“If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.” – Ram Dass
Growing up, our primary caregivers provided a lot more than a sack lunch and our first car. They also handed us a spiritual to-do list (practice strong moral principles, work hard, find a quality partner, start a family … ). The way you navigate these expectations — and your relationship with your parents — correlates directly to your personal happiness.
We grow up and leave home only to find that home doesn’t leave us. Our parents are in our employers, our romantic relationships, and in our inner voices. Our siblings act as alternate outcomes for our own choices. We all grew up in the same house, yet we all have different reactions to our upbringing.
And then we go back home and suddenly all of our growth and forgiveness evaporates within 24 hours! Every wound feels fresh. You know you’re an adult, but you don’t feel like one anymore. Whether you’re preparing for the trip, just returned, or relieved you don’t have a visit scheduled soon, here’s a guide to navigating your spiritual path and your parents:
First, Plan for the Trigger Effect
Whatever your parents are like, you are going to have a reaction to them. Rental cars, hotels, and short stays are all ways to dial down the intensity. But what about the inner intensity? What about some spiritual tools? The first, and most important one is pause. Give your inner guide some time to speak. Continual reaction perpetuates continual warfare. You actually don’t have to fuel the fire. You can let it die out.
Ultimately, if you haven’t proved your point by now, it’s doubtful you ever will. So, take that big breath. Keep your close friends on speed-dial. Bring your problems to the people who truly support your spiritual growth and bring your solutions to your family. Take positive spiritual reading material with you and keep a journal close. Write down your feelings and where they began. You might be crying over spilled milk — from 20 years ago!
Change in Your Family vs. Change in Yourself
A lot of emotional pain stems from the completely fruitless attempt to force someone else to change. And if there is one group that will drive this lesson home — it’s our own families. Your parents are always the same because they are on the very same path as the last time you saw them. They are working out their life-lessons just as you are.
And if you think seeing them triggers you, remember that they are being triggered too. They may be seeing their own victories and failings as parents. They may see time going by as their children grow into adults, into middle age and beyond. You can’t know what they are struggling with. Your journey is yours to take. Seek your own growth. Find your own bliss. It’s not for you to change them — it is for you to be the change you seek.
Face the Ugly! Love Yourself and Everyone Through It!
When we think of being ‘spiritual,’ images of serene yoga poses and organic foods may come to mind. But honesty is the only path to any spiritual enlightenment. All the meditation in the world won’t help you if you are denying your human condition. The key is to uncover, discover, and then discard. Things might get ugly.
Observe it and say, “okay, this is what is inside of me right now. It’s not forever, but it’s telling me I am in process.” Forgive yourself for not feeling pure love every moment with your family. Give yourself all the love now that you may have thought you were missing as a child. It is there for you from the parenting force of the universe. You have all that you need to step into wellness, even if it doesn’t feel that way.
The sharp punch of old wounds can take you down or lift you up. When these feelings come up, decide that they are a reminder of just how far you have come in your growth. The ego wants you to stay there because the ego always prefers isolation. What better way to perpetuate old wounds than to replay forever the injustices of the past? The astonishing truth is that everything is temporary, even life itself. The loving detachment of that truth will free you. And for better or worse, they are your family. Treasure your own growth and you’ll find it really is with you all the time.