One of my Buddhist teachers at the local Rochester Zen Center once shared that whenever we visit with family or if they visit us, we can see this as ‘grist for the mill.’ What he meant was that family – especially close family, like parents, siblings, spouse/partner, and children- offer us a unique opportunity to apply our spiritual practice. It may not be so challenging to stay centered and peaceful among strangers or a close acquaintance. But finding our peace with close loved ones- ah, that can be a challenge indeed!
I recall listening to another Buddhist teacher comment about this in a slightly different way.
“Why is it that your parents seem to push every button- often even after many years of a devoted spiritual or self-reflection practice?”
The audience leaned in as we all wanted to hear what this teacher would say.
“Well, they’re the ones that installed those buttons in the first place.” 🙂
Grist for the mill – can certainly yield a beautiful harvest of grain. Yet the process does require dedication, devotion and consistency.
Healing relationship with parents
In my own life, by applying this practice I have witnessed powerful healing in my relationship with my parents. I live in Rochester, NY, and they reside in NYC. But we see each other about eight times or so per year for stretches of several days. This past week they flew in from NYC to spend a week with my son and to celebrate Diwali.
I was amazed to see that those things that would usually trigger some upset inside me – just did not seem to happen.
- My dad’s desire for us to reach everywhere an extra 15 minutes early — in contrast to my pattern of usually arriving just in time or perhaps even a few minutes late 🙂
- My mom’s insisting on cooking more and more food — so I could freeze some and in this way, I would have less to do versus my wanting her to just rest, and be with me instead of ‘doing more’ for me 🙂
Instead, each time a wave of upset or irritation would pass through my mind, it would do just that. Pass through. Like a cloud passing across the sky. I did nothing to change the feeling or push it away or even engage in any way. And each time, just as surely as the sun shines through after the clouds pass, so I would watch the cloud of upset wash away. This was followed by a peace that surrounded me like a blanket swaddling an infant.
What is perfect love?
It is a wonderful feeling indeed to know that I can truly honor and love my parents fully- just as they are, where they are and how they are. At the same time, I can honor myself, just as I am, where I am, how I am. I recall reading somewhere that perfect love is not about finding a perfect person to love, but instead loving the imperfect person in front of us perfectly. Yes, the peace in this ability to love perfectly is sweet indeed.
A free online course starting November 1st ~ How to Live the Peace You Already Are
If you are struggling to find peace with any aspect of your life, please consider joining my friend Judy Morton and I as we share a wonderful FREE online course that begins this week Wednesday November 1st. We would love for you to share in what we feel promises to be an exquisite joining among many dedicated and devoted to living a life of inner peace.
Last week, Judy and I had so much fun creating an introductory video about the course. (Thanks to our friend Sean Mulcahy for all his technical help!)