Ram Das once said, (paraphrased) "When you feel you have reached enlightenment, go spend a few weeks with your family and relatives". The implication is not subtle. Families have the ability to push every button, touch every nerve and exasperate the saint hood in all of us. There are unstated rules and hierarchies in all families. You have a position or you had a position when you left home. If and when you return to visit or live, your former position/role is reassign to you. Your first task is quite simple and must be done almost immediately. You must identify the new you and not respond to any attempts to trap you into the old you. A strong sense of the observer within, the clarity of your own awareness, and a humble sense of humor are powerful tools for any reuniting with the family of old.
Family life requires skill. As children we each adapt differently to the influences of each member of the family. Over the course of years each member changes and grows. Within a caring loving family environment, we are allowed to assert ourselves and demonstrate our personal growth. Even if this requires that we assertively assert ourselves the overall flavor is one of respect and approval. In discordant family environments asserting many times takes on the overall tone of the family environment such as anger, dismissal, or destructive self-preservation.
Yes, family is the root our our existence. Even after leaving home we carry all that we were with us. Our issues, our wounds, our scars, our sense of self, our hopes and our dreams. We have been taught to love, care for, and protect those we bring under our wing. We are filled with the family's rules for living, our relationship or non-relationship with God, our political, social and world views. But the essence of it all is relationships. Whether we are conscious or unconscious we feel our way along as we interpret and deal with every moment in our lives. Most of us as we leave home and enter a new world of our own making are unconscious, in the beginning.
What are Some Specific Relationship Needs in all areas of our Lives
Role playing. The male or female role works better if we are confident in being a male or female. But what is that role. Are we to be mother or father, extrovert or introvert, dominant or submissive, leader or follower, nurturer or predator. The odds are we are all of these things and much more, but, we aren't conscious of how we interpret and act out each moment of our lives. We role play but not with any significant degree of awareness. But role playing is what we are trained to do. The devil is in the details. What roles did we decide to adopt as we grew up.
Communication. The art of communicating is refined over the years. Basically we try to convince others how important, how good, how great we are. Some have an intuitive sense of how to resonate with another person. Most of us are somewhat deaf, only partially listen and confuse communicating with telling our story. Our awareness of the other person is minimal at best, our awareness of ourselves is less so. Our understanding of our relationship to everyone and everything else is deeply centered in our ego/self image. We are so powerful and busy with building our lives we rarely notice our impact to others. Most of our communication is conditional, the safe zone is the zone of approval.
Bonding. Everybody wants and has friends. Mostly we are unconscious when we connect to another human being. All we know is that someone else makes us feel good or maybe we just don't like them. When we do connect with another, all of our past life begins to leak out no matter what our initial story was, no matter what our initial impression was. Our needs, their needs, our dreams, their dreams, our pain, their pain. There is an implicit trust established, that neither of you will purposely harm the other. Bonding allows our mutual interests to blossom, we get to play and work and learn together.
Approval. Absolutely the most important relationship goal of any. Most of our communicating and behavior is to gain that approval. Approval completes us because it confirms our self image. Approval says we do not have to change we are good enough just the way we are. Our confidence and self esteem rise under the umbrella of approval. We perform better in all areas, and we try to return that approval as much as we can. These relationships are truly mutual admiration societies.
Awareness Skills in Relationships
I know the above is somewhat obvious, and yet the difficulty in any family environment is maintaining acknowledgements and approval when confronted with accidents, mistakes, rebelliousness, and just bad days all around. When we are worried or focused on our own personal priorities, the rest of the family probably has to take care of themselves. The real answer for all families, of any status or any combination is for everyone to learn and practice the multiple dimensions of awareness.
From this developing skill many really good things begin to happen and the emotional landscape of the entire family becomes smoother and much less volatile. The interaction of all members becomes more honest as the need to manipulate dwindles and the power of acceptance and trust replace wariness and self protection.
Awareness does not come with a set of rules. Awareness means only that you see what is going on within yourself, and externally with every member of the family. In order to experience this level of awareness your observation skills work much better if they are not clouded by your own ego and self image. If we can understand and accept the idea that our self image is a significant factor in how we interpret each moment of our lives, then we can begin to see how awareness (the observer within) can permit greater clarity at each moment of time.
