CoSozo Living

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Fri, July 1, 2011
The Perfect Family – Mystery or Mastery?
For decades, the media has been programing us with the idea of the perfect family. In the 1960’s the model could be seen on the ‘Leave It To Beaver Show’ with the perfect Cleaver family. They were always calm, understanding and seemingly very conscious, kind and loving even when trouble was at hand. In the 1970’s it was the ‘Brady Bunch’ being touted as the perfect family. For many of us, these idealized Hollywood portrayals left imbedded imprints in our mind of what family life could be, in fact, what it should be, and yet, for me, and possibly for you, there was little about these idealized perfect families that was our personal experience. To me, the perfect family was a mystery!

What is the perfect family I wondered? That was a question I sought to answer for many years through the turmoil and complexity of family life and living, until the real answer to this question revealed itself. What I have come to know with complete certainty about the perfect family is - whatever the family you were born into is the perfect family for you!

‘Preposterous!’ I said, as I began to let that truth seep in. ‘No way! Not possible!’ said my resistant mind. That is an outrageous idea! How can that be? So many people including myself, have experienced the dysfunction, the chaos, the pain, the agony and the suffering in and with family. With so many of us experiencing family life in that way - how can that possibly be perfect?

In order to really understand this seeming mystery, it is important to understand the intention, the nature, the over arching purpose of relationship itself.

For me this saying of the Buddha first began to unravel the perfect family myth. “Wherever you go, there you are.” Anyone with whom you are in relationship, even a momentary passing relationship like a cashier in the grocery store, or a homeless person passed in the street, is a mirror. This mirror reflects back to you the truth of what lies hidden in the deepest emotional jungle of your self. The closer the nature of the relationship, the bigger, more intense, even ghastly is the image in the mirror.

Yes, the incredible truth of relationship is - it is a learning lab. What we have come into form in this life to learn, will, for all of us, be learned in relationship. It is truly the great Earth School. Not only is relationship the great Earth School, the person with whom we are in most challenging relationship in this moment, the person that is our nemesis, the person that is our most difficult relationship in the world, often in our family - is our greatest teacher.

When I first discovered the truth of this I was astonished. ‘No! I don’t want to be in relationship with that person!’ I said to myself. Until then, I thought a successful relationship was one in which there was little conflict, trouble and strife. Such a utopian relationship would be the benign and stable experience the media programmed me to believe was not only possible but attainable and what I should be striving for. Was I ever in for a rude awakening.

There is an Ancient Wisdom story which tells of a Tibetan monastery located adjacent to a farm. The farmer is a rather obnoxious fellow. He doesn’t care for the monastics, their chanting and ritual life, so he does his best to register his disapproval in the most imaginative ways. The young monks of the monastery repeatedly complain to the Abbot of how the farmer throws his trash and garbage over the wall and they have to clean up the mess. They talk of how the farmer tosses animal manure in the front gate of the monastery and they have to shovel it up and dispose of it. Each time the young monks bitterly complain to the Abbot about the farmer and his behavior, the Abbot invites them to simply wait, to have patience.

One day the young monks come running to the Abbot with great glee and laughter. When the Abbot asks them why they are rejoicing, they tell him the farmer fell from his horse. He had broken his neck and died in the field. No longer would the obstreperous farmer make their lives miserable. Upon hearing the news the Abbot began to weep. Not understanding, the young monk asked, “But why would you cry sir? The farmer was such a disturbing factor for all these years.” The Abbot wiped away his tears and whispered softly, “The foundation of our monastic way is loving-kindness and compassion and that is perched on the foundation of patience. That farmer was our greatest spiritual teacher. Who will teach us patience now that he is gone?”
The monks were in reluctant relationship with the farmer and he was truly their greatest teacher. What was he teaching? He was teaching them how to access and exercise their muscles of divine qualities. He taught the subject most of us so need to learn and so steadfastly resist…loving kindness, compassion and patience even in the face of the most challenging and difficult person and circumstances in our life.

In this same way, we often find the most difficult and challenging person in our life is right under our nose - a member of our family. Although we want to run and hide, strike out, blame, criticize or judge, all of that is simply covering up what we don’t want to recognize in ourselves. If we find ourselves face to face with an angry sibling, the probability is very high if we look within we will find an element of anger in us. If we find ourselves confronted by a stubborn or inflexible partner, chances are we will find an element of stubbornness or inflexibility within our selves. They are simply mirroring back to us what we are unwilling or unable to see. Although it seems on the surface to be a curse, in reality, their difficult nature and behavior actually is a great boon. It is a gift of the invitation for us to open to and expand our possibility to rise above the difficulty and respond from our own divine nature.

As we allow ourselves to really look at what life presents us, especially through the experience of family, we can recognize that life is calling us to notice. Just as when a cut or a bruise hurts, it does so, so we will take notice and pay attention that something needs to be done. Similarly when we experience challenge and difficulty with others, especially family, it is simply a call to notice that something is out of alignment and needs to be brought back into balance.

In every relationship, in every family, the dynamic we experience is calling us back to balance with life. If we are harboring anger, we are out of alignment, out of balance with life. If we are concealing jealousy or stinginess, we are out of alignment, out of balance with life. Once we recognize the magical way in which life offers us these opportunities to learn and grow, we can consider, as did the Abbot of the monastery, that even the most difficult person in our life becomes our greatest teacher offering the most precious gift of seeing our own self clearly. In that seeing, is the shift from Mystery to Mastery.

How does it work? It’s simple really. Life, Earth School, provides us with an education of the heart and the soul as well as the intellect. How much we learn, how much we grow is dependent on our willingness and readiness to accept the curriculum that appears as the reflected image in the people, circumstances and conditions that we encounter in life. Learning our lessons and moving toward graduation in this school of life can be joyful or full of pain. The choice is ours. If we open to all that life presents as a gift, an opportunity to move beyond the suffering, our experience can be thrilling and full of happiness. The curriculum in Earth School is mandatory – suffering is optional.

When we choose to consciously recognize each lesson in life as a gift, a personal gift from life, intended for our own growth and unfoldment, we have the opportunity to be in life in true peace, lasting joy and endless gratitude. We have the opportunity to experience every person, every group and every nation as family. The preciousness of all this family is that each one comes bearing gifts. As they reflect our inner state of being, our inner state of growth and development, each is offering the gift of in-sight. As we look within and find the gifts to which they point, we recognize they, our family, they are the gift. In that realization the Mystery becomes the Mastery.

May you enjoy your family and your Mastery in each and every moment.

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