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Estrangement and Reconciliation: A Mindful Perspective
“If you are lost in disappointment about the future or the past, you are not fully and authentically present in the moment.”
My brother and I have been estranged for over five years. I don’t know which is worse – the hurt that he and his spouse inflicted on me and refused to acknowledge, or the subsequent estrangement. Since then, both my mother and father have passed so my sense of loss is profound. We have no other siblings. Like most people, and especially as we get older, family is more important than almost anything else. I am grateful that I have a loving husband and daughter. Yet, there is a hole in my life that has not completely healed. Over the ensuing years, I have struggled with how to deal with my feelings and whether I should again attempt to heal the relationship. My several attempts at communication with my brother have brought only denial, blame or silence. It has been several years now since the last time we communicated with each other and quite frankly, the pain has dulled, though not disappeared.
So, why has it come up again? A few days ago, my daughter, who has maintained ongoing, if infrequent, contact with her uncle, told me that he asked about me. I again felt the old, familiar stab of hurt. And I again wonder if I should make an attempt at reconciliation. This time, I have a new lens for viewing my relationship with my brother, my feelings, and what actions, if any, I should take. That lens is mindfulness.
According to Phillip Moffitt, meditation teacher and author of Emotional Chaos to Clarity, the dilemma of resolving estrangement is a spiritual one. Reconciliation means to restore to harmony and to restore the sacred.
“When you practice reconciliation, you are reconciling yourself to the truth that in this moment there are painful differences or polarities between you and another, and rather than allowing your heart to become closed to the other, you are seeking to align the mind/heart to include them just as they are.” http://dharmawisdom.org/teachings/articles/reconcilable-differences
Of course aligning the mind, which wants reconciliation, with the heart, which feels a myriad of negative emotions, isn’t easy. Does this alignment require forgiveness? What my brother did to me was real and I cannot wipe it away from my consciousness. However, I have begun to realize that clinging to my anger and hurt is a “hopeless demand that what has already happened is not true.” It is irrational to hope for a better past! Moffitt says, “A successful reconciliation is not contingent on the disappearance of those differences, and it certainly does not imply that you will become best friends. Rather, the intention to be reconciled is the wish to be connected to the sacred oneness of this moment despite any differences and to find harmony within any situation, even the painful.” I don’t have to approve of what my brother did, nor do I have to give up my belief in what is right. Also, I don’t need to feel strong compassion or “loving kindness,” the meditation skill of focusing on loving the other person. I do need to accept the truth of how things are, including my brother – who and what he is. I’m hoping that once I accept the truth of the moment, I can communicate with my brother in a way that brings inner peace, even if it doesn’t bring about resolution. A lot can happen from there – but that’s a sufficient goal for now!
Guided Meditation By Phillip Moffitt
May we all experience reconciliation
Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Have the words in front of you the first few times you do this practice; eventually, they will be etched in your memory.
Some people do only the first half of this reconciliation practice, which has to do with family and relationships, and others only do the second half, which has to do with being in the greater community.
Say each phrase three times as you go through the practice. When you face a difficult situation that relates to a specific phrase here, it may be useful to simply repeat that phrase over and over.
Sometimes strong emotions arise and what you feel is anything but acceptance and reconciliation. Don’t be discouraged: This is an ideal time to incline your heart to your deepest values.
May all fathers and daughters be reconciled.
May all mothers and sons be reconciled.
May all mothers and daughters be reconciled.
May all fathers and sons be reconciled.
May all brothers and sisters, sisters and sisters, and brothers and brothers be reconciled.
May all mothers and fathers be reconciled.
May all lovers, partners, and spouses be reconciled.
May all friends and enemies be reconciled.
May all teachers and students be reconciled.
May all communities and their members be reconciled.
May all countries and their citizens be reconciled.
May all warring nations be reconciled.
May all ethnicities be reconciled.
May all religions be reconciled.
May all people everywhere be reconciled.
May all people and this earth be reconciled.
May the merit of this practice be to the liberation of all beings.