ancestors
My husband and I end our daily exercise (bike, yoga, Total Gym) with sound therapy, a scalp massage and reiki. The reiki involves me cupping his head in my hands and saying various prayers—always including many Hail Mary’s. It’s always been my “go-to” prayer for all that ails me. Our yoga mats are near where I set up “remembrance altars” dedicated to each set of parents and their parents. I can gaze up from my husband’s cupped head and see both altars. Every day I know they are listening. I know they are watching.
Poland is a religious country with the largest religion being Roman Catholicism. Their primary patron saint is the Blessed Virgin Mary.
As I pray, I imagine how very many Hail Mary’s my ancestors surely must have prayed in their lifetimes—centuries of ancestors all finding solace with the same prayer. I visualize and “hear” them joining me as I humbly add my Hail Mary’s to theirs. I can feel both grandmothers’ (and moms’) approving wink and a nod as they remind me to continue praying to find peace. This comforts me.
I believe energy never goes away. This is why I believe my ancestor’s spirits are still accessible. I believe energy builds and accumulates. So my prayers combine with my ancestor’s prayers—a growing energy of prayer.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” ~ Einstein
Talking to our ancestors should be common—not “woo-woo”. We never lose their connection, their energy remains with us. The more we reach out, the more they’ll send loving messages letting you know they’re there. They’ll know they’re welcome, they’re wanted and their advice matters. So begin to connect with your ancestors. They’re waiting.
Better Day Yoga, LLC
Mail to: 5024 Oxborough Gardens
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443-3990
(612) 708 6900
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21 days to optimizing your innate energetic potential!
Description: Using various segments from my archived newsletters I provide a dedicated 21 days of easy to do practices, meditations, diet/food recipes and suggestions plus other fun topics to follow along as you get to know your energetic/chakra system! This piece will explain what your seven basic chakras are, why they’re important, and how to work with them to bring balance. (Go here and then scroll down to the bottom past the “Kind Words” section to enter your email address.)
Zoom, zoom zoom!
As mentioned in my previous email: I’ve converted all of my private classes onto Zoom during this unusual time. I’m thinking we’ll stay this way for a bit even beyond the current sheltering at home, given social distancing requirements, the age of many of my students, etc. I am considering adding a Thursday Zoom yoga class at 1:00 PM. The three person minimum would still hold. What are your thoughts? Do you have a couple of friends who’d be interested in meeting with you in a Zoom class? Let’s discuss!
Six Weeks to Inner Resilience
Also, check out my new workshop—which could easily be converted to Zoom if you have a group that’s interested:
Six Weeks to Inner Resilience!