Family Time – November 21 2017

It is the beginning of the holiday season and, for so many of us, ‘family time.’ Many of us will be traveling to see our parents, or we may have children coming home to visit us. We may be seeing siblings. Many people, many relationships, some of whom may be angry with us, some of whom may have judgments of us, some of whom may have stopped talking to us, etc. 
Even though we may have learned through our spiritual work how to behave well with others, how to approach most of our relationships with love and a sense of service to the divine, when we add ‘family of origin’ into the mix, all bets may be off. These are people who had a role at the beginning of our personal history, people who, for better or worse, have had a hand in forming us and our approach to living. These relationships left a mark. And oftentimes the marks are painful, fraught with resentment, fear, anger, jealousy, anxiety and more. No matter how spiritually advanced we may be, no matter how well we may be able to see past our egoic responses to the world, when it comes to family it may seem impossible not to take these responses personally and seriously, and to allow them to color the whole of our interactions with each other.
Some things to remember:
  1. To have expectations is to make an appointment with disappointment. Don’t expect your relatives to be loving and kind (especially those who have rarely exhibited a gift for loving-kindness). Many people at holiday time feel overwhelmed with the pressures of the season. Overwhelmed people are in a state of fight/flight. Would you try to pet a frightened animal who has been cornered? No. You would pay attention to the animal (rather than to your own feelings), notice what this other being might need and behave accordingly. People in fight/flight are at the mercy of their animal nature. Approach with caution.
  2. It’s not about you. The feeling of overwhelm may be happening within our own system. We must find a way to behave from the spirit of us, rather than from the animal/ego of us. The single most effective way for us to choose the former over the latter is to put our attention on the other, rather than on ourselves. To arbitrarily and with as much vigor as we can muster become interested in the life of the person across the table or next to us. Ask questions, get them to talk, see their approach to life as interesting, if nothing else; even charming, if we can get there. There are as many ways to live a life as there are people on the planet. Use the holiday meal as an opportunity to research some of the other paths that people take.
  3. With reference to #2, avoid, as much as possible, talk of politics and religion. These are two areas that are almost solely based in opinion. Opinion resides within the ego. Egos, loaded with opinions, rarely behave harmoniously.
  4. With reference to #3, your opinion is the least interesting thing about you, and defines you only in the most limited way. (If you doubt this, take a look at some photos of how you dressed in the 90s. You once had the opinion you looked good in that.)
  5. People do things. They rarely do them to you. It’s not personal when it rains on our picnic (though it may feel like it); nor is it personal when Mom or Dad or Jr. or Sis gets snippy (though it may feel like it). They might just be having a bad moment.
  6. With reference to #4, it may help to remember that everyone is doing the best they can in every moment. With this as a given, maybe we can give out a few free passes.
  7. There is no situation that is immune to the power of love.
Today, I will commit to loving. I will use each interaction as an opportunity to hear from the place of love and spirit, and to ignore the chattering of the ego/animal nature. I will see each person I meet as a representative of the divine in the world, and I will behave accordingly.
Leaping, with dog, Palm Beach, NSW, Australia
All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober