Dealing With Family Gatherings
The Greatest Test
[00:00:45] People often comment to me that their greatest test of the effects multiple of their practice of Vedic Meditation will be spending time with family, and particularly a time where they have relatively few options, but to spend time with them with their on a family holiday, or if they’re on a vacation, or they find themselves with family members with whom they might not ordinarily spend quite as much time as they do in these specialized environments.
[00:01:15] And we do really have quite a luxury in our invention in modern times of the nuclear family, where you have mom and pop and a few kids, and they all move away and put granny off somewhere, and there’s no extended family anymore.
[00:01:30] So we’re not in that habit of having to continuously interact with people. Perhaps during pandemic time, some of this has changed for some of you. In fact, it might’ve gone worse in the other direction, haven’t seen family members for long periods of time, depending on where you live in the world and what your circumstances are.
[00:01:48] But in any case, for people who’ve created this relatively artificial modern life, where we all move away from each other, and we only see the auntie or the uncle, or the granny or the grandpa, or the mother or father, only very occasionally and in small doses, and so we fall out of practice of how to manage people to whom we are related.
[00:02:12] A Successful Interaction
[00:02:12] And there’s that old saying about how you can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with your relatives. The fact is that there is no greater test of how far we’ve evolved, and how far we have yet to evolve, than having to deal with people whose love for us and our love for them and our familial bonds, rather enforce the necessity of interaction and will the interaction be successful.
[00:02:40] So, first of all, let’s look at what a successful interaction might actually be comprised of. Generally speaking, we have lost most of our social interactive skills. We have an idea that only the most glossy superficial fairy floss kind of interactions are successful ones that do not require us to challenge assumptions, ones that do not require us to apply any discipline, ones that do not require us to listen to someone who may be repeating a story for the 50th time, ones that do not require us to in any way explain ourselves to older members of a familial group.
[00:03:22] And so we have rather spoiled ourselves. We structure environments where the only people with whom we have to interact are people we’ve chosen to be in our circle, and people who we don’t choose to be in our circle, we leave them out of the circle, and that actually weakens our capacity to be interactive.
[00:03:41] Becoming Colorfast
[00:03:41] The fact is, just as in our analogy that we have, some of you heard this, and I’ll reiterate it because it’s so, so useful. In the old fashioned way of dying cloth that I witnessed in India in my early days there, you take a white cloth, if you want to die it a particular color, then the cloth dyers would dip it into a vat of vegetable dye, meaning, dyes that came from flowers and from other natural sources.
[00:04:08] And let’s suppose you wanted to make the cloth a deep orangy saffron yellow color, so you’d take your cloth and dip it into the saffron dye and then bring it out and it would be very satisfactorily, after a while soaking in there, deeply saffron-colored wet and dripping.
[00:04:25] And then in an act which apparently defies logic, to take that freshly dyed cloth intentionally place it in the hottest sunshine that you can find, and putting the cloth in the sun, intentionally allowing the bleaching effect of the sun’s rays to bleach the color out of the cloth, which it will do, and it fades the cloth very effectively.
[00:04:46] And after a few hours and bright sunshine, the cloth is only a kind of a dingy yellow. No longer deep saffron. And so the knowledgeable cloth dyer then takes the cloth and presses it down into the dye again, saturates it again, and then once again, back to the sunshine. And this alternating of deeply dyeing the cloth and then testing it through fading and bleaching in the sun causes the cloth to retain layer after layer of stabilized color.
[00:05:18] Consequently, after alternating back and forth a certain number of times, the cloth begins to take on a new characteristic. No amount of putting it in the sunshine ever can fade it again. The cloth is becoming colorfast, and the colorfast cloth is one that can stand in the brightest sunshine for hours and hours and hours and will not lose one iota of color.
[00:05:40] Avoiding the Fading Effects
[00:05:40] Our analogy for our meditation is we take our mind in that deep inner silence, and it is just beautiful. The quiet, the settled state, the deep restfulness of it, the opportunity to release stresses, the mind occasionally touching on very abstract zones, or even indeed touching upon pure transcendence.
