I am 59 years of age, but I too am an angry little girl inside. My family was from
As an adult all of these inner feelings manifested into bad decisions with relationships and life in general. Now I realize that each and every thing that happened was meant to happen for my inner growth and evolution.
There is one thing I am wrestling with, which I need help with. I was born with a scoliosis (spinal curvature) and have been in physical pain since I was 24, and it just got worse (it’s a degenerating condition) with age and time. I am dependent on pain medication, as there is no cure or relief for my condition.
I find myself living in the ‘pain body’ literally and figuratively. I am always in pain, and it’s very easy to be in the present and watch the pain body, acknowledge that it’s there, but never can get past it. I am a survivor. I had to become that to get through life. There is always anger right below the surface. Most of the time I keep it in check, but when I have to interact with my mother the anger seeps out and I can get very ugly with my words. I know now that she did everything she could to be a “good mother,” yet she was a failure and I cannot seem to let it go.
I want to get rid of the anger I have inside, but everything I have ever tried never works for very long. I read Be Here Now when it first came out, and every book Ram Dass wrote in addition to many other teachers. Mr. Tolle’s works are very important, yet extremely heavy reading for me.
Do you have any thoughts you could share with me?
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your question with us.
We all have some part that we manage to keep beneath the surface that sometimes just comes out, like it or not.
There are few situations that bring it out of me like hanging out with my family. It's such a trip to see. And that's what we're going to talk about here: seeing. That is, watching without judgment.
The way you describe your parents is familiar. So few parents were given workable road maps for parenting. Our parents surely stumbled - and continue to stumble - through the process and the role playing as most of us stumble through most of our intimate relationships: driven by righteousness, thoughts, emotions, and social constructs; unconscious, and with a weight from our minds telling us that either they or we should be somehow other than how we are.
My family scares me; they are such mirrors for me. When I'm with them my general laissez-faire attitude goes right out the window, and I just become one big ball of resistance. I wouldn't even know I was resisting if I couldn't feel it in my body. And Debby, I know you are acutely aware of your body, so you can notice the tensing of resistance right away. I tighten up because there's some other way that I want my people to be (even if I have no conscious vision of what any other way would be). Then there's the way I think I should be being, too. Then I need a chair massage.
We can't control our family members, nor can we rationalize our way out of feeling discomfort, resentment, sadness, fear or anger. And I'm quite certain that our parents had their version of this with their parents - not to mention with us, too - and that they feel badly - combined with justified - about their feelings. We all have this in common.
The good news is, nobody's doing anything wrong.
And, in fact, nothing needs to change. There is one small shift that we can make, not in action, but in observation, that can make a huge difference and can breathe space, freedom and movement into these situations that just seem like failures.
I watched myself go through it with my mom the other day. We were driving in the car, and she asked me a question that just flipped my automatic switch. Rather than being that comforting space of presence my boyfriend encouraged me to be (easy for him to say, he's in
We watch, as if from up in a giant oak tree, with solid branches to hold us and roots that won't budge no matter how we behave. We see the whole scene play out and have compassion and empathy for ourselves and each other. We have compassion because from that vantage point we see and know that these emotional moments, however minute or grand they seem at the time, are part of the natural arising and passing away of everything in this life. We can watch, without being lost inside of them. We can allow them to play out. What use is it to try to resist a wave?
And we have empathy because from up in the observation oak, we can see that we're all in the same boat. Unconsciously acting out our robotic roles and wishing that we behaved and reacted differently. Most of us think on some level that there's something really wrong with us. We have this in common with everyone: our parents, our siblings, everyone.
We can be grateful that we have any moments of consciousness at all!
I know in your heart that you want to forgive your mother and allow her to be. But it's tricky when your head is trying to do the forgiving. You write, "I know now that she did everything she could to be a 'good mother,' . . . " and you probably make yourself wrong for not being able to internalize that.
Remember, there's no should in spiritual growth.
What we are here to experience in every moment is what we are here to experience. That's just how it is and it couldn't be any other way.
So what you get to do is just feel that anger, notice your resistance, watch it all play out, and allow the moment to be. You’ll notice that the allowing and observation lets the air out of the tires of the situation.
We would do well to remember that we are spirit born into form to experience life through these specific forms. And along with these forms come emotions and weirdness and words that we wish we could take back. And if we can, however momentarily, get ourselves to the place where we can watch it all go by with a smile and a pat on the head, we are bringing the source of all life and unchanging peace into that moment, and the moment has infinite value.
I'm grateful that you wrote and that we're contemplating these experiences together.
P.S. You mention that Eckhart Tolle's works are heavy reading for you, and I want to recommend his amazing and almost unbearably simple new book, Guardians of Being. My attempts to describe the simple spaciousness do not do this book justice. My mom and I both relate to this sweet book, with drawings by cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. In fact the copy of the book I have now, my mom gave me. It is instant slicing through the noise of the mind, and is an usher into the present. I highly recommend it.
If other questions arise from this writing, please email