Ancestral altar with incense burnerYou make decisions every day.  At some point, you may feel uncertain about what direction to take question or if you are doing the right thing.  Parents and elders with their life experience can help you make major decisions in your life, however, they may not always be physically accessible.

In the circle of life, the physical body perishes, but the soul never dies.  Because all energy is recycled and interconnected, your ancestors always remain a part of you.  As long as you stay connected with your ancestors in some fashion, they can impart their wisdom and comfort to you.  Realizing and embracing that your ancestral wisdom is always a part of you is empowering.

Maintaining connection with your ancestors can be done several ways.  In many cultures, an altar is placed in the home and acts as a bridge between you and your ancestors.  Although styles vary, the ancestral altar is basically a table or cabinet with space to accommodate a plaque upon which your ancestors' names are inscribed, an incense burner, three cups of water, and daily offerings of fruit or flowers.

"Heavenly Offerings" Chi Art Painting by Chi-Jen Liu

"Heavenly Offerings"

In various cultures, there are special times during the year set aside for celebrating ancestry or remembering the deceased.  For the Chinese, this time is known as the “Ghost Month.”  Every year, the full moon is aligned opposite the sun on the fifteenth night of the seventh lunar month. This marks the beginning of Ghost Month.  It is believed that during this alignment, the portals of the spirit dimensions are open and spirits are able to freely roam the earth and visit their families.

Ghost Month festivities focus mind and soul energy on connecting with ancestral wisdom.  During the first, fifteenth, and last day of the Ghost Month, offerings of food, burning incense, and burning paper representations of material goods are performed along with prayers.  With these offerings and prayers you can send your messages, questions, and wishes to your ancestors, asking them to resolve your concerns or manifest your desires.

Another very powerful way to connect with ancestral wisdom is to meditate upon appropriate artwork.  Recent neurological studies show that whether you physically perform an action, or imagine yourself performing the action, the brain responds and processes the information in the same way.  This means that even if you cannot place an actual ancestral altar in your home, a visual aid can help you visualize yourself making offerings at an altar, which can lead to connection with your ancestors.

As an example of how to use a visual aid in meditation I am using the Chi Art painting “Heavenly Offerings” pictured in this article. While gazing at “Heavenly Offerings,” imagine you are the person in the painting, hold your hands together in prayer, and bow to the heavens and your ancestors.  Send your ancestors mental thoughts through the prayer; show them your appreciation, and share with them your deepest thoughts and desires.  Look upon the common chicken transforming into a magical phoenix as a metaphor for your wishes coming true.

Mentally become one with the archer shooting his arrow at the tiger.  This imagery releases harm, loss, and injury.  Use your eyes to trace the patterns of the mantra charms in the upper left of the painting for bringing love, peace, power, and wealth.

Committed meditation in front of an altar or appropriate work of art is one way to establish a connection with your ancestors.  It allows you to look deeply within yourself to receive helpful messages, protection, and comfort from loving ancestors who are always a part of you as you navigate through life.