We recently received a powerful question from about addiction, healing, and family karma.
Dear E & D,
My adult daughter is addicted to drugs. As a result, our family has experienced years of challenge—life/death scenarios, fear, anger, love, hope, despair, and so on. Obviously, it’s complicated on many levels.
Now, I find myself on the verge of believing in absolutely nothing. Over the years, I have practiced consistently—bulking up my spiritual “tool box’” until I could hardly lift it anymore. I’m empty and exhausted.
Just as my healing seems to begin, the wound is opened again. After 20 years of this struggle, I wonder if it will ever resolve.
Here’s what we had to say:
Thank you for sending this note and for your undefended heart.
When we care and are connected to others it’s natural for their struggles to affect us.
As a parent, friend, partner, or colleague, the undefended heart feels and responds to the suffering of those we love.
How can we continue to open, remain present, and engage with compassion?
Particularly in the face of the ongoing struggle and frustration of our best efforts? When conditions are “right” and the people around us are relatively peaceful, it’s easier for the mind to rest in balanced awareness.
But when those we love spiral into self-doubt or self-destruction, our own sense of balance is threatened.
We teeter-totter and often spiral into our own signature patterns of imbalance.
How can we stay connected and engage in our most challenging relationships while sustaining balanced awareness?
This is the challenge for all who wish to live with an undefended heart.
This is the question for all who long to embody wisdom and compassion in the midst of life’s ups and downs.
It boils down to this:
How can we heal our karma?
Specifically our family karma.
While the details of each person’s family karma differ in specifics, the nature of the challenge, the deep questions, and the fiery invitation to wake up are universal. We’re all here to awaken.
What differs is the intensity with which life knocks on the door of our consciousness…knock…knock…knock.
Now, life is knocking on the door of your consciousness.
You’ll find this teaching in every wisdom tradition. Life, the guru, the savior, the bodhisattva, the healing presence (however you name it), is knock, knock, knocking on the door of your consciousness.
These same teachings point out that this healing presence doesn’t come with a neon sign flashing “I’m the healing presence! I am the sacred energy that will heal your life!”
Nope. The healing presence comes in disguise. What kind of disguise, you ask?
The healing presence is disguised as the form of your life.
In wisdom traditions, it is said that the healing presence comes in the form of a beggar—a stranger in rags.
In short, our sacred blessing comes in a disguise that challenges inherited ideas of spirituality, healing, and even love.
The awakening energy of life comes in a form that reflects our deepest need and our most potent spiritual question.
It’s in disguise—as an addicted daughter, a distant father, an angry spouse, a self-destructive sister…the forms are endless. But each one is a mirror revealing the nature of the emotional pain and suffering that we are here to heal.
Not rescue, not control, not fix…heal.
Healing reveals that hidden, deep within the disturbing form, is a sacred gift that—as you open to it—brings all we truly seek into our life.
So, how does life knock on the door of your consciousness?
In whatever way you are able to notice.
Life knocks in the most subtle, gentle ways, but also forcefully. This knocking follows a progression based on your capacity to listen, be aware, and respond. The first knocks or calls are virtually silent.
If you hear the silent call, your mind is not cluttered with self-contradictory beliefs and tensions.
In this state of integrated awareness, you can respond to the silence; you can hear the unspoken teachings.
But if you can’t hear the silent call and are unable to respond to the gently knocking—if the subtle invitation becomes lost in the swirl of emotional tensions—then life will adapt to your attentional capacity and turn up the volume of the call.
This increased intensity will typically manifest as increasingly dramatic events—messages that are harder and harder to ignore.
At some point, the intensity of life’s knocking will match your capacity to attune.
Then you receive the message.
How? By letting go of whatever outdated identity is limiting you.
In your letter, you say, “I find myself on the verge of believing in absolutely nothing.”
This is a tender and sacred moment.
All the beliefs of the past have brought you to this moment.
This is the nature of every belief, indeed of every insight: It is impermanent. It has carried you this far, and now as you are ready to go deeper. The belief lets go of you.
Will your mind let go of the belief?
Yes, it will—if you allow it to. Breathe. Be gentle with yourself.
Outgrowing beliefs and accumulated spiritual practices in no way dishonors their usefulness.
The beliefs and practices of the past have served you.
They have brought you to this moment of letting go. They have purified your consciousness so you can hear the knock, knock, knocking now.
Life is knocking at the door of your heart.
It is knocking in the form of your life conditions, including those that are so painful. Including all the thoughts and emotional reactions that arise within you.
Open your heart. Receive what is there with loving awareness. Life will meet you wherever you are. Life offers infinite opportunities for you to awaken, to heal, and to let go of what causes you suffering.
Life is fully, unconditionally, and relentlessly committed to your awakening.
Your awakening is inevitable. There’s nothing you need to do. You can follow the path of events (called “the school of hard knocks”) or you can accept the path of spiritual practice.
Here’s the difference, and the choice is yours.
On the path of events, life alternately appears as being “on your side” and then “not on your side.”
On the path of spiritual practice, you partner with life. You assent to and align with life’s awakening energy.
You inhale the blessings that are transmitted to you (right now with this breath).
And exhale, letting go of what no longer serves you (right now with this breath).
Does that mean that your suffering will end?
I don’t know. Are you willing to find out?
Here’s what I do know: that as you develop your capacity to breathe with life, the knocks of awakening will still come. How they come and when is impossible to control.
But when you’re breathing with life, control isn’t your agenda.
Which means that when the knock comes to your door, you won’t recoil, defend, or struggle.
You won’t take the knock, knock, knock as evidence of lack or insufficiency.
You’ll recognize it for exactly what it is: life turning toward you.
So you’ll turn, with loving awareness, toward what is seeking to awaken within you and through you.
You’ll accept the blessing and share it…with an undefended heart.
You’ll open the door…letting go of what no longer serves your life and embracing the next step on your path.
Love and Shanti,
E & D
Authors: Eric Klein
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Danielle Beutell