Spring brings phlox. White, purples, pinks. They’re soft, delicate, peaceful. I adore them. When in bloom, they’re always nestled throughout the sacred space in my temple room in small understated vases. But I treasure the Black-eyed Susan’s cheerful orange-yellow glow. They have a fire for life but not without graceful countenance.
I just walked in the door from picking my first gathering of the season. Spritely, joyful Susan’s deserve larger vases: one white and blue in delicate ceramic design, the other deep ruby-wine glass vase. When I must discard my yellow bundles of love, I put them in the dirt on both sides in the front of the house. They seed themselves. They grow themselves from their own deaths. I’ve got a whole Black-eyed Susan garden thriving and I want to extend their patches of space.
There’s another garden I’m giving special attention to: my friends and family and complete strangers. Every day I turn myself over to the practice of unconditionally loving. This takes practice, rigorous practice at first. I don’t always feel loving, and people, family included, can be absolutely impossible at times.
Actively cultivating unconditional devotional love for my Divine Other, the Supreme Person, makes it possible to tend to other relationships. See, I found out that no material relationship makes me whole, and unless I’m whole I can’t love unconditionally. Through great suffering and loss, I learned the secret to giving unconditional love in this world—and not be drained or degraded by the offering—is to make developing love of God my central relationship. In that relationship (as one friend likes to say) “giving is receiving; the giving is getting.” When I’m hooked up to the Supreme Person, my unlimited, giving source, I find the ability to extend unconditional love to others.
Once I decided that my life’s work and joy, my spiritual path, the way toward my human evolution is to develop unconditional devotional love, I’ve found that it seeds itself, sprouts up from and strangles fear, and returns love to me unbounded.
As I braved thorn bushes and stinging Nettle in open sandals to pick Susans, I was thinking about families and our relationships within them. I agree with Debra Moffitt in How Relationships Heal: Moving into the Divine Union.
Within relationships we have tremendous potential for spiritual development. Have we heard how this can be possible? Do we understand the significance for our lives? Do we believe this?
If we look at the state of family in America we might suspect our collective answer has to be “no” to each question. Do we care about this? Enough to change—maybe not the whole society—but ourselves? Are we depriving ourselves and our loved ones of something by sticking with the “no” answer?
After looking at statistics below, if you had to rate it honestly, how would you rate the health of Family in America?
Awful, Poor, Fair, Good, Great?
Divorce rate holds firm at 50% for many years, with more than 2 million couples marrying every year. One million marriages coming to an end every year means emotional turmoil for 2 million people and their families.
Most everyone either knows the emotional and relational costs of divorce or is close to someone who does. Divorce may be nasty or not, but almost always is painful as we watch life push us forward past evaporating dreams.
Divorce isn’t the only familial ill in America (or elsewhere).
As you read the numbers below, please don’t read too fast. Allow yourself to remember that each number refers to a human being.
Every day 5 children die from abuse and neglect right here in our country, or 1,770 children in 2009. However, this number doesn’t take into account the fact that 50-60% of children’s deaths due to maltreatment are not listed as such on the death certificate. 80% of these children are under 4 years old. In addition, an estimated 695,000 children were abused in 2010, and in 2009 there were reports and allegations of abuse involving 6 million children.
More than one in four children live in a single parent home, or 24 million children. 408,000 children were in foster care in 2010, but it should be noted that closer to 600,000 move in and out of foster care during the year.
Every day more than 3 women are murdered by their partners. About 1.3 million women are victims of physical violence by their partner every year. Nearly 7.8 million women have been raped by their partner at some point in their lives.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. In 2005 there were 191,000 cases of rape or sexual assault reported, a significant number of cases are not reported.
Whenever I listen to the news or hear depressing things like these statistics about the state of family in America I feel overwhelmed. What can I possibly do to help change the suffering in the world? What’s really frustrating is I usually answer, Not much.
But I can change what’s happening in my home with my significant other (okay, I don’t have one, but you might!), my children, my grandchildren, and my broader family. I can change how I relate to my friends and colleagues. I can change how I behave in relationships and I can do it today.
Guy Finley writes, “How do we illuminate our relationships at home, in our workplace, wherever we are? What must we do to enlighten this murky world of ours that staggers under the weight of its own shadows? We must cease being an unconscious part of its darkness.”
I see my Self and each being as a spiritual individual and understand we are eternally interconnected in relationships. I choose to act with each person, event, and my environment in a manner that honors and energizes how I want to express myself in my personal relationship with the divine. I design my relationship and establish the tenor of that relationship with divinity by choosing how I act in each circumstance now.
Let the numbers remind us; let the human beings remind us; let our loved ones remind us: we can choose to love unconditionally.
With love to you and your family,
 CDC FastStats