If you in a relationship, a parent, or an individual that is struggling in a relationship or feeling anxious I highly recommend the book The Awakened Family: How to raise empowered, resilient, and conscious children by Dr. Shefali Tsabary paired with online counseling.
With an endorsement from Oprah on the front cover it should be no surprise that Dr. Tsabary’s book is a deep and insightful read on relationships and mindfulness. It is geared specifically towards parents and families but would be helpful for anyone struggling to build and maintain healthy relationships. The overarching message is that when we become better aware of ourselves and our triggers we become more mindful and empathic so that we can connect to the people that we love. All too often we are reacting to triggers within ourselves that take us out of the present and lead to overreactions, anxiety, and stress. When couples start an argument about something small and before too long it balloons into a yelling match about anything and everything that the other person has ever done wrong we are not acting with mindfulness or in a way that solves problems.
We awaken when we become aware of who we truly are. This awareness brings a realization of how liberating it is to be authentic – to be real, instead of who we think we are supposed to be or who others want us to be (p. 1).
Reading this book, a page or two at a time, was a meditation practice in and of itself. When we stop worrying about what other people think and let go of our own unrealistic, anxious, or perfectionist expectations we can finally connect with ourselves and our partners on a deeper level. It is amazing how liberating it feels to be truly at peace with yourself and let go of what you think you should think, feel, or do and instead do what is needed in each moment to connect with others and realize what you truly want and deserve. Dr. Tsabary’s blend of personal story examples and gentle and positive language was calming and effective. I especially loved the way that Dr. Tsabary included poetry, mantra, and personal prayers and blessings to open chapters, conclude sections, and reinforce messages. The text itself often felt like poetry as she condensed complex philosophy into beautiful sparklets of feelings.
-A New Commitment to Shedding Expectations –
I shed my expectations and agendas,
Knowing they stem from my small mind-space.
Instead, I will enter my expansive heart-space,
And release you from meeting my needs,
Expecting only that I do this for myself.
When I see you, I will no longer reflect
My fears, insecurities, longings, and drama.
Instead, I will clear the mental cobwebs
That cloud the shine of your brilliance
So that I can be a mirror or the diamond you are.
As my agendas melt away, so does the hollowness I feel,
Leaving wholeness in its place (p. 198)
Most authors and experts tell you in specific steps how to think about and approach a problem but Dr. Tsabary instead weaves a story that leaves you reflecting on your own life and background from a mindful and detached place that encourages freedom to come to your own conclusions. Each person is unique and while there are universal truths we can all benefit from learning each person has to take their own journey to individual awareness and mindfulness. By guiding the reader towards the right questions to ask and setting an example for how to reflect in a non-judgmental way defensiveness melts away and you are free to recognize old patterns that are based in shame and fear instead of strength and love.
Couples that are stuck in old patterns or suffering from intimacy issues will benefit from reading this book and seeking out online couples counseling to learn how to reflect differently. Instead of using a deficit mindset and thinking about what is wrong that needs fixing you will learn to embrace yourself as a pure and unique being that has been triggered by underlying fears and expectations of shame and not feeling good enough. Dr. Tsabary’s words and stories will help you to recognize what is holding you back from connecting with your partner and family so that intimacy feels more natural and deserved instead of pressured and uncomfortable. It all starts with reflection and non-judgmental awareness. This book makes a great pairing with a yoga or mindfulness practice.
Sometimes we are just one song, book, or conversation away from recognizing what we needed to hear that will lead to change. This book is a gentle nudge that will feel like a familiar voice in your head and help you on your way to feeling less anxious and more mindful in your relationships.
-A New Commitment to Shedding Judgment-
My judgment against others
Erupts from a place of lack within,
From an old blueprint
Where I was judged by others in the same way.
Though judgment is far easier than introspection,
I realize that it keeps my heart closed.
It is only when I can enter compassion for others
That I ultimately can forgive myself.
How badly do you need to hear these words? How strongly do you need to feel that you are right instead of solving the disconnection and lack of intimacy in your relationship? Changes come from within and by consistent dedication to gently nudging your inner narrative towards stillness, peace, and calm you will feel less anxious and more connected and able to build lasting relationships.