This Sunday is Father's day, a day I look forward to for several reasons - it's a day I get to spend with my family and also one on which I fondly remember my own father.
But - and this is a big but - Father's Day is a day where we need to be careful. Unfortunately nowadays, like all holidays and celebrations, the day has been commercialized and idealized. The commercialization is obvious - that it is yet another compelling reason to buy stuff now! - but the idealization is probably the more sinister aspect of it.
What I mean by idealization is that the media and advertising around us tout one, single 'right' way to think about your relationship with your father (of with your children if you are a father). That there is an ideal we should all assume. That there is one and only one way to celebrate - usually by giving your smiling, loving father an expensive piece of electronics or a new grill. What the fluff news pieces and advertising don't acknowledge is the complex and highly individual nature of our relationships with everyone, especially our closest family. Of course this isn't only true of the idealization of our relationship with our father - in many ways the idealization of Mother's Day is even worse. Freud would have a field day with modern advertising copy!
While everyone biologically has a father, not everyone has known him. For those that have known or do know their father the relationship may have been wonderful, painful, traumatic, distant, loving, or - very often - a complex mix of those things.
The important thing here is that all of our relationships are deeply complex and personal. When we use broad brushes to define them, or when we make assumptions about how they 'should' be we can marginalize, alienate and hurt those whose experience doesn't match the prescribed standard.
In our metta (lovingkindness, goodwill) meditation we learn to practice meeting people where they are - not with assumptions about how they should be but where they actually are right now. If we approach someone who is suffering then we generate compassion. If we meet someone who is joyful we share in their joy. And we have the wisdom and equanimity to understand that this is how the world is, that people experience both suffering and joy, and that all these things are impermanent.
So I would encourage you as we celebrate the holiday to recognize the richness and complexity of our relationships. If your own experience with your father includes painful elements have compassion for your self. Don't assume those around you have cookie-cutter relationships with their close family, and be prepared to meet them with joy, compassion and equanimity.
Exciting News! For those of you in the Vancouver / Camas area we will be starting to meet again in-person this week at the Breathe Wellness Company. If you are comfortable meeting with us in-person at this time then please join us at 7pm on Sundays starting 20th June. Plan on arriving ten minutes before to get settled. We will be following all current WA State guidelines and I ask that you are mindful and respectful of other people's comfort levels. I will be wearing a mask but will remove it once we are settled and distanced to lead the meditation. For now we will not be having after-meditation tea but hopefully soon. I will be updating our website with the latest details so check there if you are unsure.
I will continue to write these weekly newsletters and post an audio meditation each week - thanks to those of you who have provided feedback, it has encouraged me to keep on doing these.
Below you will find a fully guided audio meditation following on from the above ideas of generating metta for the people you will meet - wherever they are.