We are all looking for peace and happiness, but we cannot count on the outside world to give it to us. If we do, we will spend our life constantly seeking pleasures and running away from discomforts, which means we will always be caught up in the game of wanting more (or less) of ‘what is’. Although there is nothing essentially wrong with wanting more (or less), if this is the main method of our search for happiness (and it is the main method for the majority of people, even if they are not aware of it), this way our life is no different than that of a dog chasing his own tail: running and running and running in the quest of what cannot only be reached in short and passing moments.
The antidote to this constant state of dissatisfaction is to come inside of ourselves and rediscover that satisfying and lasting peace and joy that can only be found in us, independent of what the outside world may bring or deny. And in order to find that inner joy, the mind has to be – to a certain extent – clear, open, strong, focused, clean and free. There are many things that have to be done to have such a mind; in particular, a certain lifestyle has to be adopted. There is no other way. A quiet mind has to be created IN our everyday life and cannot be relegated to a particular activity one does for one hour a day, a few days a week, like a meditation practice, a yoga class or some breathing exercises. Of course, these activities can be very helpful, but the problem with them is that their effect – a more peaceful mind – will last a few hours, a few days in rare occasions, but sooner or later it will run out, the old habits will return and the mind will regain its old patterns of anxiety and stress until the next session, when hopefully the mind will become quiet again. A particular practice is one of the things that can be done in order to acquire a quiet mind, and it can definitely be very helpful, but one needs more, much more. One needs to bring into everyday life constant attention to the ways of thinking, small exercises, particular attitudes and several other things. There are a lot of notes in the blog that talk precisely about this.
One of these many ‘things’ that need to be done in order to gain an open, quiet mind is to have a good, clean, loving relationship with our parents.
What I mean by a loving relationship with our parents is not necessarily to have an actual, mutual, good relationship with them, like doing things together or spending time with them. This of course can be great, but it is not always possible. Maybe our parents are too difficult, unkind, or too negative for us to be close to them or maybe they have already passed away. What I mean is not necessarily something we need to do with them, but is something we need to do about them, in our minds. We need to deeply love them, if nowhere else, at least in our understanding. To achieve this, we need to cultivate a profound conviction that they did the best anybody in their particular circumstances could have done. And because we understand that they did their best, we love them.
If we still have ‘unfinished business’ with them, even if we don’t think about it or make it a part of our everyday life, it is very much like having a little rat inside our hearts eating at it, slowly and secretly, but continuously munching, munching, munching, consuming our heart and greatly contributing to the tension and anxiety we find in our minds.
And so we need to come clean with our parents. And this means to deeply understand that whatever they did was the best they could have done in the particular circumstances they were in. They did not choose to do something wrong or bad, to hurt us or to upset us. Of course not. And it is so obvious… but we need to come back to it and think about it. To see it in our hearts and minds that what they did, whatever it was, was always what they thought, at least in that particular moment, as the right thing to do. Maybe they were completely wrong and their actions created difficulties, problems and even suffering in our lives, but still, according to their views, according to what they saw and believed and understood in that particular moment, it was the right action. Very probably, whatever they did resembles in one way or another something that their parents did to them, and the parents of their parents did before them; and if we are very honest with ourselves, we will see that we will probably do something similar to our kids. It will not be exactly the same, we have different circumstances, we are different people, our kids are different than we were, but if we go deep enough we will see that the essence of what they did will also be creeping into the interactions we have with our own family. On the other hand, if we have the wisdom to be able to avoid that mistake, we can be thankful that we were given that insight which for whatever reason they did not have.
We need to forgive based on this new understanding. As I have said before, forgiveness in the Aramaic language means to untie. When there is no forgiveness, when resentments and judgments and offenses are alive, it is as if a knot made of pain is allowed in our hearts. This is true about any grudge or bitterness we may hold against anybody, but it is especially true about our parents. And to forgive means to let go, to untie that knot. So, in many ways, it really has nothing to do with the other person, but it has all to do with untying myself from the pain and bonds of my resentment. The knot is in our minds and hearts and to forgive is to let go of that knot.
Of course, for this forgiveness to really happen, it is not enough just to read these words once and then to put them aside. We need to think about this deeply in the quietness of our minds and keep returning to it often. To see in our minds the problems we had with our parents, to see what they did, what we did and to really understand that, given the exact circumstances that existed at that particular point in time, there is no way on earth for anything to have been any different from exactly the way it was. It may take a day or it may take a few years, but it is important to have it done. In order to gain a quiet, open mind, we need to clean ourselves from any resentment and the way to do it is through understanding.