Ram Dass once said “when you think you’ve reached enlightenment, go visit your family for a week” – or something like that. Anyway, that’s a pretty spot-on comment. I had the experience this past Easter weekend to see how far along I am on a spiritual path and if all that meditation I’ve been doing for years is paying off.
For me, enlightenment and liberation are interchangeable and I identify much more with the goal of liberation because so much of my life after the age of eleven conjures up memories of repression, oppression and emotional abandonment. When a child is made to become an adult too soon it can develop into a lifelong emotional pattern of inadequacy which in turn leads to a lifelong emotional demon of low self-esteem. As an adult, it becomes easy for others to bully you and use you because you have accepted that you don’t deserve any better.
It wasn’t until I landed in Al-Anon and a wonderful ACOA group that I began to find liberation. I knew I was in the right place first because the eating disorder I’d developed in my childhood years ceased running my life; the second milestone was that I was able to connect to the spirit of the child I was before age eleven – a happy, joyous child who enjoyed life. A child who had big dreams none of which included the career I’d found myself in. My first act of liberation was to begin building a new career, a path that led me to the career I have today.
The experience with Al-Anon and ACOA motivated me to dive deeper into meditation and introspection: Who was I? Who did I want to be? Was a I living a life I was proud of? Was I living a life consistent with my internal code? As I contemplated these things, I began to notice that I was attracting more positive people – and habits – in my life and discarding the negative ones. One of those positive people turned out to be the guy I married and while my relationships up until this point had been one of holding my breath and waiting for the other shoe to drop, I can say that after twenty years, I am still waiting on this one. Peter has been the most wonderful, supportive, kind person I have ever met and he has taught me what unconditional love means.
You know that your meditation is working when you find your life becoming softer, more positive and flowing. Llife doesn’t feel like a fight and it’s easier to have an honest relationship with another person when you don’t feel you have to be anything other than who you are.
Don’t be surprised to find that not everyone wants to be liberated. They may love their arrogance, their anger and the identity they’ve created for themselves. They may find they prefer to manipulate others. The more you discard these things from your own being, the more noticeable it is when you meet others who choose to keep them.
Which brings me back to the first paragraph. I feel that, yes, my meditation practice has paid off. There are some very strong personalities in my family and I was able to keep my Self through all of the drama that was inevitable and predictable. The fact that I could keep centered was comforting as I am usually consumed by a crazy emotional rollercoaster of anger and frustration after these get-togethers.
But while I was not consumed by emotion, I did experience sadness. It was clear to me that some bonds have been broken and perhaps they will never be mended. Others have potential. Alas, relationships cannot work with just one person; the other has to at least meet you halfway. And if that doesn’t happen, you may need to make a difficult decision.
However, if you know who you are, the decision becomes clearer. And that, to me, is liberation and enlightenment which are not possible without meditation.