Pitru Paksha is the Vedic ritual of honouring our ancestors with prayers and offerings, which is performed by all Hindus each year. It is believed that if the ancestors are content they will bestow on their descendants health, wealth, knowledge and longevity.
Should we pay attention to our ancestors? Why are they important?
“The collective grief of the modern world is due to the loss of our ancestral memory….. Without this memory, we cannot hope to sustain our present or know our purpose as human beings.” Maya Tiwari
We are all born into a story and often we live out our stories without ever knowing what they are. The people who make our stories, who have shaped our lives, are standing right next to us: our parents and carers; behind them stand their parents and so on back through the generations; there is an unbroken chain of connection. And through this chain we receive: what was given and what was not given, what was passed on, for better or for worse: the influences that have shaped our lives. Acknowledging this, we can begin to find our place and make sense of our lives.
“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
We may not have been brought up with much awareness of this connection with our ancestors; but there are ways that we can re-establish this connection and begin to understand more about our inheritance. Family Constellations, created by Bert Hellinger, is a way of making explicit the role our ancestors play in our lives and helping to resolve trauma which has been passed down the generations.
In the process of Family Constellations we ask others to represent members of our family. Setting these representatives out physically in a room, we begin to map out the relationships between family members. This process continues as the representatives’ experience begins to provide more information about blocks, entanglements and omissions in our family system. Secrets that have been buried in the family, people who have been excluded: all have their influence on subsequent generations and, as we begin to see what has been hidden or forgotten, so the process of healing can begin.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.
We can begin the process of honouring our ancestors by turning to those who are still living and getting interested in their stories: What were the influences that shaped them as they grew up?
We may notice the presence of trauma in our family history: early deaths of parents or siblings, separations, violence and abuse, the influence of war. Or we may notice the symptoms of trauma: addiction, depression, anxiety, chronic ill health, mental illness. Seeing the influences that shaped our parents may help us to accept their shortcomings with more compassion. We are all connected, and when we can fully accept our parents as they are, then we can truly accept ourselves and walk our path with joy.
“The Path of Practice: The Ayurvedic book of healing with food, breath & sound.” by Maya Tiwari
“Coming Home: A first step into the world of Family Constellations.” by Barbara Morgan