The holidays are upon us and can be both anticipated and challenging at the same time, bringing out the best and the worst in us. Expectations often run high and we push ourselves so hard in life these days that by the time we get to family gatherings, we are already spent.
We prepare ourselves for all the lovely sharing of festivities, but rarely do we prepare and give space for the darker emotions that may arise. It may only take one negative influence in the mix to surface in us a mix of emotions.
The most beautiful gatherings I've experienced are ones where I’ve been willing to be open, heartful and honest. From there it’s easier to listen deeply and hold loving speech. My cherished teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, would share that when difficult emotions would arise he would take a deep breath and address it, “hello old friend.”
We all have within us the seeds of all things. It is what we water that grows. Both our joy and our sorrow are one. They both play an important role in our lives. If we practice watering the flowers in ourselves and others, we will be better equipped to embrace diversity.
I am from a pretty large clan. With siblings, partners, and two tiers of children, we are a family of 52. Daniela, who has one sister and one daughter, calls us the village. I feel so blessed that our family is one with immense love, but when we gather, it can still be overwhelming.
Years ago when my mother died, I thought I would see less of my siblings, since we had little in common, so I thought. I said this to one of my sisters. She came back the next day and said, “Mom is not the glue for this family, it’s her love for her children that will be the glue.” After the funeral, we did the usual Cape Breton means of processing, gather around and sing. Be at with the guitar or without. I realized at that time, that regardless of what we have in common, it’s our job in life to find our harmony.
For the simple 'salt of the earth' family I saw myself as coming from, that was profound wisdom for navigating life. We always look so far and wide for what is inevitably under our nose.
Holidays can bring out moments of true sharing and tender caring, and can also spike vulnerability, stress, and suffering. It’s all around us, how can we deal with deep listening and loving speech without compromising our own balance? If we are not noticing we are not looking very deeply.
Family practice helps us grow and makes us wiser, directly or indirectly. When we water one another’s gardens, we gain diversity and tools to also nurture our own. Regardless of the reason for a family gathering, there is always a feeling of gratitude in hindsight for showing up.
Celebrate family practice, whether it’s for the opportunity to cherish or heal, it’s our biological ancestry.
I'm actually writing about family practice in the middle of a family gathering. I'll let you know next week how this goes over.;-)
with a smile, a lotus and a prayer,
Here is a lovely little e-book by a friend who resides in Washington. It's on cultivating peace in difficult times. This breath of fresh air is also good for cultivating peace in the best times.
Annie Mahon is a wonderful practitioner and writer.