Awareness does not change the reality of a lost job, a serious illness, an accident or any other disaster, personal or otherwise. What it does do is help take away our natural anxiety when faced with these issues, when face to face with the unknown. It limits shame, guilt, anger, fear, sadness and depression. And, at times, the immense joy of being alive resonates through your entire being. When you are in the moment, unencumbered by the pain of the past or fear of the future each moment comes more and more alive. As you respond more and more to each moment as it is, not as you want it or not want it to be, your sense of self changes. No longer are you trapped by all of the shoulds and ought to's, by your anxiety, by your self image and its self preservation.
You arrive at a point in time where you give yourself permission to choose. A sage was once asked what this power of choice meant to him in his day to day life. "To accept the power to choose is accepting the authority and wisdom of who and what you are. Without fear you see each moment as it is and respond to the reality of the moment, not yesterday's anger and pain, or tomorrow's fear and anxiety. This is freedom that can never be taken away, no matter how dire the moment." It is the freedom of choice and the direct knowledge that you are choosing each and every moment of your life.
So, it is what it is.
You cannot be one thing and have all things. You will by the very fact of being human, miss out of some things while you follow your path in life. There will be regrets, there will be mountains you did not climb. there will be mistakes you really, really wish you had not made. There will be great moments, long nothing happened moments, moments in the Sun, moments in the swamp. Comparisons will be made, you will be more at times and less at times.
You can get stuck in any area of your life with these comparisons. You can get stuck in unfulfilled dreams, missed chances, failed efforts. But the sooner you acknowledge deep down your own power of choice, the sooner you see life with less past history and less future projection. The sooner you see life as a real journey, unique unto you, your journey, and yours alone. Only then does regret, missed opportunities, lost dreams, mistakes and failed efforts become history. A history that has no power to trap you in past moments, to cement you in yesterday, to drive today with yesterday's joy or pain.
Being in the moment. being aware of your power to choose, comes with a gift and a price. The price is more obvious than the gift because the gift is without drama, the great highs and lows of love and pain. The gift is freedom, the freedom to respond to today without yesterday or tomorrow fogging up the mind. But this freedom to be constantly aware, this freedom to choose our response to every moment in our lives means we must let go every day of our lives. We must let go of great victories, of injuries, of yesterday and let each day unfold as it is meant to.
All people can get trapped in an illusion. That is when what you wish to be true or not true is more important than what is true. It means your interpretation of the moment is guided by your experience of yesterday or your fear of tomorrow rather than what is happening right now, this very small moment in time.
As you become more and more aware of what you feel, think, and dredge up from your past, your inner strength, your power of seeing, your clarity of response becomes more accurate, less angry or fearful, more harmonious. You continually resonate with the moment. Well maybe not continually but often enough to change all of your relationships for the better.
To practice this experience of observer/awareness is empowering. You can plan for tomorrow without tomorrow becoming more important than today. You can reflect on the past without being trapped in the past. You can respond to today without your ego or self image dominating the conversation. You can see the world around you and all of the people in it without premature labels and judgements. And just for the record, none of this means your head is in the clouds. There are real threats, real dangers in the world at large. But to be trapped by fear or anger when you cannot respond to a "possible" threat, is to court disaster. Not only will you make decisions on a reality that does not exist at the moment, your internal wellness will be compromised and put at risk. Remember, the body follows the mind.
Some useful relationship skills
Listening, Paying Attention, Acknowledgement, Approval, Awareness. Self Knowledge or knowing what is going on inside. Noticing when Egos are in conflict, when your needs are more important than another's needs. Knowing how to make your needs known without challenging another's needs.
"I want respect, you don't show me respect!", "I want to be loved for who I am, you don't love me, you only love yourself!"
"You never listen to me!" "I never listen to you!, you never listen to me, its like talking to a wall, a wall that never remembers!"
Ok, this could be a huge book all on its own. The point is we get trapped in these my needs vs your needs drama situations way too often. Caring and Love cannot blossom under this continuous barrage of Egos and self images in conflict. You have a lot of options in your day to day life. You can become more of an observer, acknowledge the other person at least once a day. let go of your past and let go of your fears and approach each day as it is, not as you want it to be or not want it to be.
Or, you can continue the conflict, demand your rights (needs), and watch your warm loving feelings get flushed down the drain as piece by piece you tear each other to pieces.