#6 - Unbendable family traditions
Conflicting family traditions are an issue that can cause pain and discord in families at a time of the year that is supposed to be joyful. This meditation will help you deal with these family issues more effectively finding a balanced approach to replace what usually is a very unbalanced set of behaviors.
When two people get married or come together in a committed relationship or even just in friendship, they each bring their families and their family traditions into the relationship as well. Sometimes this is a joyful blending of new ways of meeting family holidays. Sometimes this is the beginning of a family feud where the family traditions and habits are the battlegrounds to be protected. The result, of course, is considerable unhappiness with the warring factions becoming more and more polarized every new holiday season and instead of looking forward to the holiday, these times are dreaded.
What makes the differences between family traditions so volatile is the investment in childhood memories that are carried into adulthood with the intention of passing them onto the next generation or stirring those unconscious memories of enjoyment. Of course, if the memories are unpleasant or disturbing, that person may be very willing to embrace their partner's family traditions. However, even in this situation, the dysfunctional memories may encroach upon the new holiday traditions in an unhealthy way.
Regardless of whether you have fond childhood memories of how your family interacted during the holidays or whether you just want to forget all about those times, you come to the holidays now with a certain amount of expectation and anticipation of how things will or should be. When two or more families are coming together, these expectations can be at odds with each other.
What is an appropriate level of expectation or how much can you demand others to conform to your way of going through the holidays? About as much as you want to have demands placed upon you. That is, if your desires are to enjoy the holiday season with your family, then it is up to you to find a path to this goal. Why isn't it up to everyone? Because you only have control over yourself. Your choices are to see your world as you want it and to attract into your world what you see and what you want.
This perspective on how to make relationships work is unusual for some to accept. But if you do think that what you focus on in life is what you get, then this concept will apply universally in all situations. For the sake of this meditation, please consider that this is possible and willingly enter into this visualization with the expectation that it will work. By taking full responsibility for the interactions in which you are involved, you are the positive pivotal point that will make all interactions flow better and influence everyone to change for the betterment of the group.
We begin as usual by finding a comfortable position, sitting with the back straight, the shoulders, arms and legs relaxed and focusing on the breath. When you have reached that point where you are ready to begin your visualization, take one last deep breath and pick one person with whom you are feeling conflicted in relation to how the family traditions are carried out. See that person clearly and hear them with an open mind and heart. What do they want to do that you would rather do differently?
Before you let your mind begin making your case for your way, step into their skin for a few minutes, trying to feel and know their history to understand why they want to experience the family holidays the way they do. From that viewpoint can you see why they might want to re-experience the family tradition in that manner? Even if it is just because that is the way it has always been done, extend yourself toward understanding that change is difficult for most people and during the holidays where memories are deeply entrenched, change is not usually welcome.
Standing before the person of your visualization, look into their eyes, looking past the anger and defiance. See deep into their memories, feel their joy from their childhood. Smile into their past and smile at their now. Continue this gentle, smiling exchange until you see the smile being returned. It will be because no one can avoid returning a smile that is genuinely offered. As you see that smile being directed at you, you also feel the melting of their position and they begin to see your viewpoint and a way to compromise starts to emerge. Whether or not you can actually see the details of the change, you can definitely feel that the two of you are now working together toward an amicable agreement. And it feels wonderful.
Extend yourself openly and feel the reciprocal feelings of openness. When you feel that “click” of understanding, offer your thanks and bring your attention back to your body and your breath. As you become more aware of the room around you, the feelings of relaxation and agreement are seated firmly in your mind. You are feeling that the stress has been lifted and you will enjoy your family at the holiday events coming up in the next few weeks. There is a deep satisfaction in taking responsibility for initiating this new agreement for a better way of relating. Take these feelings with you and enjoy the moment now and later.
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Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.