Monthly Archives: July 2012

Top Three Tools to a Better Parent-Child Relationship

I was considering some of the common patterns between parents and adult children recently, especially those that guide the relationship between mother-daughter and father-son. There is no shortage of books and articles about the difficulties and struggles that define these relationships and no fewer numbers of ideas and solutions. “Power struggle” was a term that came up the most. Fear was another. Resentment, control, manipulation, are others. Even jealousy, on the part of the parent. Fine, but my suspicion and eastern orientation pointed in one direction: ego. Behind it all is the unwitting and unconscious culprit of everything. Behind door number one, door number two, and all the other doors, is the same contestant in all its many, clever guises. Here, I distilled my own feelings, along with input from the best of my findings into three parts:

Parents: Let Go of Role.

As parents, we are so wholly identified by our children’s needs for so many years, that it becomes not only difficult, but odd, to relinquish that identification, when our children grow up. Although never signed, nor broken, we have an invisible contract with our children. But the conditions change. It is the last part—the part about it never being broken—that trips many parents up. This is where fear comes in. Parents are in the grip of a responsibility that can seem overwhelming, at times. I’ve heard this sort of thing: “but I can never give up on my child,” or, “the job of being a parent never stops.” And these ideas (seemingly reasonable) and sense of responsibility prevents a graceful transition to a newly defined relationship. (True, if the adult child was in danger, it may be appropriate to intervene, but when anyone is in danger, that’s when we break the rules by overriding common etiquette.)

As a parent, the general idea that you know what’s best, along with the criticism and displays of disappointment that go along with this idea, comes from what Eckhart Tolle calls an unconscious attachment to the role of parent. And this is, of course, the ego’s way of exerting control over the grown child’s life.

Tolle explains that awareness is the instrument for transforming this tendency. I would also emphasize the role of trust. Because fear is always lurking around underneath everything, like dust under the furniture, the willingness to plunge into the unknown with the spirit of trust—a most quiet and courageous companion!—immediately unknots that fear. And without the fear, which guides the habit of criticizing and controlling, you can forge a healthier relationship. It’s the gift of letting go. And by the way, humor doesn’t hurt, either. None of it is as serious as we think!

Adult children: Don’t Blame.

Not only will open blame cause your parents’ defense mechanisms to rise up, thus creating more friction and anger between you, but it won’t undo the momentum of long ingrained patterns and attachments on your parents’ part. And internal blame will only perpetuate resentment inside you.

When your heart is full of anger and bitterness, it can’t see beyond its own blackness nor can anything else find its way in. It’s as if the heart would have barricades around it, preventing it from seeing anything but what it already sees. The recognition that the apparent controlling, the unreasonable manipulation and the needless council, all have their roots in your parents’ love for you, nonplusses the anger—the ego’s greatest clutch. And at that moment, your heart empties so that it can then receive. You see differently and you feel differently. It is an act of letting go of what you heretofore thought was malicious.

Parents and Children: Forgive.

Parents need to forgive their children for not being who they expected them to be and forgive themselves for the unrealistic expectation. We all are a product of an infinite number of conditions—genetic information going back several generations (seven, according to Yogic science), our past life conditioning (again, according to Yogic science), our environment, including all the movies we’ve seen, the TV we’ve watched, the games we’ve played, the schools we went to, our friends and our enemies, even the food we ate. And even within one family, parents are often astounded when their two children are nothing alike. Our influence, as parents, isn’t what we think it is! Yet, ego would have us assert ourselves by way of those unrealistic expectations.

So, parents, it is an act of self-love and true forgiveness, to let go of the expectations. Find, instead, the beauty in who they are, authentically. It is a gift to them, as well as to yourself. And forgive yourself for your mistakes, for you did what you knew how to do, based on the resources you had at the time, as well as who you were and what you were capable of at the time.

Children, likewise will benefit from forgiving their parents for the same mistakes and for the same reasons. After all, to for-give is to give-forth, meaning that, in order to go forward, and allow for a new relationship—one founded on trust and authenticity, we have to embrace what was with true acceptance. This is also what it means to open the heart. All of the resentment empties out to make room for more positive and nourishing feelings.

