“If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.” —Ram Dass
I live far from my family and my hometown. But this past Christmas, I ended up being home. In fact, for the first time in the past six years, we all managed to be home for the holidays.
Each time I travel back, we are so happy together, gathering around the fireplace and the Christmas tree, sharing sweets and playing cards or board games, watching Home Alone for the 554,648th time with my little sister in our cozy Santa-like robes, taking family walks in the snow and grabbing a hot cocoa to heat our cold bodies after returning home. Sounds like a dream? Because it is. I tend to romanticize our time spent together—maybe I watch too many Hallmark movies, or it’s that hormone I once read about which “beautifies” memories in order to protect us. Whichever it is, reality usually kicks in after one or two days.
One person watching TV, the other reading a gossip magazine, someone locked up in their room stuck to their phone screen. No one is happy about their presents, someone is always complaining about the food, some people hide away loveydovey, others keep fighting over nonsense. Someone drinks too much or not enough and ruins everyone’s fun with their seriousness… and there is me—the little black sheep (Or are we the white sheep actually? That’s a whole different article.)
I lead a life which I think is nowadays called as a “spiritual life style”: teaching/doing yoga, meditation, pranayama, charity work, reading all the spiritual books, doing my shadow work and inner child healing, doing hypnotherapy, drinking blue lotus tea every night, working with mantras and affirmations, and practicing kundalini techniques each day to awaken the serpent in my spine. Cliché but this insane daily practice is what preserves my sanity. I am so chill and happy and enlightened every day and it’s getting better and better when I’m on my own or among the “right people”—until I visit home.
Then suddenly, there is just no time for morning yoga, my meditating brain is occupied by with family noises, I’m told to stop my kundalini breath work as it disturbs their TV watching experience and magically, the dried blue lotus flowers disappear!
But the most challenging part is to keep my vibration high when everything is vibrating so low and is pulling me down, like moorland.
This year I got reminded about the famous quote of Ram Dass. “If you think you’re enlightened, spend a week with your family.”
I thought of the past years and how true this is. My family always ruins my mood and my spiritual practice is out the window when they are around.
But wait a minute!
Is it really their fault?
Am I not the one who creates my own reality? Am I not the one who allows outer circumstances influence my mood?
It’s true that our parents and the way we were raised creates our patterns and shape our outlook on life. But it’s also true, once we awaken we realize our own divine power to change these patterns and learned habits and return to our true authentic selves. To the wonderful being we were before society told us who we are.
The truth is, the spiritual path/awakening has its own levels. I like to compare it to an onion. Once you resolve something, there’s another layer and the deeper you go, more teary your eyes get. But there’s no going back. So we might just unpeel the next layer.
To arrive here, where we can realize our own power, takes time and serious self-awareness.
For years I thought I was so enlightened I will light up everyone else in my family, telling them about my experiences and theories, trying to fix their ways of thinking, force them to eat healthy and pick up some movement—fun thing is my dad’s a kickboxing trainer, and me and my little sister also do it—but the rest of the family loves the couch. It was something I had to learn to accept. Another cliché: everyone meets us on their level of consciousness. Meanwhile I was working on “fixing” my family, I “unfixed” myself and fell in the mistake of spiritual bypassing and victimizing myself. Which is also a learned coping mechanism.
And this is the most important part.
The people in our lives we might not find right or triggering can be our biggest teachers if we let them.
But it is also crucial to be aware of others simply not being on the same level as you are and recognizing if someone is actually a toxic family member. And with this I really advise to be careful as lately it’s easy to label someone toxic and narcissist, especially the spiritual bypassers. If you have someone in your close family who’s really toxic, it’s better to stay away from them or simply, not to visit home.
But in reality, most people are not so toxic as modern day media tries to tell us—don’t forget that you have toxic traits too, which doesn’t equal being a toxic person.
As the great Sadhguru says: “Don’t ever believe by going to the mountains and get enlightened, by leaving your family you’ll get enlightened. It’s an inner dimension.”
Being awakened/enlightened is the state in which you have a direct experience of your spirit—your true Self. It is impossible not to know it once it happens. It will not be a transient experience like you get from substances, but a deep and lasting transformation that you can clearly identify in the timeline of your life. If you find yourself scanning your past life to try and find an experience that matches this description, then it’s likely that you’re not yet awoken. So if you don’t know whether you’re awoken or not, there are obviously only two possibilities: Either you are NOT yet awoken, or you have ALWAYS been awoken.
Once you awaken, you realize that the only true love of others is free love. True love can never be love that binds. I cannot rightfully “own” another person or prevent them from doing what they naturally want to do, unless it harms me wantonly.
The classical texts of Ayurveda teach us that we choose our parents based on the quality of our mind. Simply put, we chose our parents due to similarity in our patterning.
Some of us choose relationships that teach us how not to be, others are more stable in who they are, but whatever we chose, we chose —which may be difficult to accept, but this can be our opportunity to stop being upset with our family karma and start working on ourselves in different ways.
Acknowledge that your family members have trauma and tribulations too and it impacts your experience, but that there is a better way.
There are great journaling exercises out there. Consider some of these questions:
Why did I choose my parents? How am I similar to them in my patterning?
What did I win from following these patterns? Which patterns don’t serve me anymore?
How can I replace these patterns with new ones that serve me now?
What will I win by replacing these patterns? What will I win by applying the new ones?
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Photo: Ralph Kayden via Unsplash