A friend asked a great question yesterday: "Do we hear the voices of our forefathers? They speak so loudly, but do we hear?" Well, funny you should ask, Michael...
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In the last couple of weeks, there's been a theme in my life of listening to my body, in a specific physical sensation way (this totally relates to forefathers, and foremothers, too... just bear with me), I mean really listening by stopping, stilling, breathing, taking a gentle & self-induced MRI, a BrainScan from the tips of my toes to the top of head and back down again, with a clear focus and intent of non-judgmentally asking as I scan: "What do I feel here?" It's a practice I've been aware of a long time, but didn't bear in mind much until recently.
This re-engagement with Really Listening to My Body was jump-started on a Saturday morning a couple of weeks back when - over some coffee and between facebook'd Scrabble games - I was surfing the website for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. I somehow came to a link to a recent (11/11!) talk on real-world application of meditative practices by Dr. Charles Tart, formerly of the University of California at Davis, where I was a student in the 1970's and - in a seminal move for my philosophical development - where I took Tart's classic course "Altered States of Consciousness". I like to keep up with Charlie professionally from time to time, and checking in on his current work has never failed me. So I was extremely attentive and energized to stumble upon his take on beneficial effects of a practice he calls Sensing, Listening, Looking (SLL). This sparked an "Oh, yeah! I wanna do that again!" BigSmile reaction, and off I went and have been going with it.
Co-incidentally, synchronistically, during a session I had a week later with an experienced healing professional, she (unprompted by me) suggested and guided a meditation of listening to the body - ding!ding!ding! - which led to beneficial self-awarenesses of a magnitude that ten years of healers put together could not accomplish. It was a powerful and personal illustration of how listening to the body is like instant manna to resilient new growth.
The simple asking spills its resulting answers - "itch"... "pulse"... "calm"... or "oh, hello, there's some tension!" - and my body and soul respond with enthusiasm just for the attention. The goal is to "ground" in the parts that feel good, to use them as kind of "safe harbors" from which to launch explorations to the boundaries and hinterlands of my inner trouble spots, and to know I'm totally safe to examine and spelunk them when I'm ready. Just knowing what feelings exist where in my body literally gives me more control over my own life.
The more I do this - the more I give myself permission and intention to listen to my wordless body with love as a good mother listens to her infant - the more my body untwists, pops tensions, RELAXES... just from the simple practice of respectful attention and acknowledgment. I truly believe humanity's general experience would improve dramatically if and when more people do this, because it seems to me very clear: The quality of attention and acknowledgment each individual accords at the cellular level directly impacts what results from the collective power of attention to things outside our physical selves. What we collectively focus on, what we collectively give attention to, has sparked all of humanity's creations, for evil and for good.
As an enthusiastic student of what happens when The Brain Synchronizes with The Heart, and as part of the BrainScan practice, I'm discovering - up-close-and-personal, in a way that confirms intellectual and philosophical knowledge like no amount of book-learning can - that the body holds meta-communications of emotions that bury deep when unacknowledged, or suppressed, or mis-expressed. To simply and regularly Sense, Listen and Look provides a fast-track to conscious engagement in conversation with myself, which makes it easier to hear the quality and character of my own self-talk, which ultimately serves as a gatekeeper to the deepest places within, to the alluvia of self-knowledge that runs through each of us and holds the potential for greater emotional and spiritual maturity.
Which brings me to forefathers and foremothers: The Ancestors.
My friend Jen recently guided me through a ceremony for Samhain, the Celtic New Year, which coincides with Halloween and All Saints Day. The focus of the ceremony was on connecting in loving presence with those who'd passed, to specifically address and honor them, to have a conversation with them... which meant to speak to them, in a one-on-one with spirit, and to give the other a chance to respond... to listen for and to the response, with a present heart. As part of this, I made a point of creating connection with my paternal grandfather, a brilliant but violent (and ultimately homeless) alcoholic... and I'm telling you: I could feel body and soul his reply of regret for how he mistreated his family, of how he's working for redemption through service in universal spirit.
