Healing Family Wounds

One of the greatest gifts of love you can give yourself is the gift of clearing the ancestral inheritances that inform your life today. Healing family wounds and shedding your ancestral and karmic stories offers you the opportunity to become free of genetic fate and family baggage while honoring those who have come before you.

Now is the time to embrace your destiny, heal the outdated stories and wounding from the past that are informing your life today. It is time to illuminate your heart by expressing gratitude for the lessons your parents and ancestors have taught you, thank them for their gifts, and let the baggage go.

In Dr. Alberto Villoldo’s book, The Four Insights, he provides you with a valuable exercise for honoring those who have come before you by building your ancestral altar:

“Most anthropologists still believe that the ancestral altars found in every traditional culture are used for “worship”. The truth is that these societies understand that when you celebrate your ancestors, no matter how terribly they might have behaved, you find forgiveness and compassion and can break free of karma and stories. The Laika say that if you don’t honor the ancestors with an altar you build for them, they will run amok in your house. That is, it’s better to know where they are than to ignore their legacy, kick them into the psychological gutter, and cling to the story of being a victim of their actions.

The following exercise can spare you from spending years in psychotherapy working through your mother and father issues:

Find a spot in your home (such as a shelf, windowsill, or fireplace mantel) where you can make a small altar, and then place a cloth on it. Next, arrange photographs or symbols of your ancestors on top. For example, if you don’t have a picture of your great-grandfather, you might put his ring or some other object he owned on the altar. You can also use slips of paper with your ancestors’ names or photographs of homes where your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were raised.

I have a friend who created an altar with a runner her great-grandmother embroidered, on which she set a photograph of her grandmother, who was always her inspiration. She also wanted to recognize and honor the ancestors who taught her lessons that caused her pain, but it was very difficult for her to gaze at photographs of them. So she discovered that it was easier to honor them when she placed on her altar photographs of them taken when they were children. Seeing her family members in their youth reminded her of the goodness within them, which had not always been so obvious to her when they were adults.

To honor your ancestors, place fresh flowers in a vase on your altar, or light incense. You may also want to bring your family members offerings from nature as the season change, such as shells or stones you pick up from the beach in summer, pinecones and dried leaves in the fall, and so on. Every time you change the offerings, thank you ancestors for the gifts they gave you, no matter how harsh it was for you to experience receiving them or how difficult it was to perceive them as gifts at all. Remember that history is not what actually happened but how you choose to remember it – that is, how it lives within you. Working with this ancestral altar, you can change your family story at the mythic level, where tales are epic journeys, not the same old tired sagas of emotional or material success or failure.

Make a habit of stopping at your altar to reflect upon the fits of your ancestors. Remember that you’ve chosen to rewrite your story, and in your revised version, your family members are not villains and you’re not a victim.

Keep in mind, too, that this altar must be a representation of the one you build inside you. That is what you create in your home and should serve as a sort of spiritual Post-it note, reminding you to feel gratitude for the legacy you’ve been given and the lessons your ancestors taught you.”


Readers, our first course in our curriculum is all about healing family wounds and releasing toxins of the past. Learn more about our South/Illumination course here

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