Creativity for the Rest of Us

In the Steps of the Ancestors

Most of us know Halloween as the time of year for carving pumpkins, kids (young and old) in costumes and lots of candy around to enjoy or tempt us, depending on the relationship we have with sugar.

This is the time of year that the Christian traditions celebrate All Saints and All Souls. Living in San Francisco, it’s hard to miss Dia de Muertos – and I wouldn’t want to – a lively celebration that includes parades, tons of art, and altars galore – from the simple to the elaborate that honor those who have passed on.

The Celts celebrate Samhain the midway point between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice when the harvest is complete and we enter into the darkest days of the year.

I just returned from a sacred tour of Japan where the ancestors are revered in numerous shrines throughout the country. Whatever tradition you are familiar with, this is the time to honor our ancestors – friends and loved ones who have passed over into the Light. It’s a time to give gratitude and appreciation, tell stories and reminisce, and ask them for help. It is said that this is when the veils between the worlds are thinnest and we can communicate more clearly with them.

We have much to honor about our ancestors. Their courage, grit, determination, and perseverance in coming to new countries, meeting and rising above harsh conditions of so many kinds – poverty, slavery, violence, and oppression. Those qualities are part of who we are and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.

There is also the shadow side of our family lineage when harmful patterns of behavior are handed down. Our work is to transmute these old patterns.

I come from a long line of long-suffering women, a whole culture of deep suffering, as many of us do. I was taught to offer “it” up – the “it” being anything I wasn’t happy with or didn’t want to do. I learned to suffer in silence, retreating into a self-imposed martyrdom where I cultivated patterns of self-pity, co-dependency and passive aggressive behavior.

Maybe this will be the one who will break the old, harmful family patterns and cultural patterns. Maybe this will be the one … – Angeles Arrien

We are the ones called to break these patterns for ourselves and future generations. Awareness is the first step followed by tracking where they show up and what triggers us. Then I have to be honest with myself, tell the truth about how I feel, take responsibility when I abdicate my power, and choose a new course of action or behavior. Like any new behavior it takes vigilance and practice.

Samhain is also known as the Celtic New Year. When the clocks fall back, I feel myself going inward, moving at a slower rhythm, staying closer to home, and even shifting to slower, warmer foods.

With the harvest complete, it’s a good time to begin to track what we’ve been learning this year and the progress we’ve made in our work with family patterns – where we’ve grown and stretched, stumbled, and got stuck. We can be thoughtful and intentional in this practice as we head into the holidays and look forward to setting our intentions in the next season.

Women at the Well will be gathering again for a weekend of reflection, relaxation and re-imagining Jan 1-3 in the redwoods of Pescadero. Treat yourself with this time and join the circle.

Early registration discount good until November 15th


2 Responses to “In the Steps of the Ancestors”

  1. David Nygren says:

    I am always nourished by your profound reflections and how you touch the essence of the human experience. Much love as we celebrate those who have passed into the Light and those who are Light around us — you.


  2. Great …I love Angeles…I just shared this with a friend. Thank you


  1. In the Steps of the Ancestors – The Story Continues | - […] feelings or much of a personal nature. My family did not speak openly about love. In the past, when…

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