I’ve just returned from a family reunion which fell a few days after my fortieth birthday, giving me the opportunity to be home for my birthday (an event that hasn’t happened in almost a decade), and to visit more extensively with relatives whom I haven’t seen in years. These two significant events mark the passing of time, offering me reflection back on some of the essential elements that make me who I am.
Family is about where we come from. Our ancestors establish a path for a broader sense of family, they give us a rich texture and back story that we can refer back to as a resource if ever we fall off course. Living family members offer us a constant opportunity to communicate and learn, about not only this back story, but about human behavior, the balancing of survival, needs and desires, and more fundamentally about compassion and ourselves. The roots of heritage inform how we sit in our skin, how we stand in the world, and how we take flight, extending ourselves to new territories and creating our families of our own.
It was enriching to experience interacting with distant cousins whom I haven’t seen in decades as adults; to savor the small idiosyncrasies of language, movement and habit patterns; to witness inter familial relationships that are at the same time complex and multidimensional, albeit singular in desire. The desire is to know ourselves better.
Families come in all shapes, sizes and flavors, and whether simple or complicated, healthy or dysfunctional, most of us do the best we can to provide a better life to our children than we’ve had ourselves.
Sometimes people refer to units of people other than blood relatives as ‘family’. This may be a close-knit group of friends, a yoga satsang or a community of disparate people whom have come together to serve a higher purpose. Often, the use of the word implies and acceptance that would not necessarily be present in other circumstances.
In a sense we are all family. We all share a rich back story, the one of evolution, that offers us a common link to better understand who we are and how we feel about ourselves. This sense of self enables us to connect into the world and propel ourselves into motion to participate in creating goodness in the world. With this larger understanding of family, seeing all as brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, perhaps we would accept one another more openly without judgement.
In aspiring to create a better world for our legacy, by elevating and empowering those around us we can create a more loving, positive earthly home by simply accepting each other and loving one another as family.
These ideas are nothing new, yet are so easily lost in the day to day quest to succeed on an individual level. As soon as anyone or anything gets in the way of making it to that appointment on time or being first in line, family ideals are tossed to the side and the suffering from living in isolation begins.
Reuniting with family can be found in ourselves simply by remembering who we are and where we’ve come from. By offering affection and attention to our family, we reinforce the understanding that we are united; we are all in this together. This is the practice of yoga.