[You can ask your own question here.]
How is it possible to forgive or to let go of fear and anger when the person who hurt you continues, deliberately and unrelentingly, to do so? An ugly divorce, in which I did my utmost to remain civilized, has devolved into guerilla warfare where my ex uses our kids to "stick it to me." Particularly when my children are subjected to this sickness, my heart fills up with fear and a terrible anger. I do my best not to add to the strain on the kids. How do I rise above the hatred and live well?
My heart goes out to you. It is hard to imagine anything worse than what you are experiencing. Every parent naturally wants for his children the best he can imagine. To see your family life fall so far short of what you may have hoped for is difficult karma indeed. Not easy to overcome, as you are finding out.
Still, what choice do you have? You cannot control the behavior of your ex. You cannot live your children’s life for them. It is their karma, too, to be caught in this “guerilla warfare.” Not that you should be indifferent to helping them through it, but for them, too, it is a reality that has to be faced.
One of the greatest obstacles to overcoming karma is that instead of wanting to face it, we want it to go away. Not surprising, or anything to be ashamed of, especially when those we love are being hurt.
In the Festival of Light, which we do at Ananda every week at Sunday Service (I don’t know where you live, but you can see the Festival as a live stream from Ananda Village) there is an allegory about the spiritual evolution of a little bird who represents our soul journey. The second stage of that bird’s adventure is “The Revolt.” He suffers from his own wrong action. He is given the right advice about how to change himself, but he doesn’t want to change. Instead of adapting to reality he prefers to insist on declaring a reality of his own.
The problem is, it doesn’t work. And even though “repeatedly he lost everything he had,” he persists in his wrong action for a long time. An afternoon for the little bird equals “eons of our time,” the Festival says.
Self-evidently you have no wish to continue in the reality you are in now. However, the law of karma is always fair. This is a very difficult truth to accept. Very difficult. No spiritual progress is possible, however, until you take that truth into yourself all the way down to your bone marrow.
Whatever is happening now is the exact result of wrong actions and wrong attitudes of your own in the past, perhaps not in this life but in incarnations you no longer remember.
I’m not trying to blame you or make you feel bad, hopeless, or helpless. Who in their right mind would inflict this kind of suffering on oneself and one’s children? Clearly, whatever dark actions in the past are being worked out in the present, are in the past. This is not who you are now.
You have learned many lessons. The mere fact that you are appealing to a spiritual source for help means that you have learned a great deal. Still, self-evidently, you are not free. The same is true for your children. The only thing to do now is devote yourself to learning whatever lessons remain.
What might those lessons be? It is not easy to penetrate our past lives and find the details of who did what to whom and how those consequences are playing out now. There are people who can do that for you. Not all are reliable or helpful in the way they present things, but if there is someone you know to be compassionate and trustworthy, you might consider a session or two. Sometimes to know the past life influences gives us the courage we need to persevere in the right way.
Even without that kind of understanding, however, the lessons are obvious. Even mindedness, calm acceptance, faith that God is in charge, even in a situation like this which seems so far outside what you would like to think of as the will of God.
The ego wants ease and pleasure. The soul wants freedom. As Swamiji wrote recently,
“Sometimes pain is the shortest route to freedom.” The ego doesn’t like this. Thus “The Revolt.” The soul, however, rejoices, no matter how difficult the road. Our higher self knows that on the other side of this wall of fire is bliss.
I suspect there is very little you can do to solve this problem directly. If you haven’t already explored legal options, I certainly would, but I doubt if there are laws against “wrong attitude,” which is what your ex is expressing in spades, and which you are also falling into.
The only solution to this is on the level of consciousness.
You are going to have to become a world-class athlete of consciousness. You’ll have to train all the time. When one of my friends developed cancer, she said to me, “I don’t have the luxury of having a single negative thought.” She was already one of the sweetest women I had ever met. Within herself, though, she saw room for improvement.
The situation with your ex and your children is your gold-medal event. Every so often you will have a chance to “compete” against your own wrong attitudes in that final round. In between, however, like any athlete, you have to stay focused on that upcoming challenge.
I’ve noticed that almost always the wrong attitudes that pull us to pieces in the major challenges of our lives are also expressed by us, in some form, in all the lesser challenges as well. Usually we don’t even notice that we are responding with anger, for example, or resentment, or hatred, because the intensity is low or nothing is at stake. Raging at a bad driver for example, or a roommate who leaves dishes in the sink, or the weather when it doesn’t cooperate with our plans may not seem relevant to your problem with your ex and your children, but it is.
Every time you respond to anything in your life in an inappropriate way you are cutting a groove of habit in your consciousness that will pull you right into it when the stakes get higher. You are making vrittis (whirlpools of energy) in your chakras that will influence your consciousness in every future situation. And, by contrast, every time you respond with calm, loving, uplifted energy, you are making a habit that will give you the strength you need when you need it.
Another factor comes into play here: the grace of God. Take one step toward Divine Mother and she will take three steps toward you -- or more. I call it the “Divine Matching Fund.” Put a penny of good energy into each of your charkas and Divine Mother will donate a dollar of Her bliss. You’ll see. It is amazing.
The only weapon you have in this guerilla warfare is your own consciousness. The good news is: consciousness is everything. Not only will it change your experience, it is also the primary influence you will have on your children, and the way ultimately to resolve this karma.
Remember: Where there is dharma (right consciousness) there is victory.
Not necessarily today, or even tomorrow, but eventually. Dharma always triumphs. This is the founding principle of Ananda and the secret of our success. Time after time it has proven true. Even when everything has gone against us, in the end, because we have always clung to right consciousness, it all came out in the right way. Please understand, that doesn’t mean we’ve always been perfect moment to moment. Everyone fails sometimes. Our perfection is that we have never given up.
God has taken away from you any margin you may have had to be casual about your thoughts and attitudes. He has also taken away from you the freedom to be lazy about your spiritual practices. You have to practice all the time having right consciousness so when the big challenge comes -- your ex and your children -- you will have the strength to remain centered in yourself.
Here is something hopeful to consider. Often when a person no longer gets the result they want from the action they are taking, they lose interest in repeating it. Your ex seemingly is quite successful in “sticking it to you,” as you put it. You need to find a depth of experience of God within that makes this tactic ineffective.
Your children, seeing your calm acceptance and joy, even in the face of extreme provocation, will also be impressed, and, we pray, inspired to emulate your example. You can’t depend on that in the short run, but “Where there is dharma there is victory.” It will affect them. And your ex -- eventually.
As for specifics, study the writings of Master and Swamiji on karma, affirmations, meditation. Really, you need the whole spiritual path!
Even though it doesn’t feel like grace right now, God is gifting you by challenging you to such an extent that you must turn to Him.
If you haven’t already done so, please submit your name and that of you ex and your children to the Ananda Prayer Council and every other group you may know that will pray for you. I will pray also.
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]