This weekend I was with companions remembering and honouring our ancestors. It was a deep and emotional experience for us, bringing the past forward, and the present back again, bridging and merging time.
It was my great-grandfather, Charles Duncan Rice, who came forward for me, and the more I moved into memory and the feel of this man, the closer we became.
From the experience of sitting quietly with his photograph and my inner vision of him, came a greater sense of knowing and understanding of his life. And from this came a profound feeling of family and belonging.
The more I let the feel and thoughts of great-grandfather Rice flow through me, the likenesses I detected between us and our life experiences increased. Charles Rice had beginnings that set him on a path. He received a scholarship for education, and became a teacher, philanthropist, scholar and orator. From all accounts, he was a learned, liberal, genuine man who was passionate about teaching and education for all. He lived in Peterhead, in Aberdeenshire, and was the Rector of Peterhead Academy for 3 decades.
Sadly, he died suddenly, a heart attack, in his garden, aged 58 years. My grandma’s life took a drastic turn then and her ambitions to study medicine were curbed as the family took to surviving beyond their beloved Charles’ keep. She became a nurse instead, and put her healing efforts to much use in that capacity.
As the workshop afternoon went on, my kin drew nearer to me, such that I could feel his presence in spirit standing so close behind me. With the touch of his hand on my shoulder, the generations between us dissolved, and I knew him part of me – and myself part of him.
This weekend of ancestor connection made way for other realisations, primarily about how we distance ourselves from our Self.
It occurred to me that there is no distance between who we are and who we want to be; that the person we know deep within us, connected as we are to Source and our Soul-Self, is always available to us. Only self-alienation makes it appear not so.
The discord we feel between our inner knowing and our outer experience is a perception; a perception born of thoughts that wraps itself around feelings, convincing us that it is real. But this perception alienate us from our true Self. It creates a gap that isn’t actually there.
We are already, always united with our authentic Self.
It is only the perception of separation – of difference – that tells us otherwise.
And yes, if we are not self-alienating, then there is plenty ‘out there’ that will hold up a mirror to project difference onto us. If it’s not the media, educational or religious institutions, cultural norms, it is the people in our life – often our families, friends, work colleagues – who give us plenty of comparative material for us to self-deny, self-criticise and Self-separate.
What I realised over this weekend, is that it is up to us whether we want to accept the reflections and self-perceptions. It is up to us to decide whether we view ourselves ‘out there’ in the land of others’ ideas and perceptions of us or whether we decide to define and know ourselves ‘in here’, in the place of our true Self.
We can only be separated from our Self if our perception of ourselves does not marry up with who we feel we are. And as we know, perceptions and feelings have a long history of influence in our childhood and adolescent experiences. They are often reinforced by adult experiences that tell the same lies about us so that we lose sight of who we are. Still, there is a place deep within each of us who knows who we are. Sometimes that place reveals a quiet voice longing to be heard. Often it is a voice that has pleaded and cried out for years and years for us to listen.
Over the weekend, I learnt that one of the ways we can make our way back to that deep Soul place and live outwardly our inner truth, is by connecting with our ancestors. There, in a long, long line of people, there will be those with similar life experiences, hardships, traumas, dreams, habits, talents, skills, creative impulses, the same as you.
My idea of self-difference has served to separate me from the person I am in that I have thought no one will be interested in my ideas, my writing, my spiritual experiences. They couldn’t possibly understand or want to engage with my view of the world. And as such, I have shied away from expressing that view, that ‘me’; I have not offered her to the world as fully as I might.
Blending with my ancestor, great-grandfather Rice, gave me the experience, not just the awareness but the tangible experience of knowing that there is no separation. Now all I needed to do was blend my separated self with my internal self – the one who knows who she is.
As my ancestor moved closer to me, blended with me, I came to know and feel the I am who I am, and the distance I have created, which is quite simply a perception – a false one. I don’t need to fit into the mould of what I think the world out there expects me to be. I just need to be me. Along the way, I had allowed circumstance to be my excuse for separation and denial of my true self. My perceived difference, held in some respects as a badge of honour, in many ways served to keep me apart from my Self.
By closing the ancestral gap – in time and dimension – I was shown a roadmap to dissolve the gap between my distorted perception of my outer self, and my authentic Being.
It was an energetic experience. Just as Charles Rice had moved closer to me as I dwelled on him, I brought my self-projection to mind and went to that deep place within me – that core of Soul Self. And when I could hold the feelings of both in awareness, I gently shortened the cord of energy between us until we were very close. I then deepened my feelings of my authentic self by bringing to mind all that I love, adore, am passionate about at my core, and my faith, and I heightened those feelings. And then, I moved into the outer projection and we became one, and the projection dissolved in the energy of my Soul Self until only that beautiful truth remained.
You might be wondering why I simply didn’t cut the cord of energy connecting me to the projected, perception-self. Well, that would have been a short-term solution. Nothing would have changed in my thoughts or feelings, and new habits would have been all the harder to form. I had to raise the awareness, the feelings and emotional connection to my inner Light, so that I could irrevocably know what that Light feels like. I needed to blend with the lesser energy of the outward personality – the false perception – in order to feel it dissolve within the strength of my authenticity.
Now, that is not necessarily the end of the separated-self; like any new perception, it takes reinforcing in the face of daily counter-rhetoric. Supposedly, 90 days of repeated practice will form a new habit – and I intend to practice! Already, the Universe is sending me opportunities to fall back into my old ‘who I think I should be’ self. And I am kindly acknowledging them, passing them on, and gravitating towards other opportunities the Universe is offering me, and which invite me to be who I really am.
I’ll need to check in each time, and now I have a compass to guide me. Those heightened, authentic feelings that I reached in to find in that deep place, they will continue to show me the way best aligned with my Soul Self. I take that path because ultimately, that is why I am here, as you are, and once we begin to regularly walk it, the way becomes oh so much smoother.
So, I wonder if you have ancestors who might offer you self-acceptance and the opportunity to be your authentic self in the world. An ancestor who overcame adversity, who had particular qualities or even who had negative or unhealthy traits that highlight to you how change is possible… A long ago family member who can show you how to bridge the gap between the person you think you ought to be, and the person you know deep within you are.
Our ancestors are not simply distant memories or people who no longer exist. They are spirit, living energy that is not only part of us, but which may be touched, consulted and honoured. And they can teach us a great deal about how to live a connected, authentic life.
*Featured image from Becoming Ursa