This extended practice connects us vividly with our human past on Earth, and deepens awareness of the strengths it offers us. The expanses of time, which we enter, remind us that the Industrial Growth Society is a momentary episode– and that, to move beyond it, we can draw on a far larger and more deeply rooted legacy. As we progress through countless generations, respect and gratitude arise for our forebears’ capacity to weather adversity, and to respond collectively and creatively to enormous challenges. The process helps us to believe that these capacities have not forsaken us, and can help us now at this crisis point for life on Earth.
The process consists of a slow walk through time, first backwards to the start of the human story, then forwards to return to the present. Allow five minutes for set-up, forty minutes or so for the walk and then another fifteen for reflection in small groups.
Deep-toned flowing music, as background to the guide’s verbal promptings, stirs images and “memories” of our long human journey, helping us open to our collective unconsciousness. We like to use portions of Ignacio by Vangelis, re-recording them on the same CD to make an hour of background music.
In order to keep walking without hitting a wall, people circle around a central point. Erect with a high stool or chairs visible to everyone as they walk. Have them space themselves around the room, right shoulder to the center, and wait while you explain the process. They are to move very slowly backwards, after the music has begun and your words give the cue. Their eyes will be half-closed, to invite feelings and images to surface, while permitting enough vision to maneuver. They will feel the others moving alongside them, occasionally bumping and even stepping into each other, for paces vary. That is to be expected and is appropriate enough, because this has not been a solo journey; we made it together. When people get into a clump and feel impeded, they are just to raise their eyes, glance around for an open area, and relocate.
Part way through, they will have reached the start of the human journey. Your words will make this clear and cue them to stop still. Then they will move forward in a clockwise direction. They will harvesting the gifts of the ancestors. It helps to make bodily gestures of gleaning, scooping, picking from below and above, as they take to themselves the gifts.
After the explanations, the guide dedicates the ritual to the benefit of all beings. The walk now begins, with music in the background and voice-over from the guide. The guide’s job is to offer a running series of verbal cues. These cues synchronize people’s passage through time, as well as evoke memories, both personal and from the collective unconscious. The tone is steady, assured, and slightly impersonal. What is said varies with the history and culture of the group. How much is said varies with the guide. Better to say too little than too much. You’re not giving a history lesson; you’re opening vistas for the imagination. The knowledge most needed is already there.
This practice can be adapted to focus on the ancestral line of a particular vocation, such as that of healers, teachers, scientists, artists, social justice activists. Then, instead of retracing a genetic line of forebears, we follow a vocational lineage, remembering men and women through history whose devotion to their calling bestows on-going gifts upon us all.
This can be offered as a mediation for people sitting in an auditorium or church. They can still use their hands and arms to gather the gifts.