I was recently in California for my Mom’s 80th birthday celebration and family reunion organized by my sister. It was a huge success. A partial surprise party, my Mom rose to the occasion and allowed herself to be bathed in the love of the family that is so abundant and powerfully present for her. I was so proud of her ability to receive. This reunion was a fulfillment of a lifelong dream of hers to bring the family members (scattered all over the US) together in one place. Kudos to my sister for pulling off this magnificent event!

Picture of Todd's MomMay I brag about my Mom? My Mom is a great being. A cancer survivor of over 10 years, living alone, supporting herself, and maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle, she plays tennis three times a week, paddle ball once a week, and takes yoga and aerobic classes. In addition, she volunteers, takes educational classes, is a Hadassah past president and helps out when needed, sees all of the newest movies as they come out, and goes out on dates with her “man-friend” Lenny. Her zest for life and will to be fully alive never ceases to amaze me.

In addition to her active lifestyle, she has an extraordinarily warm and accepting heart. She is open, understanding, and compassionate. She and I can sit down and talk about anything. She has opened herself totally to yoga and all of the various philosophies I expound. My mom has always been my greatest fan. She supports me to follow my heart and become the best version of myself. I want to thank her for loving me and believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. Click here to read the toast I made at her celebration….All this is to say, I love you mom. I celebrate you. Thanks for being you and for loving me through thick and thin. May you have many more birthday celebrations!

Being with family is not always easy, but it’s always illuminating. I had many insights this visit and I would like to share a couple of them with you. One insight I got about my Mom is that her love is consistent. It’s not just reserved for me. She loves everyone in the same way she loves me. Now that’s cool. She loves because that’s who she is. What a blessing to receive a love like that.

With all of our different values, personalities, lifestyles, and needs, I was amazed at how well the family got along. There were approximately 23 of us in attendance and many who couldn’t be there. There was genuine love and interest in reuniting with the family from practically everyone. There were some cousins I haven’t seen in over 40 years, while other cousins I never knew I had.

There’s a saying by a great yogi, Ram Dass, “If you want to know how enlightened you are, just go home for the holidays!” Usually this is understood to mean that the family will trigger old wounds from childhood and that the family will bring even the seasoned yogi to his/her knees. In other words, no matter how enlightened you think you are, your family will test your ability to maintain peace of mind. Somehow, the family knows exactly how to press your buttons in just the perfect way to trigger old buried patterns of unskillful childhood behavior.

However, this visit was different for me. I’m not saying I’m enlightened and I never get triggered. But somehow this visit seemed better, a lot better. And my last visit with my Dad in January also was better. Compared to other visits 10-20 years ago, this visit was enlightened. How? I got along better with everyone. I didn’t take things so personally. I looked for the good in everyone and saw it. I felt free to be me, take care of my needs, while also supporting the family and helping others get their needs met. I was able to hear people and offer them support.

I am so impressed with who my family is. In any given conversation, I experienced kindness, humor, creativity, caring, sensitivity, insight, a wider perspective, good cheer, love, and a sincere interest in who we are. I experienced a deeper sense of connection to each person.

I had the realization that perhaps this IS the family I’ve always wanted to be part of. This realization freed up energy for me that normally gets caught in wishing I had a different family. But you know what? The truth is – this is the ONLY family I get this time around. The universe doesn’t make mistakes. I’ve been able to release the need for a different family and embrace the family I have. This has made all of the difference.

Fate is what’s given to you. Destiny is what you do with it. Assuming that pre-birth soul agreements are true, I chose my family and agreed in advance that I would be part of this family, and this family would be part of me. Done deal.

Having made these discoveries, I am more at peace within myself when I’m with my family. And because I’m more at peace within myself, I am more able to listen to others and respond in a loving way. Like being part of a team, a family team, I strive to be a better player, be more sensitive to other’s needs, and respect other’s values especially when their values are different than mine. At the same time, I vow not to collapse my self-esteem, give away my power, or shame myself for my feelings the way I did when I was growing up. But rather to accept, open, love, be willing to learn, and grow myself beyond self-limiting concepts.