[00:06:02] Coming out of that feels so good. One is refreshed, and one might be convinced, like an unwise cloth dyer, an inexperienced cloth dyer that, “I should keep my mind away from the fading effects.”
[00:06:16] And what are the fading effects? Well, “The demands, the routines of life, the need for me to be dynamic in interaction and to be highly successful in interaction. Why should I bother with all that? I just feel good sitting right here in my post-meditation chair. Why don’t I just sit here all the time?”
[00:06:35] And in our analogy, this would be akin to leaving the cloth soaking in the vat of dye and never taking it out into the sun. And indeed, the cloth would retain its color. But the moment that cloth is required to go into sunshine, all of its color is lost completely because this dying process of just putting it in the dye and leaving it does not stabilize the color in the cloth.
[00:07:00] Making Meditation Relevant Socially
[00:07:00] So activity has this effect on a meditator. When you come out of your meditation, you go into demanding activities. So let’s remember in our analogy, our cloth dyer is not looking for a shady spot to place the cloth in the shade and slow down the process of fading. No, the cloth dyer wants the fading to be full.
[00:07:22] And so you’d take the cloth and intentionally place it in the sunniest, the hottest, the most fading spot. To make the cloth fade quickly is that which gives the cloth the position of going back to the dye again.
[00:07:37] And, once again, refilling on color and coming out, and like this alternating back and forth, building layer after layer of stabilized color, in our lives as meditators, it is incumbent on us to make our experience of that deep inner silence and meditation relevant socially.
[00:07:57] If we’re not making what we’ve experienced relevant socially, we have to ask the question about whether or not this is simply a selfish practice. You close your eyes. You sit in the silence of your room, there’s beautiful deep silence, you feel fantastic, you feel bliss, and you don’t want anybody coming along and eroding the bliss.
[00:08:17] And so our instruction from our tradition is, “No. Finish your meditation and engage. Engage the senses and their objects. Engage the intellect in its power of differentiation. Engage the mind, engage the emotions. Engage everything.” This is akin to fading the cloth. Fading the cloth is, in fact, strengthening the color.
[00:08:40] Family Interaction
[00:08:40] Engaging ourself in the demands of daily activity will cause that deep inner state of Being to stabilize. It will disappear for a period of time, but then you’ll go back to your evening meditation and reinforce it. And then through the night, it will disappear again, and morning, you reinforce it again.
[00:09:00] What is the thing? What is the analogy here for the hottest sunshine for the cloth dyer? Family. Family. Nothing can fade that cloth faster than family interactions.
[00:09:15] Family interaction is the most relevant, social, demanding, interactive phenomenon that tests our ability to be stable on one hand, to be adaptable, these are things that all come from meditation.
[00:09:30] Stability. Adaptability, to integrate into our lives, whatever we found useful from our contact with family. Integration. Purification, that is to, not only ourselves, remove from our experience those things that might’ve been old knee-jerk reactions to people in our family, but to get rid of those means to look at them at arm’s length and just let go of some irrelevant behaviors we might’ve had from our past.
[00:10:00] Purification and growth. A willingness to grow. A willingness to be a leader amongst members of our family.
[00:10:09] And leaders do not always lead by making a lot more noise than other people. Sometimes we lead by letting other people lead. Sometimes our leadership actually is best exercised in silence. When we allow someone else to lead, are we not also leading?
[00:10:28] And so then the five fundamentals of progress, the stability, adaptability, integration, purification, and a willingness to grow.
[00:10:39] Engaging Fully
[00:10:39] All of these things are also being tested, and the test is no more a test than the sunshine is a test to the fully dyed cloth. Do we say if a cloth was deeply dyed and then put in the sunshine and it fades a bit, we don’t say, “Oh, the cloth failed the test.”
[00:10:57] That’s not what happened. The cloth in that fading got more stable layer of color in it. It didn’t fail any test. So we take it back to the dye and put it back in the sun again. And, rather than, “Oh, I’m a meditator. I interacted with my family. It wore me out. I got angry, I got sad. I got miserable. I had all kinds of useless childhood memories reinforced and things. I failed the test.”
