|Oya, Warrior Goddess - Artwork by Francisco Santos|
Reflecting on our different holiday experiences, I realized that I had some sadness related to my family. Even though I love going home and being with my siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, I often leave feeling a bit disconnected from them.
Living in a different province from where I grew up makes me notice how quickly life changes. The short time together after months apart really highlights how my choices and values differ from those of my family. Living a life outside of where I grew up makes me feel worlds apart from the people I felt so connected to as a child. And sometimes I feel like they just don’t agree with my choices and lifestyle. I find myself hiding who I really am or editing out certain parts of my life.
As a result, I come away from the holidays feeling happy from the comforts of home, while at the same time, frustrated by certain conversations, upset by disagreements, and deep down, feeling like I don’t belong.
I also noticed how difficult it was to maintain my regular meditation practice. I came up with lots of excuses to not practice, such as: I “deserve” the break, it’s too difficult to meditate outside of my usual space, and I should be spending more time with family rather than myself.
When I did practice, I found myself distracted, agitated, and counting the seconds until the time was up. This "resistance" feeling led me to recall my early weeks of meditation.
It was October and my third week of my meditation course when I began experiencing an incredible amount of anxiety during seated meditation. It started in my belly, and as it grew, my whole body would heat up like a furnace. It took all of my energy, focus and concentration just to sit through it.
When I talked with my meditation instructor about it, she said that I was practicing “Warrior Meditation”. At first I thought she was patronizing me, but then she explained that maintaining your practice through emotions, sensations and physical symptoms enables us to “ride the waves” and be okay with whatever is going on. Once we can do this in meditation, we can begin doing this in our lives.
In her book The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron, describes:
“Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening bodhichitta are called bodhisattvas or warriors… These are men and women who are willing to train in the middle of the fire. Training in the middle of the fire can mean that warrior-bodhisattvas enter challenging situations in order to alleviate suffering. It also refers to their willingness to cut through personal reactivity and self-deception, to their dedication to uncovering the basic undistorted energy of bodhichitta.”When I think about my family, maybe being a Warrior means learning to accept them for who they are, acknowledging what I find difficult to live with, and then just accepting that too. Some of the most painful moments with my family also remind me of how precious they really are to me and that even when I feel separate, alone, or judged, there is a lesson. And I’ll learn that lesson if I’m willing to be open and vulnerable with whatever comes my way.
I’m learning that it’s okay to show them how different I am and to be with whatever reaction they have. Maybe they’ll love me anyway, despite my differences.