This is a picture of my actual family: parents, sister, daughter, son-in-law, nephews and nieces. Since this picture was taken, my dad has made his transition and my nephew has had a baby. Families grow and some members go, but the impressions they have made always remain. And most are beautiful, like this picture, right?
But some impressions, well, maybe not so beautiful. Sometimes we call these our “emotional buttons.” I often say that our families push our buttons, because they installed them so they know right where they are. And guess what: We do the same for them. Ram Dass has said, “If you want to see how enlightened you are, spend time with your family.”
So why am I musing about this topic this week? Two reasons. The first is that last weekend I spent time with my beautiful family, all four generations of them, at my daughter’s birthday party. An interesting thing I noticed is how our families still hold an idea of who we are based on the past (and sometimes I’m talking way in the past, like decades) and use it in the present, no matter how much we may have changed.
I am always a work in progress and always working on myself, humanly and spiritually. I also work on not falling into the trap of being affected by someone’s perception of me. With family, I have found this even harder, because their idea of me is not only their perception, but an old perception at that. And truth be told, I often do the same thing with them (more work for me). The contrast that made this all clearer for me at my daughter’s party was how we all embraced my nephew’s new baby completely, as this amazing brand new being. There is no perception of him except love and joy and the enthusiasm of a new life. That’s when I got it; this is how I want to see everyone!
And this leads to the second reason why I am musing about family this week. Last Sunday, my topic was What is my Gift to the Family of the Earth? I have been contemplating this all week. What is mine to give? How does God want to express through me? This is actually something I think about a lot, and I have come up with things that have led me to do what I do on the planet: teach, preach, etc. But deeper contemplation leads me not just to giving my gift as something that I do, or a role that I play, but what can I really give as a way of being.
I often say (and practice) that if there is something you want to receive more of in the world, then you must be prepared to give away more of that very thing. Being with my family, whether it is my family of origin or my family of friends or my spiritual family, what I want to receive more of is acceptance just as I am right now (not holding on to the past or projecting opinions). So that it what I must give away. That is the gift I want to give to the family of the earth. And it must start with my own family and it must start with myself.
So here is the practice. Every time I feel an emotional button is pushed, it is an opportunity for love, acceptance, compassion and healing. Where do I begin… by giving that gift to myself. Also by not blaming the “button pusher” but also accepting them with love and compassion in the moment. Further, whenever I see anyone from my immediate family or my extended family of the earth, I want to see them as brand new, filled with love, joy and enthusiasm for life as I see my new grand-nephew Mason.
In my wonderful Italian family, whenever anyone felt bad the gift we offered was…….. (come on you Italians, you know the answer…) FOOD, and lots of it. It’s how we showed love. So what I want to offer now, as my gift to the family of the earth, is the food of my heart… acceptance, compassion and the present-moment awareness that everyone is doing the very best that they can in that moment. So it is my intention to see them only at their best, succeeding in achieving their best, and accepting whatever is the best they can give. Oh, and to also practice this with myself.
If we could all do this with every person, including our family (bless their hearts), we would all have a great gift to give to our family of the earth, because We Are ALL Family!
Have fun with the video this week from the animated movie, Ice Age. We can all use a blast of “ice age” this hot August day and we can all use the reminder that we belong to the family of the earth.