In many tribal cultures the story goes something like this. When you die, a part of your soul stays on in here, eventually dissolving into the natural substance of the world, where it remains. The rest of you goes into the lower world where it reunites with your ancestors and begins to process the unresolved parts of your life. When enough of that has been accomplished, yet another part of your soul rises up through the world tree to the upper world, where it may choose to be born again into a new body.
Of course this outline differs somewhat from one culture to another, but it shows up even in Hebrew/Jewish spiritual tradition where the three parts of the soul are called neshem, neshemah and ruach.
I was struck by this while preparing for my meditation practice this morning. My wife and I have a room set apart for our spiritual practice. We have space there to honor our physical ancestors and our spiritual ancestors. I had originally thought of the spiritual ancestors as some sort of conceptual background for my spiritual/shamanic path in this life, but as I looked over at them this morning, it struck me that they were in fact the real ancestors of that part of me that will eventually rise back up the world tree - to return again with a different face.
That part of us - of me at any rate - tends to process information a bit differently than the ego. It has a deeper sense of what is true and of the relationship between all the pieces of the whole. It's in realizations like this that this deeper part of the self reveals its nature - and its gifts. It keeps reminding me that this is another good reason to continue my daily practice.