The Family Crucible

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I wanted to take a moment to offer you some reflections based upon my experience as a dharma practitioner and a parent.

Let me start with the disclaimer that I have by know means ‘figured out’ dharma parenting. I have come to some ways of viewing the family experience that are helpful to me personally, and I hope similarly they may be of some value to you.

For starters, I begin with my day – and this letter – with gratitude. Gratitude for the teachers who have given me a lamp by which to read the tea leaves of my life.

I like to joke with my friends that were it not for parenting I would consider myself a chill cat not easily ruffled by life’s twists and turns. But in the context of four kids all talking excitedly at once about their torrents of ideas, I quickly find the edge of that patience previously known as ‘unflappable.’

This is not dissimilar to my experience of partnership where I have been gracefully (and at times coarsely) shown my edges – those places in my practice where I would like to consider myself finished – but where in the context of relationship clearly there is more work to be done.

And so the gratitude has to do with the opportunity to find myself each day in a living, breathing, loving, crying laboratory where I am put face to face with my own greatest challenges – with my own greatest lessons. I am grateful that I have chosen the courageous path to face these challenges rather than to hide from them.

And so, not unlike Neo making his choice between red and blue pill in the Matrix, I see the choice to have a family and to enter into relationship as a decision between blissful ignorance and a more confronting awareness of those aspects of my mind stream requiring attention, cultivation, and healing.

When I jokingly refer to dharma parenting as ’strictly for advanced practitioners’ I am inwardly laughing how rapidly a goodie two shoes dharma practitioner can be reduced to a frothing lunatic in the context of daily family life. (I am sure this also applies to the crucible of a dynamic romantic partnership.) In the pressures of family and relationship, the proverbial dharma rubber hits the road of life, and we are blessed with an honest reflection of the true state of our practice.

Personally, at this point I see my greatest challenge as a ‘dharma parent’ to be bringing the equanimity I am cultivating on the meditation cushion into my day to day interactions with my at times grumpy, bossy, tantrum throwing children. The crux of this view is that it is not my children or my partner who needs to change. What needs to change is the way I respond to interactions with these members of my family, particularly in moments of emotional need.

From this view, every day is literally a challenge. Some days I succeed gloriously standing firm as a paragon of calm admist outer chaos. Other days I fail equally fantastically as a fireball of ferocity with rage exploding in red-faced ugliness. But whatever the outcome for the day, I am living authentically with the stark and true mirror known as ‘Daily Family Life’ shining my own reflection back at me.

Having gazed upon this window into my own own soul progression, I ritually return to the shelter of my dharma practice – to purify, to set intention, to rest in the peace of a meditative release into emptiness. And despite the seemingly continuous setbacks and frustrations, I never relinquish the desire to be supremely patient and loving with these high beings with whom I am sharing my life.

And so, each day I begin anew by renewing my intention that the perfection of patience soon be realized.

And perhaps most importantly, I never give up believing in myself to one day reach this goal. I know that it is possible for me (and for you) to be a saint to our children where we live our lives as masters over the edges of our own minds – edges worn smooth and graceful by the family crucible into which we throw ourselves again and again.

In working towards this goal, it helps to see these beings with whom we share our lives as holy angels in the midst of divine play: lila. Whether they are ecstatic, silly, naughty, or – on every blue moon – quiet and reflective; they are divine beings expressing themselves perfectly, a miraculous reflection of our own inner world flowering before us, challenging us to grow.

To the extent that we are able to maintain this awareness, we succeed in rising to meet the challenges of our family dharma practice. …

- Contributed by Rylan Peery

1 comment on “The Family Crucible”

  1. Stacy Andrieux says:

    Thank you for your essay. I am a budding dharma practioner, wife and mother of two boys. I can relate to being (seemingly) chill with everyone but my family more times than I’d like to admit. I am working at it everyday with a different perspective and understanding – The Books helps so much with this. No cocoon living for me. Everyday is a pure joy and spiritual practice. The butterfly exists and will eventually emerge completely. Thank you again, Rylan.


October 2017
« Oct