- Martha Engeman
If you think you are enlightened, just go spend time with family. I got the opportunity to do that in the last couple of weeks. How is it that being with family can be fun, overwhelming, triggering, sad, and joyful, all at once? It’s like taking all of the strong emotions, pouring them in a mason jar and shaking them up.
I have practiced meditation and mindfulness for years. No amount of spiritual practice can protect you from triggers. No amount of spiritual practice can make life a ShangriLa. No amount of spiritual practice can take away strong feelings. What spiritual practice can do is give you tools to handle difficult situations--if you remember to use them.
When my husband at the time and I separated years ago, what hit me most was real grief about the change in my family structure. I had to let go of the societal construct of the “perfect” family with two parents and children. I remember mourning the dissolution of my family as I took on the role of being a single mother. As I look back on that time, I am thankful that my ex and I chose to have a “good” divorce, to put our kids first, and to move on to live the lives that worked best for us. Out of that pain came healing and two wonderful, well-adjusted children who are busy living the lives that they want.
What I know for sure is that when I acknowledge the emotions that I feel and let them pass through me, then I am able to embrace life in all its colors. Feeling deep sadness allows me to feel deep joy. When I stuff the feelings down or try to minimize them, the weight of that effort pulls me down and turns the vibrant colors of life into shades of gray.
One of the hardest lessons is letting those we love live the life they are choosing, even when we see that their choices may cause them pain. Detaching with love is a deep, profound and difficult practice. When we detach with love, we let go of the illusion that we have power over anyone else and we free them to take responsibility for their life and choices.
During my visit with family, I found myself berating myself at times. How could I fall so easily into my role as a people pleaser? Wasn’t I more evolved than that? I spoke with a friend and said, “I am a recovering people pleaser” to which she replied, “No, you are trying to be a recovering people pleaser.” I just laughed. We are all on a journey of learning, exploring and healing in this lifetime and the lessons never end. Sometimes being able to laugh at ourselves is the very best medicine.