Tomorrow, I’ll go visit with my family’s Northern California wing. I’m at ease, but I wasn’t last month when visiting. I’m easeful because my sense of the moment helped me tame the tiger of family.
Families inspire both love and confusion. I have allowed family events that shocked me to constrict me. That constriction has played out in other social bonds. Psychic templates of families can’t be dodged – they are our emotional DNA. To paraphrase Louis Armstrong, “If it’s in your family, it’s comin’ outta your horn.”
If you can build clear emotional structure in family, you can probably build it anywhere. Last month, I was tired of lying. I was sick of the half-truth of my identity with my brother and mother. I saw myself as a coward for living in silence around issues that required redress.
Visualizing myself confronting these issues felt adult and alive. The three months before this visit, I had done a daily gratitude and forgiveness journal. This brightened and balanced my energy, but made the clogs in my family pipes almost nauseatingly hard to bear.
I was at a tipping point.
I confronted my brother first. Sitting in front of an NBA game with him, the moment buzzed. I could feel the new me in the vacuum of the next moment. The feeling of my mouth opening and saying the difficult thing felt like the edge of space. When I crossed that line and spoke to him, I made a new me.
In the next hour, I did the same thing with my mother. I said things to her that had roiled me for 30 years. Perhaps because of the preparatory journaling work, there was no shouting, denials, or counter-accusations. That conversation, too, was preceded by a fine sensitivity of the hairline between future and past. I hesitated less the second time. I’d improved my “yoga of family.”
Modern yoga is a social form. Pre-modern yoga was solitary. Great Eastern teachers often tell us that – for modern folk – energy gets most stuck in relationships. Our enlightenment is stalled there. A swami once said, “Enlightenment is as easy as stepping off the limb of a tree.” I got that experience from my last visit home. The muscles of yoga got me to leap.
Eric Shaw, MA.RS, MA.SE, MA.AS, E-RYT 500, has spent 28 years studying and practicing the Eastern traditions and is devoted to freshly interpreting them for modern yogis. He is the creator of Prasana Yoga’s Alignment in Movement system and the teaching programs of Yoga Education Through Imagery. His writings and worldwide teaching schedule can be seen at www.prasanayoga.com.