last night's flag football game. i was shocked to see davis playing when i came closer to the field. then i was thrilled when i noticed tim's dad on the field several minutes later. and part of my heart filled up with happiness to see those three together, and part of it broke thinking there was someone who could have been there/should have been there and wasn't. last year it was tim, dale and steven on that field. but, as i wrote in a post before, life continues. a constant rebirthing. where steven is not, davis is. and i am grateful for that process. and i feel a huge warmth in my heart this morning that he is just fine. . .and as we approach his birthday and remember him, that all is well. all is well.
i was looking for a picture i'm sure i took last fall of steven playing football. . .but i found these from this spring instead--probably about the time i wrote this essay.
caught on film:)--tripping sister.
and i love this last snapshot a slice of andreoli life in the back of a minivan: yoga mat and meditation lambskin, fresh oranges, and sports equipment.
and to answer joan's question if i write essays for fun:)--i wrote these three meditation essays at the request of my meditaiton teacher.
As I planned my New Year’s intentions on December 31 2012, I emailed a wise friend, lamenting that I knew yoga and meditation were supposed to help with anger and anxiety, but I didn't have fifteen years to change. My children would be grown by then and I would have missed out on my life and potentially messed up their lives. I wanted to change for myself and I also wanted to change for them. I wanted to give them an example of how to work through difficult challenges and emotions in a healthy way. But I wanted it fast, and well, easy would be great too. In short, I kind of wanted a magic pill to cure me.
I knew I didn’t have the skills needed to heal myself or my children from the genetic and emotional trauma that had been passed down through generations. I felt overwhelmed and wanted tools that would heal in both directions, reaching back and forward through generations. My friend encouraged me to find my center and suggested that maybe I start with something small and easy and then the Lord would show me what to do from there. The “easy” thing I started with was a simple three minute “I am” meditation. The positive effects were so great, it gave me the incentive to invest in a beginning meditation class and follow through with the forty day commitment to Kirtan Kriya.
I was determined to not miss one day as I sent my forty day meditation with the intent of “charity.” I felt triumphant when I showed up again to meditate on day forty one. That day I saw the fulfillment of charity in what began my personal family history journey. A dream and a name led me to find hundreds of my husband’s ancestors. The year brought miracles; whispers in the night that led me to records, photographs, and family names that led me to the temple again and again. I researched my own family history and discovered inspiring family stories of stalwart pioneers, revolutionaries, and strong mothers. This connection with them strengthened my own identity and resolve to face difficult challenges with grace and grit.
Later in the Spring of 2014, after losing my brother-in-law Steven, I found bits of old newspaper articles that tore up my heart for my husband’s great-great grandmother. I had no idea that my heart could ache for someone who I never knew. Learning of these stories, I also wondered how would this affect my children? I worried, anxious to prevent similar stories repeating.
"According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories. Like silt deposited on the cogs of a finely tuned machine after the seawater of a tsunami recedes, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never gone, even if they have been forgotten. They become a part of us, a molecular residue holding fast to our genetic scaffolding. The DNA remains the same, but psychological and behavioral tendencies are inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandmother’s knobby knees, but also her predisposition toward depression caused by the neglect she suffered as a newborn."—Dan Hurley, “Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes.”
One day, as I prepared for a meditation classes, I set my intention to heal those generational wounds. I placed two genealogy fan charts, my husband’s and my own, in front of my lambskin mat. I thought of the sorrow and the strength recorded in those stories, now recorded in my genes, my husband’s and my childrens’.
I tuned in, mindful of my intent, heavy with hope and heartache. This kriya set called for an apple as part of some of the yoga poses. At one point, while holding the apple in the crook of my arm, I imagined myself as a tree. My feet—roots going down deep. My arms—branches reaching out. My core—the trunk. The impression overwhelmed me that I have a responsibility to my posterity to heal these things in myself. It was the first time I had truly thought past my own children, and imagined seven generations coming after me.
The words of the song played as I held the pose, "Heal me, Heal me."
My intent was there, voiced in the mantra. Heal me. Heal my children. Heal those who hurt.
I found myself reaching, stretching up, holding the apple in the required pose. I was asking, like the woman with an issue of blood in the Bible, for healing. Reaching, pleading for myself and for my family and for any ancestors or departed loved ones who needed it. Particuarly I thought of that biblical heroine, who received healing because she was asking, reaching for a hem. Others had touched the Savior in the crowd that day, but it was her faith and intent that allowed the healing. I asked, in prayer, that my family could be healed of the unhelpful things that were passed down. Frankly, I was scared. I didn't feel like I could fight against mental health issues that may affect my family.
As I bit into the apple (as part of the kriya) the symbolism of eating that fruit stuck me. Choice. Agency. Gratitude overwhelmed me, that all our ancestors had chosen life. Even those, especially those, who knew they would struggle against physical, mental and emotional challenges--challenges that would overwhelm them and heart-breakingly take them under.
They had chosen, just like our first parents, to come inhabit imperfect bodies in an imperfect world, knowingly trailing forgetfulness. They had made that choice and that righteous choice had made us. The tiny print of hundreds of those names on the genealogy chart before me were testaments of their lives and that choice. Both of the charts together making up my children, their blood compounded from theirs.
In that moment, eating that apple, I felt that overwhelmed with healing grace. The Atonement in action, a healing more powerful and real than any other remedy. It was not only healing, but provided hope for the future. I thought of this powerful quote by Truman Madsen:
"So perhaps you do have problems that you can blame on your ancestors, and if you forgive that and choose to stand close to the Lord in the process of purifying your life, that will affect your whole family in both directions. . . If you take a wild branch and graft it in to a tame one, if the branch is strong enough it will eventually corrupt and spoil the tree all the way to the roots. But if you take a tame branch and graft it in to a wild tree, in due time, if that branch is strong enough, it will heal and regenerate to the very roots. You will have then been an instrument in the sanctification even of your forebears...To be that kind of branch and achieve that kind of transformation backward and forward is perhaps the greatest achievement of this world. But to do it one must be great, one must be linked, bound to the Lord Jesus Christ. One must be mighty. One must be something of a savior."
I want to be strong enough that I could heal, through the Atonement, the very roots that came before me and the branches that would follow me. That I could be an agent that could help heal our families backward and forward.
I KNEW it was possible to provide healing for those who were gone. I feel very privledged and blessed to enter the information required for temple work for my children's third great-grandmother. . .and then to hear the amazingly sweet experience a relative had while doing her work. That is powerful. That is real.
This spring season, I meditated with the intent of rebirth and joy. I should not have been surprised when again, I was led to my roots; to the linking and healing generations through temple work. A beautiful chance to provide healing for those whose blood run in our own veins.
This process, the healing power of the Atonement, is often times so gradual I don’t notice the difference until I’m reminded of the before. I found that pleading email I wrote to my friend, over a year later. I read it with a now grateful heart. Not only had my friend heard me and sent helpful links to meditation, but my Heavenly Father had heard my desparate prayer and the righteous desires to heal myself and my family. Thankfully, healing didn’t take me fifteen years. I saw amazing progress through accessing the Atonment allowing me to clear out my past, enjoy my present, and teach my children, looking forward to the future with hope, rather than fear.