What is Your Relationship to Debt?
November 1st, 2017

In early October I attended the North American Systemic Constellations Conference in Virginia Beach, VA, USA.  About 200 facilitators, students and trainers of this healing method, along with many interested newcomers participated in the four-day conference.  I traveled with my good friend Lea Gerlach who has been a part of our Constellations community in Atlanta for several years.  I shared responsibilities with Rani George, a facilitator from Washington D.C., for creating the opening and closing ceremonies and holding sacred space for the gathering.  I also presented a workshop called “How Polyrhythmic Drumming Supports a Facilitator’s Multi-Dimensional Awareness” which was very well received (and attended by my teacher Peter Faust, which was slightly intimidating.  Fortunately Peter gave me praise and very positive feedback afterwards, which was extremely rewarding!)

I attended numerous workshops during the conference, and the one presented by Lisa Iversen was particularly powerful.  Our friend Suzanne Jeffers first invited Lisa to come from her home in Bellingham, WA to Atlanta to present Constellations seminars in 2005, and she has made numerous trips to our city since then.  In the fall of 2011, after our first year of training with the Fausts, Kelly and I attended several of Lisa’s sessions around the Atlanta area and participated in some of our first constellations dealing with slavery as a central theme.

Lisa’s workshop at NASC was entitled “Loving ‘What Is’ in America’s Ancestral Blueprints.”  Along with a variety of exercises, Lisa facilitated a large blind constellation.  Each of the 25 or so participants was invited to take a piece of paper with a large numeral written on one side, and something very small written on the opposite side we were not to look at.  Lisa then invited us to walk slowly around the large open space and feel into where each piece of paper might belong, and when we found a resonant spot we were to leave the paper on the floor there with the number side up.  I remember feeling like I was dousing for water, and when I walked near the ‘right place’ my arms were tugged downwards and I left the paper there.  Eventually everyone placed their numbers.

In the next phase we were invited to slowly walk among all the numbers, exploring what it felt like to stand near and even on top of them.  We intuitively moved through the room trying out any numbers toward which we were called.  Some people quickly found numbers they were drawn to, and some kept moving for quite a while.  I found the best feeling at #24; when I stood on it without shoes, my feet felt like they were on a very soft, thick towel.  I tried a few others but none felt as good as 24.  It turned out Suzanne was also drawn to 24, and we playfully competed to get a foot on it.  Finally everyone came to a stop on or near one number.  There were a couple of pairs of numbers near each other, and even one cluster that had the numbers 25, 26 and 27 all together.

Now Lisa asked for each participant, one at a time, to turn over their number and say what was written on the other side, as well as their emotional response to it.  This being the North American Constellations conference, the elements were things like “Canada”, “USA”, “Mexico”, “Father”, “Mother”, “Gender”, “Nature”, “Home Country”, etc.  Amazingly, the three clustered together were “Slaveholder”, “Enslaved”, and “Colonized”, and a woman with Irish ancestry stood sadly among them.  When it came to our turn, Suzanne revealed #24 to be “Debt.”  I was shocked.  Why was I drawn so strongly to this energy, and why did it feel so comfortable?  I felt  repulsion from my images of shame, diminishment and burdening that I associated with debt.

My first thoughts went to financial debt, and the fact that after our next house payment our mortgage would be paid off and we would own our home outright.  (Just a few days ago I posted a photo of our house on Facebook with the caption “Paid for,” as I wanted to celebrate this accomplishment.  The photo already has over 300 ‘Likes’, more than anything I can remember sharing before.  Something about being free of debt has really resonated with people!)  Also, I owe nothing else financially, and except for Kelly’s college debt from her PhD studies, we not only have zero debt but are well on our way to saving for what we hope is a decent retirement.  Was this why standing on “Debt” felt so good to my feet?

I know my father passed on to his children his aversion to holding any debt, and has been a strong advocate for saving as much as possible.  While growing up I judged him as stingy and self-denying, as well as withholding from the family.  I have come to accept that while he behaves this way even in his retirement years (he still changes the oil in his cars himself and refuses to hire anyone to do anything he can do- even risky jobs on ladders) he is both remaining loyal to the way his immigrant father lived, and providing more security for himself and my mother through savings.  And, I know I can make the choices around money that are right for me.

Upon more reflection in the workshop, I came to sense my relationship with a larger perspective on debt.  Through the years of training and experience I’ve had with Family Constellations, I’ve learned to value those who came before me and to come to peace with and be grateful for all the experiences, struggles and successes my ancestors lived through and passed on to me.  I acknowledge that I will always stand in debt for my life to those through whom my life comes to me.  I first experienced the benefits of honoring lineage from my West African music teachers, who respect all their teachers who have passed on the traditional music of their ethnic group through an oral tradition, person-to-person, breath-to-breath, spirit-to-spirit.  I have tried my best to honor the same tradition in the ways I pass on the music to my students, never claiming it to be my own, and bringing through for them all the joy it has brought to my life.  

In the last few years, I’ve come to acknowledge the privileges I’ve had in the society of the U.S.A. because I’m recognized in a primary way as belonging to the dominant, rule-making and rule-enforcing, majority group of white people, and I’m beginning to do more to raise my own as well as others’ awareness of the oppression and injustice that are experienced by minorities who are not able to enjoy many of the same privileges I have due to the color of their skin.  I owe some of the ease of my life to my own skin color, and if I am going to live as a US citizen it’s more than ever my responsibility to help uphold the ideals of the Constitution that remind us to among other things “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, [and] insure domestic Tranquility.”

What is your relationship to debt?  Who came before you so that life could be passed on, and as Francesca Mason Boring says, “so the blood could live on in the descendants”?  Are you in a good relationship to what you owe- not just in a financial sense, but for your very existence?  Who are the teachers that dedicated themselves to your abilities to find a good place in life, and how do you remember them?  Do you hold as a primary part of your identity your larger family system, or do you feel yourself more as an individual in life?  In my experience, the more resentment I have cleared from my memories for anything that happened in my life, the more I’ve been able to feel the strength of my ancestors supporting me in what I’ve come to this life to create, and the greater is the sense of family to which I know I belong.  I feel more prominently the bridge my ancestral lineage makes for me through all those who have come before me, going all the way back to the divine source of life.

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