Q: I understand the need to let go of the egoic mind to be in the present moment. But, how does one “deal” in present time with current family members who have inflicted harm? For example, there’s unresolved trauma between my parents and me. Do I just walk away from the relationships? I have no desire to hold onto the pain, but I also have no desire to be around them at this time in my life. That does not feel like a loving place to me & it creates conflict. Yet, I’m not willing to compromise my own emotional safety – and set myself back on my path.

In an ideal world I hope to return to a place of love so I can spend time with them again before they die. But, I’ve not been able to do that for over a year now, and I have judgements towards myself because of it. Forgiveness has been elusive so far, though I am not giving up.

A: Thanks for your question,. I will answer from a different perspective than you might be used to. I would suggest that the only way this situation is a “problem” is because you have conflicting desires about it. You want to stay away from your parents and you want to connect with them and heal the relationships. You want to forgive and you want to protect yourself.

Surprisingly, there is actually no problem even with equal and opposite desires. That is simply the nature of desire in us humans: we want everything and its opposite. In fact, we truly want literally everything because desire does not cost us anything, so we want things with abandon! This is OK if we can just let the desires be here. In a strange way, when we let all of the different and even opposite desires just be here, then they do not matter as much. If you recognize that you want something and its opposite, then no matter what happens you both get what you want and do not get what you want. So it no longer matters what happens.

When for a moment, you just let all of your desires be here in all of their many directions and intensities, then they all cancel out. You are left simply being here and life becomes strangely simple and quiet. You still want what you want (which is everything and its opposite), but you know that those desires do not really matter. This frees your attention to notice what else is here besides desire, such as the mystery and wonder of every simple moment just as it is.

In this totality of acceptance, action will still arise. You may reach out to your parents or you may move away from them. You may find yourself forgiving them more completely, or you may find yourself feeling the same way towards them. Often from the place of acceptance of all of our desires and feelings in a particular situation, the actions you take are surprisingly appropriate and effective. But even when they seem to not be very helpful, you still are OK with that also. And sometimes, you then discover that in the long run, it was actually the best thing you could have done after all. In this place of acceptance, our deeper intution can flow more freely to guide us from within, even if our mind is still questioning.

My teacher, Neelam, always gave me great advice. Whenever I had a question about what to do about something, she would say, “Don’t give it another thought. If something is meant to happen it will and if it is not meant to happen, there is nothing you can do to make it happen.” I am naturally lazy, so I really liked the advice to let it all go. And sure enough, when I stopped worrying about the situation, it would naturally and effortlessly shift in an apparently positive way, sometimes due to my own actions and sometimes without me doing anything. But again, even when things shifted, it just meant I was still getting what I wanted and also not getting what I wanted. That is the inherent dilemma of the world of duality, but it only is a place of suffering if you think it should be different.

Desires are like a compass that points in all directions. That is just their nature. But, you might as well ignore a compass like that! The sense of inner conflict is only present when you think that your desires are important and that they matter. Without that attitude, they simply are something you can pretty much ignore or at least hold very lightly. Then the sense of inner conflict and the suffering it engenders subside, and right action may or may not arise. The simplest solution to any “problem” is to stop seeing it as a problem.

I hope this is helpful.