Two themes keep coming up for me. One is about the importance of facing our demons – the learned responses from childhood and on that form the lens through which we view the world. Those experiences and the beliefs about ourselves influence how we react in relationships and what we expect from life.
If we were taught to mistrust others and expect the inevitable raw deal we go out into the world looking for similar treatment even though it might make us angry and defensive. It is like trying to fly a kite whose tail is stuck under a rock. But if early experiences encouraged our right to be heard and power to negotiate we might enter into relationships that reflect those qualities. No one had a perfect upbringing and even in the best of childhood circumstances there are automatic responses that we would wish weren’t active. I once heard a therapist say that the purpose of childhood is to get through it so you can work it out in adulthood.
The other theme is the importance of having a spiritual practice in place before it is needed. Life throws us situations that can’t be ameliorated with scheduling, technology, shopping or dieting. They might offer immediate spurts of happiness but they have no ability for long-standing relief.
I recently met a woman who was visiting my area. While she was here her best friend at home passed away. She couldn’t get to the funeral and was filled with grief. I offered to hold some kind of ceremony at my house in honor of her friend. She thankfully accepted and came over and guided us in a Native American ceremony that called in the ancestors from the four directions. She spoke to her friend giving forgiveness and asking for it, expressing her love and her commitment to bringing her friend’s strength and joy into her life. I witnessed first-hand how her practice that was already in place gave her the ability to express her grief and begin to integrate her loss.