Night-Time Rituals with my Ancestors

At 3 am in the morning I cannot sleep. I get up, and dance with my ancestors. Then I write.

The practice came during Covid lockdowns from a need to find resources to root me – to turn towards trusting my body, bring a deeper relationship with the space I breathe and live, to remember the vital energy that I can release and regenerate through a simplicity of movement and ritual.

During the last few years, the whirlwind of political movements arising have been stirring me deeply in ways that I want to unpack. Yet there are no elders or people of my community I can go to for now to unpack them together. I have tried and I can see that the ongoing stress they are dealing with means they cannot meet these conversations of mine. I am aware of the constant political fear that clouds over Hong Kong, the place that my parents migrated from, and where my extended family still live in. Colonial ghosts of Britain and frozen ghosts of China that need tending to, befriending.

So instead I’ve started communing with my dead ancestors for guidance. During the darkness of night, the process transforms from fear and terror of who I imagine them to be, dancing through every ray of emotion and sensation in my layers, and I’m often drenched in a deep forgiveness (it feels like we together both forgive and are forgived at once).

I am surprised at the support and deep insight they continue to offer me. I am often in tears with gratitude and joy. My ancestors and I are not separate from me. And they are also separate from me, helping me find my way.

To receive knowledge from our ancestors might sound alien to some. In another way I could describe that it begins with not being alien but becoming ordinary again, joining the darkest corners and shadows of our body that is our home; our emotional, spirit-full, physical edges. Dancing with how this shape changes, lets in or keeps out the space around it. Spirits of the ordinary.

Epigenetics, or the study of gene changes, speak about our DNA carrying intact information from as far back as our great-grandparents – we literally carry bodily memory of knowledge from them in ourselves.

So we are already utilising the wisdom and intelligent strategies of our ancestors in dealing with life situations. We will also be likely to repeat patterns of theirs that aren’t useful to us if we aren’t able to bring choice and awareness to this. Or, if social conditions don’t easily allow us the resources to find choice and awareness.

In the last few years I’ve eaten my way hungrily through books, podcasts, had deep conversations and challenging arguments on who gets to tell the stories of my ancestors. It has been uncomfortable yet affirming to begin rewriting it and listening to the stories that I uncover for myself – and reuniting my conflictual parts into a whole – as well as be able to finally root myself as a being that spans time – all the way back to ancient roots and ancient peoples.

In holding space as a performer, somatic therapist and workshop facilitator, I have been learning that through deep empathy and collective courage, it can be possible to work through what baggage doesn’t need to be carried anymore and continue honouring the intelligence and wisdom that has been passed down to us and is ours to keep.

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After each dance, I write. I have a large collection of writings now. They sometimes read like journals, clues, a map, or poetry. You can click on the pdf links below to read them.

Night-Time Practice: A Poem ~ HAA DAAN TIN ~ click here to read

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