I often wish I could talk to the people who influenced me. My grandmother knew me better than anyone. There have also been writers from the past who I feel such a kinship with that I wish I could communicate with them, or maybe find a whole new undiscovered cache of their work. Then come the ideas and movements that helped make me who I am, helped make my life possible. In social terms, artistic terms and spiritually. All of these form my spirit ancestry.
Physical Elder Wisdom: Lessons from Genealogy
Genealogy has become more popular than ever thanks to the internet. This makes it easy to discover who came before us in our family. I like studying the (often limited) information about these people and then try to imagine what they were like. What do I have in common with them? What would they think of me and the life that I live? Even though I grew up in the southern United States, I found that one branch of my family came from outside of Philadelphia, where I now live. That gave me a special connection through the centuries. Imagination plays a role in communing with my physical ancestors. When I was going through a very tough time in my life, I wrote letters in my journal to my late grandmother and to a late partner.
Spiritual Predecessors: Those Who Followed Your Life Path
There are also people I have never met and am not related to that I feel deeply connected to. The writer Virginia Woolf has always been one of those kindred spirits for me, and having read her novels, diaries, letters and essays has helped me to feel connected to her.
Whether in society, art, politics, academics, athletics or any other aspect of life, we admire people who embody what we are trying to be. They have walked along our path before us. We can take them to heart and learn as much about them as we can. We can honor their contributions and inspiration in our own lives. We can even call quietly on their spirits when we need a boost.
Idea Ancestors: Movements, Bodies of Knowledge and Works of Art
Moving further out into the universe, we come to the big ideas that have helped shape who we are. What are the concepts that you relate to, that you should learn more about?
Spiritual movements and traditions speak to us and help us feel connected to the past. Artistic styles help us express ourselves, even if we ourselves are not especially artists. A piece of music form yesterday or centuries ago can move us more than anything. We have all been helped by a social movement from the past (or present).
Owning these influences makes us into whole humans.They make us more complete, richer in spirit. Make a list of all of the things that make up your spiritual ancestry. Learn as much as you can about each of them. Find ways to incorporate them into your daily life, into your usual rituals. Call on these people, spirits and ideas when you need them. If you are connected to them, they will always be there for you.