[00:11:23] No, you didn’t. Now you’re going to meditate. Go back and continue interacting. And as you do this alternating back and forth, for some period of time of deep inner silence in your meditation twice a day, and then engage with family members, engage fully.
[00:11:41] And the more fully, the better. And engaging may mean it may ask you to be silent and be an innocent witness. At other times, it may ask you to be brave and to challenge assumptions. At other times, a successful attraction might mean that in a very loving and gentle way, you apply discipline to a situation.
[00:12:00] Cosmic Responsibility
[00:12:00] Sometimes people will make a lot of bad behavior in the hope that somebody will show them boundaries, somebody will show them that they’re loved enough to have boundaries set, to demonstrate ways of effective interaction and communication.
[00:12:15] And all of the different measures of this, it’s such a delicate dance, which we can only get it right not by planning it out in advance, but by having that deep inner level of Being, which is the field of infinite creative intelligence in interaction, that’s our real true deep inner Self.
[00:12:37] And interaction with all of those who at the very least created some kind of a structure, which gave us an opportunity to have a body in which we could gain our enlightenment. And so we have some cosmic responsibility to all of these people to be for them just as we might be for other people who we choose, but to be for them the best that we can be.
[00:13:02] And if people walk away from interaction with us, shaking their heads, then we don’t consider it to be failure. What we consider it to be is “I dipped the cloth in the dye, in my meditation. I came out and the sun faded me.” Beautiful. You got faded. That means you got stabilized. Hotter the sun faster the stabilization, provided that we’re doing our meditation regularly twice every day non-negotiably.
[00:13:27] Non-Negotiable Meditation
[00:13:27] And this is again a point people will very often say, “Well, holiday time, people all around, meals being made. You have to contribute your bit to the dinner and all that. I couldn’t meditate.”
[00:13:37] No, not true. You could sleep, couldn’t you? You could wash your hands, or go to the bathroom or take a shower. Why can’t you just say to somebody, “I do this thing. It takes me about 15 to 20 minutes. You’ll forgive me. I’m going to go off and do my thing. I don’t need any specialized environment. I’ll go over there in the corner,” and we can sit and meditate.
[00:14:00] You can meditate with the television going in the background, with kids racing around, with people interacting and cooking and talking.
[00:14:07] Wise and Trusted Counsel
[00:14:38] And so, in any environment, we can meditate over there in the corner if that’s where we have to go, if that’s all there is. Or maybe outside in the garden somewhere. If there’s no garden, then some spot over there in the corner. Everybody else might be watching television in a living room and listening to some odious news program.
[00:14:23] And you can sit on the couch with all of them watching, and you can just close your eyes and pick up your mantra. Do your meditation regularly. If the sun is very bright and hot we need to dip the cloth, dip the cloth into the dye, and then we can exploit the hot fading effect of the sun to make our cloth more colorfast, to make our consciousness more stabilized.
[00:14:47] And in that deep level of Being, we want to be sure that our meditation program twice every day is absolutely non-negotiable, notwithstanding that we’re with family. And it’s also good for family to see, “Oh, we know that hocus pocus, that voodoo, whatever he or she does.
[00:15:07] “Oh, they’re off doing their humming, off during the voodoo, off doing their whatever.” We don’t care what people say. Because what they’re going to see, all of those who make fun of us or all of those who don’t understand, as the weeks and months and years go by, we will be the people to whom they come for wise and trusted counsel.
[00:15:27] Engage, Engage, Engage
[00:15:27] Whatever they say superficially at the time later on when the chips are down, and they need some wise and trusted counsel, it is you to whom they’re going to come because you’ve impressed them deeply with your non-negotiable approach to gaining and refreshing that deep inner silence in your consciousness.
[00:15:46] So like that, we consider family opportunities to be an opportunity for stabilization, not something to be avoided or run away from. Engage, engage, engage. This is our whole thing. We want to make our practice and what it is doing for us relevant socially. It’s a very big and important part of our spiritual development.
[00:16:09] Jai Guru Deva.