The Internal Family Meeting –
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I was thrilled when I ran across a spiritual practice involving internal family meetings. It’s similar to my work with families using family systems therapy, but instead of a meeting of various family members, the internal family meeting looks at the different parts of who you are as an individual. We all say things like, “Part of me wants to go to the party, but part of me wants to stay home.” Looking at how these parts interact can be a really insightful way to work on becoming our truest self.
It’s good to get to know the different parts of ourselves, but it can be hard to face the parts we prefer didn’t exist. Yet, much of what we are meant to know and learn from comes from unpleasant and difficult circumstances — or realities about ourselves, parts of ourselves that we don’t like. We must learn not to shun these uncomfortable parts, but to embrace and learn from them. My spiritual director shared this Buddhist poem with me about staying present in good and bad times, and I thought it would be appropriate here.
In This Passing Moment
by Hogen Bays
In this passing moment karma ripens
and all things come to be.
I vow to choose what is:
If there is cost, I choose to pay.
If there is need, I choose to give.
If there is pain, I choose to feel.
If there is sorrow, I choose to grieve.
When burning — I choose heat.
When calm — I choose peace.
When starving — I choose hunger.
When happy — I choose joy.
Whom I encounter, I choose to meet.
What I shoulder, I choose to bear.
When it is my death, I choose to die.
Where this takes me, I choose to go.
Being with what is — I respond to what is.
So, how do we have an internal family meeting and welcome all the parts of ourselves? Try this:
First, find a comfortable seat, somewhere you won’t be interrupted. Take several deep breaths and picture sitting around a table with the different “parts” of yourself. There might be parts of you at the table that you don’t like or aren’t comfortable with, but remember the poem, be present to what IS. If you are a visual person you can sketch this out with stick figures with labels over the heads of the different parts. There might be The Parent, The Lover, The Teacher, The Protector, The Spiritual one, The Hurt one, The Cynic, etc.
Then, once you’ve identified them, welcome each part of yourself to the table. Listen to each part. Ask where they came from. For instance, there may be a part of you that protected you as a child during a difficult time. Thank them for their service. Perhaps you no longer need to be protected, this part of you might now be keeping you from getting to know and trust other people. Talk to that part of yourself about your new reality and how you only need their protection when you are actually threatened.
Have a “family meeting,” with those around the table to discern how best the parts of you can work together for your good. As you hear and heal the different parts of yourself, you will be better able to hear God as well.
Let me know if you try this spiritual practice and what you think.
Photo Credit: top pic