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  • Writer's pictureSustaining the Soul


by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

I call in all the ancestors, ancient ones, born of every continent, all those of who are enlightened, who have the wisdom to help us carry messages of healing to those of us who aspire to live to the fullest in a just world. I call in all of the elements of that which we are, fire, water, earth, nature, and mineral. I call in the air that brings these elements together and the space in which they are held together. Meet us, ancestors, at the water. Meet us at the oceans, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and creeks across the world, as we offer prayers of reconciliation, purification, and healing. Let us be bathed in the wisdom and compassion gifted by you each moment.

Greetings winged ones flying in all directions, above and below, the ancient ones who swim in the sea from continent to continent, the four legged who follow the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, who walk naked in the midst of meadows, deserts, mountains, and forests. We bow humbly to you for the sacrifices you have made on our behalf. Greetings ancestor trees standing tall in the forest, the leaves from your branches anointing us, your roots, seen and unseen, reminding us of the earth beneath our feet. We honor the blessed earth that sustains us despite our misuse.

To all ancestors who were uprooted from homelands which hold the scent of your birth, ancestors whose mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, great parents knew no boundaries between land and people, between, that which is above, below and all around. I call in the healing of your spirits, which dance to the rhythm of our hearts. We come to the table that you laid out for us centuries ago beneath the sky. Let us light the fire so that we can see your faces beyond the trampled graves and ashes of your flesh. Let the fire be in honor of your life, as our lives.

To all ancestors who were enslaved, enchanted are your souls, your bloody feet cracked the seashells that lay beneath the sand on the seashores of our beginnings. I call for the healing of those feet in us and in those around us, breathing wind a million years old, left in the thicket of trees and foul marshes. Come ancestors to the table where we eat rice that you have given us. Come feel the cotton clothes we wear because of the crops you harvested. Come let us kiss your hands that swelled long after sunset each day. If only all that which you loved and lost came back from the heavens, back from beneath the sea. I walk the sacred land where you withered and rose again despite the horror, I honor you for surviving our beginnings.

To all ancestors who migrated from all directions, from the south, north, east, west, above, and below, may your humble beginnings never be forgotten. We know of the days and nights you spent ensuring that we had food and shelter. Come let us honor you for all of your courage.

We are grateful, ancestors, for reminding us of the “we” that we are. For it is in this “we” where we find our home together, close to the sacred earth in which your skin has faded and your bones have settled.

We go now with ancient gifts carried by those of us who are willing to speak of reconciliation, love, and compassion, those of us who are willing to acknowledge the pain we have caused ourselves and one another, and to see the place within us that is untouched by suffering.

May the merit of our work go out to all who suffer. May we be well. May we be healed.


Zenju in prayer holding feathers
Self portrait photograph by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Ph.D. is an author, poet, seer, and ordained Zen Buddhist priest. The essence of all her transmissions come together in her teachings including these books, Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness, and Belonging, The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender (print and audio) and Black Angel Cards: 36 Oracles and Messages for Divining Your Life. She is contributing author to many anthologies including Dharma, Color, Culture: New Voices in Western Buddhism, Hidden Lamp: Stories From Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Her work has been featured in Essence Magazine, CNN, CBS NEWS, On Being, Buddhadharma, and Lion's Roar. She holds a M.A. from U.C.L.A. and a Ph.D. in Transformative Learning. More at

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