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Musings on Family as a Spiritual Practice: North Cascades National Park, Part 2

(Musings on Family . . . )

I know that the sheer volume of material is staggering. Most of us get tired, lazy and give into patterns of being partners and parents that, if asked about them, we would say “I would never act that way or be that kind of a partner or parent.” Unfortunately, occasionally we do. By the way, have you noticed how often we resemble our parents? Humbling, isn’t it? What are we to do? Fortunately for us, the call of our soul’s hunger for truth and balance impels us back to the path. We stop, take time to feel, reflect, meditate, pray, read, journal, see a therapist or spiritual teacher, go to church or synagogue, do our work, and ask for guidance and grace. Then the awesome powers of compassion/forgive-ness/awareness transport us to acts of health, accountability and consciousness in our families.

Day Six: Early morning, the cleansing sound of the river and the swallows are in full ballet. I was struck this morning with what a challenging and great laboratory our families are for learning to give and receive love. There is a tendency in family life to take loving for granted. We obviously love our children, our mates, and, less obviously, ourselves. In this great lab of love, it is essential that we constantly, mindfully monitor our loving kindness and compassion toward ourselves and our loved ones, because our families are representative of learning to love and accept all. Our lives in our families are an endless source of opportunity for practicing opening the “Heart.” The cry from the Heart is “We simply must love, no matter what.” This miracle of giving and receiving is central to awakening. There is no conscious life without it.

Family life, with its millions of sacrifices, moments of tenderness, pain, boredom, heartbreak, laughter and joy, is an unparalleled arena for our training in giving and receiving love. We get to find out for ourselves how little we know of the unconditional nature of love. We get to see that, where we can’t receive love, such personal limitations restrict our ability to love those we hold most dear.

In our families we also get to learn how no-big-deal love can be. A touch, a glance, a tickle, a note, a call, a prayer, a cup of tea, a kiss. We also get to feel the unfathomable mystery and grace of what love can be when we deeply surrender into its naturalness. We watch how it instinctually knows where to go and be itself. We watch love by seeing its effects on all it contacts and, in its reflection, we are transformed, reborn and awakened.

Day Eight: There’s a crisp coldness to the air that hints of an early fall in the North Cascades. Mother Nature has such a graceful way of letting go, season to season.

Our family life offers an unrelenting series of opportunities in the practice of letting go and surrendering. For example, wanting our children to be good, helpful, industrious, kind, understanding, patient, cooperative, studious, communicative, athletic, sensitive, intelligent and intuitive, just to name a few. These notions are immediately challenged by the fact that life is not something that we control. As we find out who our children are, we either let go of being the ‘Good Parents’ in control, and shift to being good and true stewards with spirit’s guidance, or we suffer. In learning to let go, we experience the birth and death of our agendas, our fears, and our notions about being a ‘good parent.’ We realize that we are not in control of this daughter, son, mate, family–rather we are participants. In facing these difficult realities and freeing truths, we can now more genuinely approach being authentic, present and alive with our families and ourselves.

Another example of little ways we can practice letting go are the hellos, the good-byes, the good mornings and goodnights–the punctuation statements of daily living are pregnant moments for insight. What comes to mind is how habitual and careless we are with these. We live in such assumptions, like “I’ll see you later.” But this is simply not true. We don’t know. To bring our attention, presence and authentic affect to these little moments makes a way to focus and quiet the mind and practice open-heartedness. Each entrance and parting is an opportunity to come to the presence –what we call ‘The moment,’ the here and now, a place of life just as it is, where freedom and love are ever bubbling up.

Day Thirteen: I still haven’t seen a bear. But yesterday we hiked up Bueller’s Bluff and a mountain goat came to say hello. He knew we had peanut butter sandwiches and carrots. The view from the top was breathtaking of the Stehekin Valley, the North Cascades and Lake Chelan.

Our families are obvious learning labs in the spiritual practices of Karma yoga and selfless service. As Mother Theresa said “Give until it hurts and then give some more.” There is a discipline to true service that is rooted in heartfelt generosity. To arrive at the understanding that to give is the same as receiving is a task of true merit and humility. Our families are ripe for these lessons and who should benefit from this awakening more than those who have helped us learn.

Day Fourteen: Well, it is time to leave. Everyone saw a bear but me! We had a final family meeting. There were tears and confessions grounded in honesty and love. Thank God for this family, thank the Mother for life, and thank you, thank you–SCHOOL IS STARTING!!!! Namaste.

Raymond Diaz N.D. is the co-founder of Opening To Life, a center for sacred growth. Communicate with him at the Center, 532 SE Ankeny, Portland, Oregon 97214, or call 503-231-0424.

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