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  • Barbara Emrys

A Little Company, Please

Students often ask how they can get their families to understand this teaching. “How can I get my kids to practice the four agreements?” they wonder. “I’m on a wonderful path, but no one wants me to talk about it.”

No matter the spiritual tradition or practice, transformation is a personal experience. We’re compelled to seek the truth our own way. We can’t be doing it for someone else. Yes, we’re responsible for our kids’ development. Yes, it would be great if our romantic partners joined us on the road to discovery; but no one should be expected to follow us.

Of course, it’s tempting to ask a friend to come along, or a relative. When you’re facing the unknown, a little company seems like a good idea. Your family is an extension of you, right? You want them to reflect you, complement you. You might still want them to be you.

They’re not. Whatever their ages, your kids exist in a reality of their own. Your spouse does, too. Sure, they live under your roof and may enjoy the fruits of your labor; but they’ll never be you. They shouldn’t have to try. Being what society expects them to be is challenging enough.

We gravitate toward communities of seekers for the company. It feels safer to explore new ways of being in a like-minded group. It’s more comfortable. It seems more sensible, safer. Again, this journey is about you, and even a sympathetic group can get in the way of personal progress.

In a group, it’s tempting to mimic everyone else. It feels okay to make idle judgments, to be lured into gossip, or to form isolated cliques. In other words, in spiritual societies we imitate behaviors in normal society– only we feel spiritual about it.

I guess I’m saying that there are pitfalls on the road to our most noble intentions. No matter our goals, we inevitably face challenges we didn’t expect. We experience disappointments and discouragements. Ideally, we learn from all of it and we grow in awareness. We change, and the changes affect our entire reality.

And the changes affect those closest to us. They respond to us differently. They may like the changes, or they may not. In either case, our kids are able to see a clear choice: the way we act versus the way the rest of society acts. The best messengers are those who embody the message. No words need to be spoken, no lessons hammered home.

You want your family to benefit from experiences that you find exciting and helpful? That’s good. You want them to be impeccable with their words? Then show them what that looks like in normal conversation.

You wish they wouldn’t take everything so personally? Then show them how that’s done; rise above the comments and accusations that confront you in everyday life. Teach them by example. How does a wise and aware person walk through the world? What does it look like to be immune to other people’s opinions?

It could be that you’ve transcended your own knowledge by now. Maybe you’ve thrown away your masks and abandoned all your role-playing. Then you’re already the person your family needs in their lives. They may not ever fully recognize it. They may not even notice the change. Does it matter?

All the world needs from you is your authenticity. It’s all your loved ones need, and more than they’ll ever observe in the rest of humanity. So, you can stop insisting that they get the message. Instead, allow yourself to be the message. Isn’t that why you started this journey in the first place?


B.E.


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