Honoring the Ancestors

Last week, people around the world celebrated El Dia de los Muertos. Although this holiday originated in Mexico, it has spread into many other countries, including the U.S. If you’re not familiar with it, the name may sound creepy. But unlike Halloween, it is not about ghosts or zombies. El Dia de Los Muertos is a holiday where we celebrate and remember our loved ones who have passed on. Families honor their ancestors by creating “ofrendas” or offerings. These altars are decorated with candles, bright yellow and orange marigolds, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the ones being honored. It is a joyful celebration.

Since learning of this holiday and especially after becoming a Family Constellations Facilitator, I have performed my own version of this ritual every year. This year, I placed a photo of my parents in the center of my kitchen table and then put photos of my grandparents behind them. Since I don’t have photos of my great-grandparents or any generations further back, I selected objects to represent these ancestors and placed them behind the photos. 

Among the photos and objects I placed a few crystals, seeds, and an incense holder. Then I lit a candle in front of my parents’ photo as a symbol of the light they continue to shine forward. Using the flame of the candle, I lit an incense stick allowing the sweet aroma of Nag Champa to fill my apartment adding to the ceremonial ambiance. 

The candle flame flickered and smoke swirled around the ofrenda while I finished up some work on my computer. When I was done, I approached the altar with my hands in prayer position. I spoke words of appreciation to each family member in the photos, and then a general acknowledgment to all of my ancestors behind them. It caught me off guard when a tingling sensation washed over my body during each acknowledgment. It felt like my ancestors were extending a blessing of gratitude back to me for being remembered. 

Before turning away, I bent forward slowly to honor them one more time with a deep bow. Again, the tingles traveled all through my body!

Although I have done similar rituals in the past, this was the first time I felt such a visceral response. Before blowing out the candle and going to bed, I stood with my back to the photos and objects. I wanted to feel the support of my ancestors behind me as I faced forward to the future. To my surprise, it happened again. Tingles danced all through my body! 

As you can imagine, I am extremely grateful for this experience and for the support of my ancestors. It felt both empowering and comforting, especially during these challenging times.

If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you can create your own version of this ceremony. There’s no wrong way to do it. Let your creativity and your imagination guide you in setting up your ofrenda. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Your intention is what matters. 

If you’d like to explore hidden dynamics in your family and break repeating patterns that might prevent you from thriving, I encourage you to consider a private Family Constellations Session. You can learn more about it and book a session on my website

I’ll close with one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from facilitating Family Constellations for over ten years. The best way to honor our ancestors is to live a happy, healthy, prosperous life. 

May you shine your light and thrive!

Let all things shine upon me in that peace, and let me bless them with the light in me.

A Course in Miracles ~ W-188.10:7

A Happy New Year Ritual

I love rituals and ceremony. There’s something very powerful about giving physical action to a thought or intention. It tells the unconscious mind, “Something is different now.” It’s why so many people rent tuxedos or wear big white dresses, and invite their friends and family to watch them make promises to each other while exchanging jewelry. Despite how some perceive them, weddings aren’t just big parties. They are cultural rituals that make a statement to our community and our unconscious minds that something is different from this day forward.

One of my favorite rituals is the Burning Bowl Ceremony done at most Unity Churches on or around New Year’s Eve. In this ceremony, participants are invited to write things they would like to release from the old year on a piece of paper and then burn that paper in a sacred fire. Most people write down things like unhealthy habits or self-sabotaging behaviors. Deeper reflection may reveal relationships or beliefs that are no longer serving that are ready to be released. The sacred fire will gladly transform anything you are willing to give it into mere dust. Seeing that paper go up in flames is a powerful visual showing the unconscious mind that those things are truly gone.

I had the privilege of attending both Burning Bowl Ceremonies at Unity of Houston on New Year’s Eve this year. It’s a big church so they do two services to accommodate all the people that want to participate. With over 600 people at the first service and about 300 at the second, I had plenty of time to observe people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnic backgrounds approach the candles at the front of the sanctuary to burn their papers. As I watched person after person perform this sacred ritual, it occurred to me how very much alike we are. We may look different on the outside and have grown up with different cultures and traditions, but we all have struggles, unhealthy habits, and patterns we’d like to release before the new year. I imagine that many of the words written on those papers were exactly the same.

We all want to love and be loved. We want healthy bodies that allow us to do the things we want to do. We want fulfilling work that provides us with enough income to take care of ourselves and our families. We want opportunities to share our gifts and talents. In short, we want to experience more peace, love, and joy in our lives. A Course in Miracles calls this recognition that we are not different a Holy Instant:

Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough.

When that moment comes, peace comes with it. I am always grateful when those peaceful moments arrive. Since I burned my personal “release list” at the first service, I felt inspired to burn three things at the second service that could benefit us all: fear, the illusion of separation, and suffering. It felt wonderful to toss those in the fire. May you feel the absence of all three in 2018!

It’s not too late to have your own Burning Bowl Ceremony if you haven’t done one already. Write down all of those things that you’re ready to release on a piece of paper and then find a safe place to burn it. It is incredibly liberating to see those old patterns and belief systems go up in smoke!

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