In retrospect, I see clearly now the last month's arc in my life: From honoring in conversation the spirits who feed me from without... to honoring in conversation the soul housed in this body who feeds me from within... to being brought back to the beginning of this recent personal journey by my friend Michael's great question.
So... what is it we really hear in dialog with our bodies or our ancestors? Do we only hear what we want to hear or imagine we hear? If we hear no reply, does that mean that bodied-buried emotions/thoughts or ancestors' voices are absent, non-existent, nothing but a fool's errand to believe they exist? Or is is that we're not listening with our hearts because we have a block (of anxiety, or control, or fear, or whatever) to what we might hear?
As I've listened to my body on and off over the years, I find tension regularly held in my upper back which, co-incidentally, synchronistically, is the backside of the heart chakra, the "receiving" side of the heart, what one body worker I've encountered refers to as the Gates of Ancestors. When those Gates are closed or otherwise blocked, it's hard for us to receive the incoming energy from the universe that's always available to fill our hearts. Through acknowledging the tension in my back - in giving myself permission to regard its feelings - the message I've gotten from this in recent days is that listening, really listening, is one of The Keys to humility... which leads to compassion... which increases tranquility. It requires us to yield to receiving information, and being conscious to how we process what we take in from it. This perspective is influenced not only by my recent immersions in the soulful universality of ancestral honoring, and the self-ish examination of my body's messages, but verified in the noticeably increased quality of the relationships I have with the dearest people around me. As we operate within, so we operate without.
"Do we hear the voices of our forefathers? They speak so loudly, but do we hear?" The question is so very appropriate for today, Thanksgiving of all days, it begs me to answer, "YES! Yes, I'm listening, and I want to truly hear what you're saying."
Co-incidentally, the original Plymouth Colony's Thanksgiving is a personal story for me. My mom's side of the family was documented (back in the pre-internet days - no easy feat) back to the White family, who came over on the Mayflower and whose child Peregrine was birthed on the way over. The Pilgrim's experienced a horrible first year - wretched illnesses, lack of proper supplies, and a period known as the "Starving Time." Peregrine's mom, Susanne, was one of only several Mayflower women who lived to be at that first Thanksgiving, where it's said that they celebrated an association with locals who helped prevent the Colony's total demise through that most basic of human compassions: The sharing of food. Synchronistically, on my dad's side of the family, it's said that a woodsman took a First Nation's wife several generations back, an East Coast native who could've been related to those who fed the starving Pilgrims, they who helped establish a nation that would later slaughter the native peoples almost out of existence.
That's a BigRub to get past. What's to celebrate in Thanksgiving when you know how the whole thing turned out for the ancestors of the colony's fabled Good Samaritans? Ancestors of my own starving people (a starvation wrought by their own dangerous acts) perpetrated genocide against the ancestors of my own people who helped to rescue them from starvation*.
So... for Susanne and Peregrine and to my First Nation's kin, I knock on the door of my ancestral inner gate and ask directly: In these present times of converging crises and dueling dualities, what DO I hear you telling me? I sense... listen... look... and I recognize the authenticity of their answer by the relaxation I feel all throughout my body. I interpret the echoes of their voices through a meditation chant recently taught to me by a dear four-year-old friend, which comes to mind the second I ask: "Teach Love. Teach Peace. Teach Hope." The message of the story of that first Thanksgiving rings strong and clear in these six simple words, which overflow with the power of of resilience, redemption, restoration, and renewal. I'm totally listening, and thank you for everything you did to literally give me this day... and oh, how I will enjoy today's Bread!
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From the vault of previous essays, only slightly re-tooled from the day I wrote it, Thanksgiving 2009.
*A tangent on these theme occurs to me today... Taxpayer-rescued (and tax-avoiding) banksters seek to commit financial genocide against the very taxpayers who rescued the banksters from financial ruin (a ruin wrought by their own dangerous acts). May our efforts to expose their deeds and remedy justice bear healthy fruit, and may we all occupy the blessings of giving and receiving - steeped in peace and love and gratitude - in abundance!