What lies beneath?

3x-great-grandfather-gallaher

Whenever I find myself being deeply emotionally affected by some external circumstance like the election, I know the situation has to be touching on something in me.  Along with chanting for peace and lovingkindness I’ve been watching the ebb and flow of emotions while chanting and also observing the impact of the spewing going on on FB, wondering what my reactions are telling me.

Starting before the election, another major phase of unwinding in my face has been going on.  [The glued-together stuff at the root is finally separating enough I can pick out some specific muscles!]  Whenever muscles are opening there’s a fair chance some old issue, whether personal or ancestral or past life (or all of the above), is going to be released.

The way the Universe operates, I figure there’s a pretty good chance the issues from the election and whatever I’m moving through in the healing process are related.  As I’ve contemplated I’ve looked at a few things and come up with one surprise issue I’ll be exploring.

Several times the Gayatri Mantra has produced a big emotional reaction so I looked up a translation.  I know it’s used often for peace and that it opens the heart, but the specific meaning of the words doesn’t seem to stick with me.  I found a lovely translation and discussion on this site:

OM BUHR, BHUVA, SWAHA
OM TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YONAHA PRACHODAYAT”

We meditate on the glory of the Creator;
Who has created the Universe;
Who is worthy of Worship;
Who is the embodiment of Knowledge and Light;
Who is the remover of Sin and Ignorance;
May He open our hearts and enlighten our Intellect

While I don’t find anything there that raises a specific personal issue, I can see that the tone and purpose of the chant is a big contradiction to what’s going on in the U.S. right now.  I figure it’s hitting right in the place where fear is pulling me away from an open heart…

The big place where I’ve been very emotional involves the horrible things Trump has said about people of other races and religions, especially his commentary on Blacks.  Ridiculing the Black Lives Matter movement and talking about “go back to Africa” hurts my heart.  One evening as I explored inward about what might be evoking such a strong response, I suddenly saw my family tree in my mind’s eye.

You see my 3X great grandfather and his son, my 2X great grandfather (plus his many siblings) owned slaves.  When I first encountered a copy of a will from 1837 in my grandfather’s effects, I was so young I really didn’t know what the bequests that seemed to hand off people meant.  Nor did any of us know what relation the testator had to us.

As an adult I recalled seeing the will and realized somebody in my family had been a slaveholder.  I’ve grappled with guilt over it off and on ever since but ultimately I’ve had to realize I wasn’t there, I didn’t convince anyone to do it and I’m not responsible for what they did.  I’ve always aimed to treat every human I encounter with dignity regardless of race, creed or religion and I don’t quite know what to do about what my ancestors did 170-200+ years ago,

Eventually I did enough research to know the maker of the will was my 3X great grandfather.  I’ve stood on the property he owned in Tennessee and I’ve seen the graves of both him and his son.  What mixed feelings I have about them.

It was moving to see the piece of land my 3X great grandfather purchased around 1800.  It’s hard to describe how it felt to stand not only at his grave but also my 3X great grandmother and another set of 3X great grandparents whose daughter, my 2X great grandmother, married my 2X great grandfather.

They’re my family.  They moved from Scotland to Ireland when England offered property and then a few generations later my 4X great grandfather moved to Pennsylvania.  Eastern Tennessee came next, then a little west to Knoxville.  Eventually branches of this family were involved in every major surge to the west in American history.  Part of me is proud that these poor farmers had the courage to keep picking up and moving forward to seek a better life.

Part of me wants to travel back in time so I can hop up and down in fury and demand what on earth they were thinking???  How could they be so cruel?  I wind up in this ambivalent space between loving them because they’re my family (and much of the courage and conviction I carry I know I owe to them) and despising them because they lacked humanity.

A piece, then, involves my ambivalence.  But I also have a deep sense I’m feeling something that has to do with those ancestors and how they felt or now feel about slavery and their part in it.  I’ll be doing some exploring in meditation and ceremony about the ancestral piece and possibly it’s time for a check-in with Hanna for some of her excellent healing.

How about you — if you’re feeling strong emotions around the election of Trump, have you found any of those feelings arise from personal issues? Are you aware of the source of these deep reactions to xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, misogyny, etc.?

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8 thoughts on “What lies beneath?

  1. Insightful journey back in time, Leigh, ruminating on ancestors and appraisal of their actions based on contemporary sensitivities. Certain things, like events in history, would have had a context back in time, which will be anathema to the considerably evolved state of sizable segments of humanity today. Yet the recently concluded presidential election at yours highlights the unevolved state of large communities of people apparently espousing radicalism, xenophobia, and divisive mindset. What is heartening is that liberal minds are out in significant numbers arrayed against divisive forces in a well meaning conflict that is bound to restore inclusiveness and balance. Results may be slow in coming, as in churning for butter; sustainined societal churning will suddenly throw up the butter of strongly bonded communities around the world. May your thinking and actions at the individual level contribute to such an outcome.

  2. WP swallowed my comment, which was kinda long. Bottom line I enjoyed your post and it made me think. We cannot escape ourselves, we take us with us wherever we go, with each breath.

    Thanks for modeling for us how to make the tricky connections. It is worth the struggle.

  3. Pingback: And the healing takes another leap | Not Just Sassy on the Inside

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