I have always had a fascination for elders. As a child, I’d sit and listen to my parents and grandparents talk late into the night. On my mother’s side of the family, our family tree has been traced back to 900 and my grandmother and great-aunt, passionate about genealogy, love to tell me stories. On my father’s side of the family, our Native American elders were revered as keepers of wisdom. Stories were told to pass lessons and history on to children.
When I was in my corporate career, I’d often find myself working with people much older than me and treasuring their expertise. They knew how to navigate tumultuous waters and fix what looked like un-fixable mistakes. I felt blessed to receive their guidance.
Today, we are a youth-obsessed, new-now-obsessed culture. All these new changes are exciting. They allow us to go so fast, that we sometimes forget to stop and listen to the old. It’s easy to dismiss the past as irrelevant.
The message is: it’s too slow, it’s not sexy.
One of the interesting things I’ve noticed lately is that what’s old: our ancestors, our traditions, our elders…are a much bigger part of us than we think. Each generation passes DNA, which we now know includes emotions, on to the next. We often have to return to our emotions, old beliefs, and in my work, to our DNA, in order to unlock the secrets to our healing. Sometimes, this healing comes from stories of the past: what our parents, grandparents, and ancestors went through. Or from habits of the past — sleep, nutrition, simpler living. Often, we learn more about what we need to let go of; and what we must embrace, for our own well-being.
Mother Earth is also our elder. In many old, traditional healing modalities, like Chinese medicine, Native American medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine, we must commune with Mother Earth as a way to heal. We hear her stories through food, herbal medicines, and spending time in nature. Studies show that hugging trees has healing benefits! Whether on the beach, in the mountains or wandering the forest, most people can attest to the healing benefits of nature.
I am about to take a trip home, back to my family, my 98-year old grandmother and 97-year old great aunt. I will travel through the homelands of my Oneida Nation community. I will reconnect. I will leave the city and walk softly on the land. I will climb a tall mountain. I will listen to the stories of my elders. I will listen to the messages of Mother Earth.
Somehow, I know that what seems like a trip home is really part of the energy of summer in Chinese and Native American medicine: healing the heart and releasing old emotional wounds. It is our elders who have been here long enough to see that every storm ends, the sun still comes out, mistakes help us learn, healing is possible, and that in the end, what truly matters is living true to your heart.
May you find a way to connect to your elders, whomever they may be — biological family, family of choice, Mother Earth, remembering stories. Tread softly as we move into summer and allow your heart to have space to feel what matters most. Summer gives us ample opportunity for this kind of deep healing.
This is an old picture of my grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather was a teacher and upon retirement, became the county historian. My grandmother loves to tell a good joke, share family stories, and at 96, still drives.
Who is the storyteller in your family? I’d love to see old family pictures if you want to share!
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