a teaching on family


Yesterday was Mother’s day. I had a great conversation with my Mom in the afternoon. I love that we make time for each other, it is very special to me.

Last week I was reminded of a teaching on family by one of my heroes, Thich Nhat Hanh. I wrote about this teaching in the Mother’s day card to my Mom and we discussed it on the phone. In the teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about how our family is always with us. They are part of every cell in our body and therefore we will never be separate from them. He says that when we look in the mirror our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are looking back at us. I’ve heard this teaching many times but last week it resonated with me in a deeper way as the most profound teachings tend to do.

I’ve been missing my parents lately. As Mother’s day was approaching I kept wishing I wasn’t so far away from her. The older I get the more I sort out my life and am able to see the gifts that she has given to me. Some came from her and some came from her Mom and so on. Hearing that teaching again, being reminded that she and I are only at a distance physically is very comforting. As Thich Nhat Hanh says,

she is with you now and will always be with you.

People that know my Mom often tell me I look just like her. I don’t see it that much but even she sees it! