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

Remember Me

Day of the Dead (Dia de Los Muertos) is a holiday that gives us the opportunity to celebrate the lives of our loved ones who have passed. Families honor their ancestors by creating “ofrendas” or offerings. These altars are decorated with candles, bright yellow marigolds, photos of the departed, and the favorite foods and drinks of the one being honored. Since this celebration happens today into tomorrow, November 1 & 2, it felt appropriate to share this expanded definition of ancestors and descendants again. Perhaps it will inspire you to light a candle, look at old photographs, or simply take a moment to remember all those who came before:

One of my most influential Family Constellations Teachers, Suzi Tucker, defines an ancestor as anyone who stands behind the people who stand behind us. Yes, this is our grandparents, great grandparents, and so on, but this definition does not limit an ancestor to those who pass down their DNA. It expands the definition to include teachers, mentors, therapists, counselors, and coaches. Truly anyone who has touched our lives in some significant way is an ancestor. 

By this definition, Michelle Blechner, Suzy Tucker, Mark Wolynn, and the many Constellations Mentors that have shaped my work, including the man who created Family Constellations, Bert Hellinger, are my ancestors. I also honor Helen Schucman, William Thetford, Ken Wapnick, Judy Skutch Whitson, and all those responsible for ushering  A Course in Miracles into the world. I acknowledge and thank Gary Renard and every ACIM Teacher and Facilitator who has helped me understand and apply these radical teachings to my life. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for all of my spiritual teachers along the way: Ministers from both Unity and Science of Mind, my Rose Quartz Family, and the staff at Educating Hands School of Massage in Miami. There are too many to name so I will just say thank you, ancestors!

Suzi also has an expanded definition of descendants. They are anyone whose life we touch that touches the lives of others. Of course, if you have children and grandchildren, they are your descendants. Nieces and nephews fall into this category, but so would any child whose life you have been a part of, regardless of blood relation. If you are a teacher, every student you have ever taught is a descendent. There are so many lives we touch every day whether from a formal mentoring or teaching role or just by the way we show up for them. 

By this definition, my Coaching Clients, Constellation Clients, and all those who have ever attended a Family Constellations Workshop or A Course in Miracles Study Group are my descendants. Take a moment to think about all the lives you have touched. It is extremely humbling to imagine how many people are in front of us. I am thrilled to know that a few members of my ACIM Study Groups have gone on to facilitate their own groups. Some who have attended my Constellations Training have begun to use the concepts and philosophy in their healing work. It brings me such joy to see these teachings being passed down and spreading out into the world.

An experience I had during a Constellations Conference gave me an even deeper appreciation of this concept. During an exercise, the facilitator put us into groups of 3 and instructed us to take turns representing ourselves while one person represented an ancestor and the other represented a descendant. I’ll never forget the feeling of immense gratitude that welled up in me while representing the descendant. As I looked at my teacher and my teacher’s teacher, I wondered how I could ever repay them for such a life-changing gift. And then it dawned on me. The best way to repay them was by sharing what I learned with others, thus allowing the gift to keep on giving.

If you’d like to experience some of the gifts I have been given, consider attending one or both of my weekly online A Course in Miracles Study Groups on Mondays and Fridays. Visit the Miracles page on my website for the times and information on how to join. 

For a one-of-a-kind opportunity to honor your ancestors while releasing unhealthy family patterns, join me for an upcoming Virtual Family Constellations Workshop. There are just two more scheduled in 2021. To prepare you for Thanksgiving, the first is “An Exploration of Belonging with Family Constellations” happening on Saturday, November 13 at 2PM Eastern,  1PM Central. Then, to help you navigate the holiday season, we will be “Balancing Giving and Receiving with Family Constellations” on Saturday, December 11 also at 2PM Eastern, 1PM Central. Visit the Upcoming Workshops page on my website for more information and to purchase your ticket. 

In the meantime, I trust you will find a way that has meaning to you to honor your ancestors, those that came before. Don’t forget to also take a moment to receive gratitude from your descendants, those that follow. I like to watch the Disney/Pixar film Coco at this time of year because it takes place in Mexico during El Dia de Los Muertos. Not only is it visually stunning, but the story will touch your heart. Please enjoy a little sample with the song “Remember Me” by clicking here.

Love must be extended. 

A Course in Miracles ~ T-28.II.2:2

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