Spiritual Depth in the Family Context

By Graham

Stories From Meditators

Graham is a passage meditator living in Canada near Calgary, Alberta. He shares his journey with passage meditation, and describes the subtlety of how he balances his desire for depth in meditation with putting others first in his family context.

In the New Testament there is a small story in which Jesus and a Samarian woman chat beside a well. In later describing Jesus to the people of her town, she says, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Easwaran’s teachings often remind me of this description. To me, Easwaran is the teacher who’s told me everything I need ever do. With every step I’ve followed of his eight-point program, I’ve never been led astray; I’ve only been led into fuller joy and peace.

From early in my life I was internally driven to give my very best. Until my mid-twenties, however, my very best was given to all the wrong things: as Easwaran lists them, prestige, power, pleasure. It was after my latest and greatest sorrow from this misdirection that I received Easwaran’s book, Words to Live By, from my sister. Since then, the slow process of redirecting myself along the path of the eight-point program has changed everything in my life for the better.

This previous misdirection of my vitality was noticed by a university professor and close spiritual friend of mine. She wrote me at my convocation: Don’t be a great man; be a good man.

She is now the godmother of our eldest daughter, which is fitting given that family life is where I’ve found the perfect space to put Easwaran’s eight points to work. I never fathomed the joy I know now of family life, of the minute-to-minute demands I now know to be an endless string of opportunities to slowly extinguish my selfishness. There is much joy in meeting these demands: in preparing breakfast quietly each morning, in packing my wife a lunch on the days she leaves for work, in paying close attention to our daughters’ stories and questions, in baking bread and delivering it to a neighbour.

One particular situation of applying the eight-point program to family life stands out for me still. A few years ago I resolved that, after a half-a-dozen years of meditating regularly each morning, I would begin meditating in the evening as well. Yet, from the outset something seemed off; something seemed to strain our family life.

I wrote to the BMCM and was grateful when one experienced member offered to talk through the issue together over the phone. The call was a blessing. Following the eight-point program, he said, should never cause tension or division. If it does, perhaps timing isn’t right; perhaps a different point of the program more urgently needs my attention.

These were surprising words – meditate less?! But immediately I saw the wisdom in them. I saw that I could keep my morning meditation as the foundation of my day, and dedicate my evening to putting others first – making sure my girls were snug in bed, being together with my wife in the small time each evening when the house is quiet.

The words of my spiritual friend came back to mind: “Be a good man.” I had made meditation somehow about my ego again, about becoming better at it at the expense of those around me. With the help of some perspective, a glimpse of the larger context, I could see that where I needed more work was in putting others first.

These days I feel under a great blessing. The knowledge of how to walk the daily spiritual path has been graciously shared with me, and family life also shares thousands of opportunities for taking these little steps every day. When I fall asleep at night, I truly feel the blessing of the last line of a prayer from Easwaran:

“May I fall asleep at night, with the Holy Name on my lips, to heal my wounds, and prepare me for another day of service.”

Best wishes to all of you in Easwaran’s passage meditation family.