How might your life be different if you felt profoundly supported? This is a bigger question than what would you do if you won $1 million dollars. It includes spiritual, emotional and social support for every aspect of your health and vocation.

This is the time of year when I pay extra attention to my ancestral support. In our house I draw inspiration from the Mexican Dia de los Muertos tradition of building ofrendas. We create a display of photos of family and friends that have crossed over with some food, candles, and special objects.

Every year I take a step deeper into the remembering. Here are questions I will be asking myself as I set up my altar this year. These questions are also pre-work for those attending the All Souls’ Dance Retreat. Maybe they will inspire you.

What ancestor(s) do I especially want to invite to support me?

What kind of wisdom or blessing do they bring to my life?


What ancestor is most needing my love to heal?

This year I’m thinking about my grandmother’s first daughter that was still born; the doctors never showed her to my grandmother. In her final days my grandmother was still asking where her baby girl had gone. I’m going to find a way to represent that baby on my altar.


How might I represent the earth where my family has lived?

I might include some cones from redwood trees that I have stashed away so I can smell them and remember the landscape where I grew up. I shared more on the connection between earth and ancestry in this blog post.


How can I remember my ancestors who once lived in close reciprocal relationship with the earth?

Many generations separate me from indigenous European wisdom. I will probably choose between some embroideries or clay figurines that remind me of this lineage.


How will I honor the ancestors of the place where I live?

I may put out some tobacco and wild rice for the Dakota people who first lived here.


Each year our ancestor altar gets more and more crowded. It connects us to more people, places, and times in history. The people gathered in that spot may not have gotten along with each other or with me. I’ve felt ambivalent or even disgusted by some of my relatives. But I’ve learned that they all need to be there anyway. (For more on this check out Family Constellation work and books like It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn).

Ultimately I find the altar – it’s beauty and light – healing. It’s an opportunity to bring more love and healing to my family story and to tap into the love and healing my ancestors can offer me.

I look forward to our coming dance ritual in honor of ancestors because dancing is one of the strongest ways I know to hold open a channel of love and healing. The dancing circle is a vessel to receive the love and wisdom from our ancestors and to give movement to their prayers.

However you choose to remember your ancestors, I hope that it connects you with unexpected support and resources for living a courageous, creative, loving life.



All Souls Dance Retreat – October 28

Celebrate all the lives that have sustained yours. Learn more and register.

Embodied Practices that strengthen your connection to love

Drop in any week to Healing Waters Qigong, a Spring Forest Qigong practice group, or to the Wisdom Dances dance practice, based in Laura Shannon’s research on traditional dances as tools for healing and transformation.