Harvesting the Evolutionary Gifts of All our Ancestors Adapted from Work That Reconnects Practices Eco-Milling and Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors By Constance Washburn
A Deep Time Standing Meditation on inter-connection to Earth and gathering the gifts of our ancestors of other species as well as our human ancestors. This has been used in large groups where moving around was not possible and also online in webinars. The text has been adapted to be more inclusive of a broader range of human experience so please feel free to use revised text when doing the full version of Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors.
Introduction The intention of the practice is to reconnect with our ancestors and the long lineage of evolution of life on this planet of which we are a part. Not many of us in modern western culture know our ancestors very far back. We are isolated in time from both the past and the future. If we can’t imagine back 7 generations how can we think ahead 7 generations and protect the future. We must be able imagine the 7 generations ahead of us so that we can be the ancestors we need to be for them.
This is a guided meditation which uses our imaginations to take us back in time. We don’t need to know all the details of our ancestry nor our evolutionary history to participate fully because we can trust our bodies as they hold all our ancestors and the information that we need. We can trust our imaginations to come up with just the gifts necessary to meet this uncertain time on Planet Earth.
This exercise is based the story of human and planetary evolution as told by modern Science. Science is just beginning to catch up to the indigenous wisdom and spiritual teaching world wide that have been telling us for thousands of years that we are all one, that we are all related and that earth is alive and she is our mother. Science now knows that these ancient truths are indeed true. If this is not your story, feel free to follow your own story.
So we are going to do this practice standing up and step in place (or if online around your room if that is comfortable for you.) You can spread out a little bit and if at anytime you feel like sitting down, please do. You can close your eyes if you want as you just need to hear my voice. (We will be standing for about 15 minutes.)
Ready for the Journey Please stand and find place you can move your arms and hands gently and take perhaps a few steps. Stand with your feet hip width apart and your hands at your sides or however feels comfortable. You can stand in what yogis call Mountain Pose. Feel your feet on the floor reaching down into the earth and you head reaching toward the sky. Close your eyes or lower your gaze so you can go inward into your imagination. We are going to go on a journey together. Take a few deep breaths and settle into your body. Imagine yourself in a place outside of time... (Start music if you have the ability to play music. I have used music by Dawn of Midi; their album “Dysnomia” is good journey music. You can find music that works for you. You can also just have everyone chant AHH to move into a space beyond time. )
Opening Poem - Rainer Maria Rilke We are one generation through thousands of years, mothers and fathers shaped by children to come, who, in their turn, will overtake them. We are endlessly offered into life: all time is ours.
Beginning the Journey Now become aware of your body: your feet, legs, torso, hands, arms, head--the weight of your bones and your flesh as they sink into the floor. You are very literally the Earth Standing.
The food you ate earlier today is becoming your body, and it came from the earth. You are made up of elements of the earth that have been recycled and reused for over 3 billion years. All matter, atoms, molecules of hydrogen, carbon, iron of which we are made were once in trees, rocks, oceans, dinosaurs or in one of your ancestors. Rest for a moment knowing that all that is you came from the earth. Earth is very literally our mother who gave birth to us and all life. She is our oldest ancestor.
As part of the living system of earth we have co-evolved with all of life. We are all related. 98% of our genes are the same as a chimpanzee and 50% the same as a banana. We have more bacterial cells in our bodies than human ones. We co-evolved together with all our brothers and sisters of other species..
Now take a moment to feel the pulse at your wrist or neck……. the ability to pump fluids around your body evolved in the first multi-celled creatures in the primordial ocean…. then other early beings evolved a muscle to pump the fluids - that was your ancestor great grandmother worm. Gratitude to the gifts of those ancestors who developed the many miraculous systems which make our bodies work.
Bend a little from side to side and front to back. The is possible because of the ingenious design of your backbone which was designed by grandfather fish so he could swim through the oceans with ease. Gratitude for the gifts from grandfather fish.
Put your hands on your head. The brains inside have evolved from different ancestors. Our reptilian brain came from our ancestor who crawled onto dry land and survived because of their fight, flight or freeze response. Our limbic brain was a gift from our mammalian ancestors and it allows deep pleasure and a primal sense of connection to family and tribe.
Now feel your hand and wonder at all that it can do…. It is the only thing like it in the whole universe. These hands evolved with our ancestors who lived in trees so they could grab the branches. Put your thumb and forefinger together and that space is just the right size for a branch that will hold your weight. Gratitude for the gift of hands.
Gathering Gifts of Human Ancestors
Now imagine using those hands and climbing down out of the trees and standing on two feet. You are now standing with your first human ancestors, a very small band of humans from which we are all descended. There is an unbroken lineage of grandmothers and grandfathers back through time whose lives have made your life possible. Open your arms to receive the gifts and use your amazing hands to gather the gifts of these ancestors as you begin the journey forward through time with them.