*Again, guiding this article is my interest in adult children and their parental relationships.

Top Three Secrets to a Happy Marriage

My husband and I celebrated 18 years of marriage this week. In today’s climate of dissatisfaction, conflict and ultimately, divorce, it seems to be a minor accomplishment! Here I offer my own top three tips for a successful long-term relationship:

1. Don’t colonize another person. Any other person. 

This means, refrain from imposing your own agenda on them. As one of my own teachers so beautifully put it, “watch your prayerful stillness dissolve whenever you try to control another person.” We kid ourselves by pretending that we would never do this, but watch the little ways in which you press your will on others, even your partner. You’re watching more golf? Are you really still hungry? It means not interrogating. Even questions about whereabouts fit into this category. This means that you must be centered. So look after your own inner peace and spiritual fulfillment because even if you are the only one practicing, watch as it transforms your world. This may be as simple as being fine by yourself. The presumption, of course, is that you have trust in place and so with confidence as the foundation, you may coexist as two independent people who are compatible and who enjoy spending time together, by choice.

2. Be the “Deciders.”

Know that you are adults, and one of the perks of being an adult is that you get to make the decisions that are right for you. In a relationship, that means feeling free to forge arrangements that work to promote harmony in the home, regardless of traditional norms. We have all imbibed a lifetime of ideas from society, media, family and friends, often without considering whether or not we agree with them. And even though we think of ourselves as independent thinkers, notice the ways you unconsciously allow yourself to look upon those ideas as standards. It is especially revealing to notice when you allow yourself to measure your habits and domestic arrangements against these societal norms, allowing insecurity to sneak in when they don’t measure up. This includes everything from when you eat, if you eat together all the time, when and how often you have intimate relations and whether you even sleep in the same room, to whether you take Sunday off. It especially includes issues related to child-rearing, which can be the toughest area in a marriage.

3. Show Gratitude.

So simple, yet so difficult. Say I love you. Everyday. And say thank you for all the little things. This means seeing the positive and letting those myriad positive things serve as a counterbalance to the irksome things. Surely the former outweighs the latter! This also means “un-seeing” those little irksome things because you know that in the big picture, they don’t matter. Unseeing also happens when you use those irksome things as mirrors—what similar things do you do? This diffuses frustration and prevents anger from arising in the first place. It means valuing being happy over being right. It is so easy, but it is always the easiest things that we forget (like being present, or breathing consciously). The tension and stress of everyday living keep us unconscious. And so, we allow annoyance and disappointment to grow within. Be willing to be honest with yourself—how often do you really say I love you? Or, I appreciate you. This preserves the feeling of connection between you—the bedrock on which everything else depends. Remember, your shift in this direction will naturally and magically create a similar shift in your partner. And in this spirit of gratitude, the feeling of love and beauty will begin to permeate the domain, displacing all negativity, the way the evening breeze relieves the afternoon heat.

Seeing White

Recently someone casually asked me why we wear white, as teachers of Kundalini Yoga. Here is a short passage from my upcoming book, in which I explore the significance of this color.

I didn’t count on the way it would make me feel and the way it would uplift my own presence, as well as that of others around me. White projects an air of purity and neutrality. It is why Rabbis wear white on Yom Kippur and why doctors wear white. It is why, in biblical passages, it is the color of the divine. It is expansive, rather than protective; limitless—like infinity itself, rather than contained; endless, as the compassion and forgiveness we are expected to embody as teachers, and unbounded, like the very essence of our being. In its interminable reflectiveness, it leaves you no choice but to appear, to totally show up, rather than check out, overriding any habitual inclination to hide away, as if under a dark, defensive cloak of protection. I didn’t count on the way it would evoke a certain refinement of my thoughts and actions and my general comportment. Donning the color that is universally held up high and waved humbly as the symbol of truce, it is the mark of our own transformation. And like that waving symbol of peace, it is the emblem of our own ongoing new beginning.

The color white represents the seven colors. Cotton is the flower of the Earth. It is good for your psyche, your energy, and your nervous system. Your way of dressing should be saintly and make you glow with grace. ~Kundalini Yoga Teacher’s Code of Excellence