Healing Relationships over the Holidays

[The soon-upon-us holiday season reminds me of the wisdom of this teaching story I first heard at Spirit Rock Meditation Center.]

A young woman attends her first meditation class at Spirit Rock, feels the power of the practice and is drawn to practice and study more. After a few months of immersing herself in mindfulness and loving kindness practice, she goes home to visit family for the holidays. She is full of enthusiasm for the power of these new practices to wake people up and transform lives, and does her best to embody the teachings and demonstrate the power of them to her family by her own example.

But she also begins teaching and preaching to anyone in her family who will listen. Only, to her dismay, people aren’t really interested, are even getting annoyed at her teaching and preaching for “their own good.” One day, when people are blatantly ignoring her sharing “the gospel,” she realizes, “Oh, I get it. My parents don’t really like me when I’m a Buddhist. But they love me when I’m a Buddha.”

We all have the opportunity – this season or any season – to live out the ways we would like to relate to other people and would like them to relate to us, without telling them they are wrong or bad for the way they are already relating. Our own lived example, the transmission of energy when we are coming from a place of loving connected presence, rather than teaching and preaching, is what will pique the curiosity and generate the interest we would like other people to have about new, more healthy, skillful, productive ways of relating – a deeper relational intelligence.

As we transition through various family gatherings of religious/spiritual celebrations into the new year, try focusing your attention on how you are being with the people you are spending time with – Open-hearted? Gracious? Kind? Understanding? Forgiving? And when that’s hard or feels supremely unrewarded, bring a mindful self-compassionate awareness to your own experience, offering soothing and comfort as you can so that you’re able to continuing trying, even when it feels like you’re hitting a brick wall.

“Be the love you seek” and see what shifts can result.