When my students are in savasana, I pray. I sit cross-legged on my mat, hands open to face the sky, eyes closed, the sweet, restful peace that comes after practice filling the room. I pray for my ancestors in that space. In my mind, I hold them in the light. I imagine a sunlit space, bright and brilliant, and I see them all there. Uncle Len, Granny Penny, Daddy Don, Granny Millie, Grandpa Fritz, an Ancestral guide I call Laurel (it is the name she chose – I have no idea if it was her name in life), and then behind them…shadows. The wise, holy and redeemed ancestors whose faces and names I do not know, but to whom I owe my very life. I hold them all in the light, the faces I can see and the ones I can’t.
The ones I could not see until this morning.
My beloved sister bought me a genetic test from Ancestry. The way it works is you send in a DNA sample, they analyze it, and then they send you a breakdown of your heritage. Mine arrived last night. I am mostly what I expected to be – Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French…these countries I knew. The region I did not expect was Western Europe – Slavic countries. 8% of my blood hails from the Bulgaria/Romania/Ukraine part of the world.
That little piece of information changed how I think about myself. I realized this morning that part of the story we tell ourselves about who we are includes where our family comes from. I’ve always said ‘I’m a Heinz 57 of Northern Europe.’ That’s still mostly true. Mostly. But now there’s more to the story.
This morning I was turning this new piece of my story over in my mind as I settled in to pray. I closed my eyes and saw my sunlit clearing. I welcomed my beloved, known ancestors in. And then I said ‘I welcome my Slavic family,’ and my mind was filled with a splash of color – reds, browns, oranges, dark hair, smiling eyes. In an instant, they stood before me. This bright, colorful gathering of family I had not been able to imagine before today. ‘I welcome my Irish family,’ and before me stood my red-haired ancestors, green-eyed and fair as I am, freckled and laughing. ‘I welcome my Scottish ancestors,’ and they were there, darker of mien and more somber, proud and strong and brave. I welcomed my Welsh family, my French, my German family…each call brought to mind more and more spirits, fully envisaged and vibrant with spirit.
I found that my sunlit clearing was full, not with shadows, but with an immense army of bright colors, movement, life. And as I gazed upon that huge gathering, the thought hit home.
THIS is my family. This huge gathering of people…they’re mine.
And I’m theirs. I belong to them. I am of them. And a part of me that didn’t quite know where I fit before suddenly understood. I suddenly got it. Sitting in a circle of my ancestors, I finally felt the truth of it. I am the product of the love of thousands.
I am loved by thousands.
“Pray for your ancestors. Because they’re definitely praying for you,” I heard Orion’s voice say in my head.
They are. The tide does not only flow one way.
And so I prayed. That they should be at peace. That they are loved. That they know their lives mattered, and had value. That I carry them with me, always. That I am grateful beyond words for their lives, and for my own. I looked upon the vast gathering of my family, and I prayed. And they smiled at me, and I felt I could have drowned in so much love. So much brightness.
I had to pull myself back from the edge of tears so I could bring my students back from their own meditations.
I have felt them with me all day, my family. The spirits that have always been with me, part of me, that until today I could not see clearly. I have more aunts and uncles than I could count. More grandmothers than anyone could ever need. Their wisdom and life beat with my heart, their voices sound in the soft wave of my breath, and their bright spirits shine in my eyes.
Welcome home, my beloved blood. And welcome home, Irene.
We are the love of thousands.