Almost all of us are recent immigrants, especially here in California. Our forbearers who chose to leave their ancestral stomping grounds were most likely focused on the future, specifically their desire to create a better one. Given this, it's not difficult to understand why so many of us are ahistorical, thinking of the past as something that happened just last week. We are steeped in an ethos which encourages us to see ourselves as the lone creators of our future. Yet our options in the present are only possible because of the actions of everyone who came before us. In fact, no matter where we are in the world or what we are doing, we are inevitably standing on the shoulders of our ancestors.
This point is driven home to us in our work as people come wanting to change something about their current life. We often use a modality known as systemic constellation which looks at the salient elements and dynamics of a situation. Nine times out of ten we trace the root causes of their present situation back to factors in their family's lineage.
We find that many current challenges—money, love, confidence, connection, etc.—are linked to an ancestor who faced the same or related struggles, often as a result of trauma. A simple example would be a son who doesn't feel supported by his father because the father didn't receive support from his father, who in turn lost his father when he was young.
Through our systemic constellation work we have had the opportunity "to step into the shoes" of people's parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, and to look at the world from their perspective. In so doing, we have experienced the choices and challenges of generations.
After years of peering at life through the eyes of our ancestors, what have we learned?
First and foremost, we all descend from survivors, people who figured out how to make it in the world long enough to bring forth children. This may sound obvious, but when we consider our modern day-to-day struggles, we can appreciate just how much effort and ingenuity it took our forefathers and foremothers to overcome their life challenges. Given the physical and psychological difficulties that come with being human, the resolve of previous generations is nothing short of heroic.
Secondly, their strength to survive and to sometimes prevail took many forms: hard physical labor, psychological toughness, strong belief, commitment to tradition, connection to joy, deep love, steadfast loyalty, daring imagination, sacrifice, cleverness, determination, to name a few. We are the beneficiaries and inheritors of these life sustaining qualities which have been tempered by the travails of our particular family history.
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we draw upon our inherited sources of strength every day. So not only are our current possibilities a consequence of the valiant efforts of those in the past, but our ability to capitalize on these opportunities and create the life we desire comes from an array of well-honed aptitudes passed down to us.
When we are able to feel just how integral our ancestors have been in the formation our present and the potential of our future, and the enormity of this legacy, we cannot help but be in awe of the gift we have received. As we connect more deeply with the abundance of our inheritance, our gratitude grows, as does our awareness of the profound support we have in moving forward.
Likewise, we are the ancestors of the generations yet to come; the link in a long chain of evolving potential. Our struggles and successes will create a legacy for those who follow us. As they stand on our shoulders they will be able to cast their eyes that much further into the future.
'Tis the season of gratitude and for appreciating the bounty we have been given. Offer a deep bow to all of those who have come before you. Gratefully accept all that is good, and give thanks for the opportunity to make something of it.
What are the life sustaining qualities you have inherited and learned over the years from your family, friends, teachers, and mentors?
Feeling and expressing gratitude is a virtuous cycle. Take this month to offer your appreciation through different modalities: meditation, the written word, verbal acknowledgements, etc. What do you feel after expressing your gratitude?
A heartfelt thank you to all our family, friends, clients, and supporters. We couldn't do what we do without you.
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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