The Woman and Her Special Birthday:
a David story of Ancestors
by Lisa van de Water
This Story is not a parable, it is based on a real event. In January 2008 some friends and I went to Hawaii for my birthday. David and Ananda came, and he worked with me first on some current fear patterns and then on my ties to my parents.
I did not have to tell David where my ancestors had lived, he knew, and he zeroed in on a place in my mother’s lineage. It was one of the most astounding moments that I had with him (or anyone else). We were not talking about my parents at all, then ‘out of the blue’ (as it seemed to me) he asked if my mother had ancestors in a particular place. I replied, “Well, as a matter of fact, yes.”
We went on from there and visions of my ancestors started appearing, though it was not until I started receiving this Story now that I got all the detail. The exchange did not happen exactly like this, and much was not in words. David and I worked on my mother’s lineage, but as this Story came to me, it included my father as well. Everything after the vision of the ancestors is new, coming slowly in pictures as these Stories do. The chant at the end, of course, is “Om Namah Sivaya”.
Lisa Van de Water
THE SPECIAL BIRTHDAY
Once there was a woman who was having a special birthday. She wanted to celebrate in a warm, beautiful place, one that was very different from the large, dirty city where she was born in the winter. So she and some friends went to a lush, tropical island. They played in the ocean and walked along the green paths. In the evening on her birthday the friends gathered, including a gentle, wise man. There were flowers, food, and some thoughtful presents.
The woman brought out a photo of herself as a little baby. Her mother was holding her, her father beside her mother. She began thinking about her life with them as a child. By this time both had passed away. She remembered that she had not wanted to be like either one of them. Her mother was meek and frightened, and often felt like a victim. Her father had a bad temper and yelled a lot. She became sad and wished that she had had different parents.
The wise man saw her sadness and came over to her.
She complained about her father’s bullying, and said she resented how weak her mother had been. She started to cry. The wise man asked looked deep into her eyes and said, ”Close your eyes, we will go on a journey.” She closed her eyes and he took her to her family’s ancestral lands. She saw her ancestors centuries ago, in their villages with family and friends, lovers and enemies. She saw them fish and hunt, raise children and crops and animals, build homes and fortresses and sacred places, craft everyday tools and beautiful art. She saw them learn and teach and wonder, work and play, dance and lift their voices in song. She saw them rejoice as they welcomed new babies and grieve as they buried the departed.
She saw some of them look farther than their own village, inspired to journey on land or sea; some returned, some did not. She saw some go proudly or fearfully to war, and some stay home, where war very often slashed into their villages and found them anyway. Her ancestors did and felt and thought all the things that people do. They were kindly or mean, honest or cheats, poor or prosperous. Some had short lives, some had long ones. Some died peacefully at home, some of illnesses or accidents, some in the carnage of battle.
After a while, the wise man asked softly, “Do you see your mother? Do you see your father?”
“They are everywhere,” she whispered.
She could see her mother in a playing child, in a young woman rocking a cradle at a stone hearth, in a studious monk working by candlelight, in a frail old grandmother on her deathbed, but also in a man fighting desperately and fiercely to defend his home and family. She could see her father in a cruel invader slaughtering at random, in a self-important and quarrelsome official, in a lonely but proud man who held himself aloof from everyone, but also in a gardener carefully tending plants, and in a youthful lover. She now understood that all the ancestors she had seen, and many more, were part of her parents, and thus were part of her. She no longer thought of her parents as isolated from everyone else, or from herself. She saw them as if they were in a tapestry woven over the ages. Their imperfections, and hers, no longer annoyed her so much.
The journey was over. She opened her eyes.
The wise man had seen everything, and knew that she now had a deeper understanding. He smiled kindly, saying, “Now you see that everyone lives in a pattern going back through history and before, just as you do. Some people you meet may even share some of your ancestors. And if you go back far enough in time, we all share all our ancestors.“ He paused to let that sink in, then continued, “But what matters most is that you have felt a connection, stretching back into the past and reaching into the future, with everyone who has ever lived, or ever will live. Remember that connection, whenever you meet someone. No matter how people seem at the time, they are all your brothers and sisters. You share the breath of life and the dance of the ages.”
The woman was overwhelmed. She told the wise man that she was very grateful for the wonderful vision.
He chuckled and reminded her that her inner journey was not his creation, but her own legacy. He said, “When you are unhappy with other people, remember to open your mind and let your vision expand as far as you can. You will then see them and what they do very differently. You may even see yourself differently.” She tried to imagine everyone’s connections with their ancestors and descendents and with everyone else’s, until it became too complicated, like a gigantic ball of string.
The wise man said softly, “Let go, let it all go.” She sighed with relief and released her ideas about what she had seen. She looked over the ocean to the horizon and the complicated image dissolved into a shimmering light in which everyone - past, present, future - is connected.
The wise man smiled and sang a simple chant about letting go. The woman sang along, and she let the music carry her into a place where she was at peace.
It was a very special birthday.