When Rebellion turned to Joy

My surrender experiment and the lessons I learned from it

I just returned from another trip to India where I was visiting my birth family. While sharing my experience with Liis (podcast co-host and one of my students) she reminded me how many people have “holiday-family-anxiety”, that thing where people get stressed and anxious about meeting and being with their family during the holiday season. For many it’s an obligation they dread to fulfill, others will be excited for the fun and enjoyable parts while in silent anguish over topics and situations that are highly uncomfortable and/or toxic to deal with. I have gone through both of those states and I’m sure there are several more variations that people experience.

In this post I will share about my last 2 trips, the one from this year and the past year, which had a significantly different quality as compared to the trips I had before. While drama was normal on my earlier trips, I experienced a massive shift over the last couple of years. And I credit this to the inner work I have been doing over the last 8 years (more about this in the latest episode Becoming Ti0). The two trips also had a very different quality from each other because I changed significantly over the past year. The way I experienced and enjoyed both visits was remarkably different and also interesting for me.

Visit 1: Self control, self observation, and non-reactivity

Visit 2: Letting go control and experiencing joy

Those are the 1 line highlights of each trip…

Visit 1: Self control, self observation, and non-reactivity

This was a different visit for a variety of reasons. It was happening after the pandemic break, while there were still several restrictions in place, and people were still quite anxious about the global situation. So apart from the family dynamics, there were a whole lot of added stressors. I had not felt the pandemic stress because of my life situation, but it was quite intense to deal with the stress everyone else was carrying.

It was also 5 years since I had visited India, so that long break had also disconnected me from the expectations and habits I used to have on previous visits. I knew going in that my biggest challenge was to resist the triggers that are present in social structures, those which I had become distanced from but were still powerful enough to push my buttons. I felt decently confident about this because I had been training long and hard to watch myself and practice this kind of self-control in many different situations. Yet, as we all know, no one knows how to push our buttons like family does.

And that is precisely what I had been using and working with for the last 8 years. Every trip and interaction would give me great insight into my shadow, my triggers, my reactions, my way of thinking and seeing the world. Watching my family also showed me how much I am like them, the parts I like and don’t like.

I like to call family the “final boss in Super Mario”, it is the ultimate test of self-work. You can believe what you want about how much you have overcome, but they are the ones who will show you your true level. And it was finally time to see what had come of all the efforts I had made while working on myself.

When I visited last year, I was able to set healthy boundaries, express myself, open myself to receive and give love, have good conversations and enjoyable experiences without the usual drama. While there was immense temptation to fall back to old ways and get into inane arguments just for the sake of it, I was deeply satisfied to see not only that I could resist the urge, but mostly because I really had lost the desire to indulge in those temptations. It was relatively effortless to decline the invitations to toxic situations, not only with family but also with close friends from my past. I was able to watch myself and overcome the temptation to indulge in my addiction to suffering.

I am not going into details because I find them irrelevant to share, but the main message I want to put forth is that it is entirely possible to have a family holiday without getting sucked into drama and still be able to enjoy yourself. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges for each of us, but I find that to be inspiring even for myself to keep doing more work because of what came next…

Visit 2: Letting go control and experiencing joy

While I did feel a sense of accomplishment for having such a good family trip last year, I did not just hang my boots and declare my self-work done. I feel this work never ends and I kept going as I always will. My work is never in a specific direction, I work with whatever is coming up and on several fronts at a time. This is how I practice the Fourth Way, work on all fronts always. So because I don’t have a particular direction, I also do not know where I am going to land up and what is going to get unlocked within me.

The trip this year was one of the greatest surprises for me. While I was able to hold all the good things from last year with much less effort this time, something entirely new opened up and quite unexpectedly. I have always been highly rebellious and opinionated, resisting the pressure and flow of the way things are, and not wanting to go along for the ride just because everyone is doing it. This lead to me not participating in a lot of activities that I believed were “boring” / “not for me” / “not my style” / “not something I would enjoy”. This is how I would justify my rebellion and control.

To my utter amazement, when I met my family, one of the first things I heard coming out of my mouth was: “I am ok doing whatever you’ll want to do.”

That bizarre line lead to a trip that I couldn’t have conceived of in my wildest dreams. Not only did I keep this attitude of surrender with my family, I let go in a lot of situations I would have otherwise resisted and fought. As an example, I used to hate going for Indian wedding events — I never enjoyed any aspect of them. Yet, on this trip, I found myself at not one but two wedding events — one for which I even self-invited! And the other being the wedding of someone I had met once in my life – my brother’s best friend.

While those were the most unexpected events on the trip, there were numerous other things to which I just surrendered and let go my deep instinct to fight and rebel. I was enjoying things which I previously believed to be “boring” or unenjoyable — like the football world cup. I never took an interest in sports, but this time I was not just watching for the sake of it, I got into it and enjoyed it.

Although these were not situations I would enjoy prior to this trip, I found a way to enjoy myself even there — and in that I learned something invaluable:

The joy was not in what I did,
I learned to enjoy life no matter what I am doing.

The reason to fight and rebel was not because I wouldn’t enjoy some activity. It was my way to feel control and power. And because of all the inner work I have been doing, I feel control and power in my life nowadays, and so I don’t need to exert and prove it by rebelling outward any longer. Who could’ve thought that!? ????????

Just to stop fighting for a moment was such a massive change I did not feel like myself. And that was not a bad thing. The part of me that was constantly rebelling had been transformed into a healthier version that could set boundaries when required — not rebel unnecessarily just to feel a sense of power and control.

There is a crucial difference between enjoying life and enjoying what you are doing. There may be many activities that may be unappealing, boring, or unenjoyable. But once you learn to enjoy life it becomes less important to enjoy every activity, and also every activity can become more enjoyable — not because of the activity itself — because your attitude towards life changes.

While I am deeply pleased with where I have reached, this too is not a moment to hang up my boots on self-work. I cannot wait to see what more treasures are waiting to be found.

And if you are going to meet your family during this or any other holiday season, my suggestion is to stop fighting and start learning about what triggers you, what disgusts you, what you dread — and find a way to deal with that. And if you don’t know how, there is support available.

Family only holds as much power over us as we give them. By learning the proper techniques you can reclaim your power and realize that they are not who you think they are.

Your perception of people is shaped by your beliefs about them.

As your beliefs change, your perception changes, and “people change” because the way you relate to them changes. Because the way you relate to yourself changes.

When you stop fighting on the outside you get a chance to realize what you can do to change life from within.

I trust you found this post insightful.

I invite you to join the discussion in our free online community.

You can also go deeper into the teachings  by joining The I0 Academy where you will receive where you will receive regular trainings and personalized guidance to apply these teachings in daily life.

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