g a t h e r i n g s


Constellation is a practice — it is a mindfulness practice. Without this perspective in place, Constellation threatens to be another hallucination to feed our wishful thinking addiction. Early on, Bert Hellinger spoke of human beings’ primary instinct as formed by the need to belong. As with any survival instinct, the need to belong can lead us into dangerous dark alleys or ones so dimly lit that it feels safer to keep repeating patterns than to strike out into the new. The tasks that life hands to us through the conditions of our parents, their circumstances, and the context of community are what we run away from or toward for most of our lives.

Hellinger’s observations about the many dramatic and nuanced ways we stay entangled with our original belonging are often stunning. We nod our heads and think he must be psychic. How can he possibly know that we feel responsible for the early death of our mother and fight each and every day not to follow her? How did he guess that our depression sweeps in on the brink of success? Why are we suddenly inspired when our enslaved great-grandmothers step in to bless our path to freedom? What is the equation that says atonement and loyalty are in some way complementary?

Constellation invites us to understand that our “stuckness,” self-sabotage, anxiety, depression, anger, illness, and other symptoms are likely part of a larger vocabulary, one that came before us, one that expanded or contracted through major events in the local or larger family system — from the early death of a family member to the civil war that has torn an entire community asunder. Constellation sheds light on how the head and the heart collude to try to navigate the convoluted message to grow beyond and to stay behind simultaneously.

The process introduced by Bert Hellinger — drawn from the ancient and the ongoing — allows for the experience of deep inclusion. No matter the particular quality of individuals, Love moves through (the force rather than the sentiment) toward more life. The thing is, insight, even insight that is felt in the body and spirit, must be cultivated in the here-and-now in order to have enduring impact. The application of insight is the gift from and to unfolding life. Once we see that we did not invent our dilemma, that we have been caught in a trap that has trapped others, we must cultivate the new ground — every single day, in various ways, through myriad steps. Yes, we are children of holocausts, all was lost in the fires generations ago, a grandfather stole or was stolen from, earlier children were adopted, aborted, enslaved, institutionalized, our ancestors suffered mightily. At the same time, the belief that those ancestors stand by us steadfastly, that the past is grateful for the future, is the life-force that patiently awaits us. The tiny weed pushing through the crack in the sidewalk; it drinks what it can and brings forward the capacity to hold both growth and connection.

We are magnificent in that capacity — to inhale deeply, exhale fully, and move out from the spheres of despair; to let ourselves feel the palms, muscular and powerful or soft and tiny, at our backs, and to insist on moving with them into the new. This is our duty? I don’t know. Our responsibility? I don’t know. It is clear that the world will go on without any one of us. It is our contributions that make a difference, our little creativities. Ultimately and immediately, “Yes” is a choice, to gently open my palm to the shoulder of the future and breathe forward.