You are standing with your first human ancestor, standing upright at the edge of the forest and looking out over the plains of the savanna. What is stirring in her to push her out into the unknown without the protection of fur, fangs or claws to go out naked to explore the world…. She has only her brothers and sisters, her friends and family.
Walk forward with your human ancestors as they travel vast distances over land and sea to almost every corner of this earth….across deserts and rivers, through forests and meadows, over glaciers,..... They withstand floods and storms,..... encounters with wild animals.. ……. Perhaps they were welcomed into a new community or perhaps they were driven away.
Gather the gifts that helped them survive…..curiosity...bravery, ingenuity and determination, …...gifts of observation and leadership, understanding and compassion, caretaking of the young and the sick…..endurance. Gifts of the hunter, and the healer.
And gather the gifts of those ancestors who stayed in one place and nurtured it and learned it’s ways, its animals and plants, ….. gather the gifts of medicine and nurturing, gifts of storytelling, deep listening, and community building so essential for survival….
Gather the gifts of our ancestors the makers…. of those who made tools and fire and wove cloth,.... the love of beauty and creativity of the art makers, singers, and dancers. Gather the gifts of the Wisdom keepers, the shamans, the elders, the midwives, historians….
Now we are coming into the age when some of our ancestors began to settle down in one place….. Plant crops, domesticate animals and accumulate surpluses….build large communities, walls and temples… trade goods and travel again Walk with these ancestors…. as some were landless and some controlled the land… and gather the gifts of how to grow food, raise animals, and organize …..
Gather the strength of those who built the monuments and the genius of those who designed them. Also gather the gifts that kept your people alive through wars and famine, through the rise and fall of many empires…. the powers to nurture, heal and help with births, and the ability to fight and kill and die to protect your family or to survive.
Walk with your ancestors who were at times the conquerors and other times the conquered, at the times the slave owners, at times the enslaved, …. at times the oppressed and at times the oppressor…... Gather the gifts they all developed to survive. ….The ability to bear great sorrow and loss, the gift to inspire and lead. The gift of laughter, the gift of strategic thinking and planning…
Now we are coming into the industrial era - the age of the machine …... For some of our ancestors it was a time of great discoveries and the building of wealth. For others it was a time of great misery, toiling in factories or being forced off ancestral lands…. What were the gifts from your ancestors those who just survived and those who thrived?.… the knowledge of how greed and fear can warp the mind, the gifts of sacred ways, the ability to love in the face of evil….
It was also a time of invention and growth in knowledge in medicine and science…. It also was a time of forgetting ancient knowledge and wisdom. Gather the gifts of your ancestors who fought to protect the land and those who fought for those in power …. Hard work, the gifts of the dreamers, adventurers, or stability.
Now we are coming into the generations whose names we might know. Some traveled great distances leaving homes and family to start new lives in new lands. Some stayed on the lands of their ancestors, some became homeless, and some were forced off of their land and enslaved. Some fought for the rights of others and some were the warlords. Gather the gifts that allowed them all to carry on their line so you could be here today…....gifts of responsibility, fortitude, resolve, daring, deep knowing of plants and animals, ingenuity, and morality.
Step into the lives of your grandparents. They may be gone or they may be living where they lived for generations, fighting to protect their lands and water, or they may have traveled huge distance to new lands for a better life for their children. Harvest the gifts they had that are now in you…... Now step into the lives of your parents. The girl and boy who will be your mom and dad. Harvest the gifts that they have and bring them with you to your birth.
Now step into your own life and your body and spirit which carry the gifts of your ancestors which are in you and all around you. Take a moment to harvest the gifts of your own life, your resilience, your intelligence and creativity, your determination and your deep desire for the healing of our world.
Hold your hands out in front of you to pass on the gifts of your ancestors to the future generations. Imagine behind you all your grandmothers and grandfathers back through time pouring their gifts into you and imagine in front of you your children or your neighbor’s children. Then imagine in front of them the grand children, and the great grandchildren, and their children. Generation upon generation of descendants carrying the gifts we have brought forward from our ancestors. Take a moment to rest in this stream of deep time.
Now we all stand as our first ancestor stood looking out into the unknown, into a future which is very uncertain. We face wars, extinction of species, climate change, oppression, and diseases. We also face opportunities for great change, liberation, unity, and love.
Open your eyes slowly and look around. We don’t know what lies ahead but we go forward to face it together and we go bearing the gifts of our ancestors.
Turn to a neighbor and take their hand if that feels comfortable to you and tell them just one of the gifts you received from your ancestors. ( If you have time take 2-3 minutes each to share the gifts with a partner. If online you can move people into break out groups where they can share their experience. Or if your group is small you can each person share one gift with the whole group. )
Variations This practice can be adapted to focus on the ancestral line of a particular vocation, such as that of healers, teachers, scientists, artists, social justice activists. Then, instead of retracing a genetic line of forebears, we follow a vocational lineage, remembering men and women through history whose devotion to their calling bestows on-going gifts upon us all.