July 12, 2018
When we decide to break away from our family or cultural heritage, perhaps by disobeying our parents’ prescribed plan, walking away from family members who guilt-trip and manipulate or going against society’s dogma, we are often — explicitly or implicitly — led to believe that we are doing something that is unjustified, disrespectful, or even immoral.
Having internalized judgments from various sources, some of us carry toxic guilt all the way through into adulthood.
It can show up as harsh self-criticisms, chronic anxiety, low self-esteem, and the consistent feeling that we have done something wrong.
We may even hold ourselves back from career success and loving relationships because we feel we do not deserve them.
Dropping the burden of breakaway guilt is one of the most challenging tasks on our path, but it is essential if we were to free ourselves up from the past and grow into our true self.
Let’s experiment with a contemplative exercise.
Perhaps we could drop the idea that there is one omnipotent, superior being beyond the cosmos, who created and controls the universe, and consider how, like everything else, we are a part of nature.
Imagine the tiny seedling that was you did not come from the physical bodies of your biological father or mother, but from nature itself.
We are a part of the ten thousand things — a Chinese expression used to mean the indefinite multitude of all forms and beings in manifest existence.
Like any animal in the wild, or any flower in a forest, we come into being as part of an organic process called life.
Now, consider how nature works: it produces, but does not possess.
Nutrients from the soil, sunshine, rainfall are freely given, without needing anything in return.
Your true source has no preconceived ideas that dictate what you should do, whom you should listen to, or where you should live. It loves and respects you unconditionally, and you are allowed to live naturally and spontaneously.
Nature would not want an oak tree to become a pine tree, or a rose to be a sunflower.
Therefore, whatever path you choose, however you act, you are as glorious and as valid as your neighbor’s son and daughter.
Nature does not care about how much money you make, how fast or slow you grow, or how much material possessions you hoard.
It honors every single piece of your path, and wants you to expand into the fullest, most authentic version of you.
Mother Earth knows that you are entirely innocent, that you do not owe anyone anything, and that your existence requires no justification.
In stillness, contemplate the above, and see if you could slowly and gently loosen some of the entrapment of cultural conditioning or internalized guilt.
Let’s also observe the following poem from Kahlil Gibran. Framed as his advice to parents; he shares profound insights into the nature of a parent-child relationship:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.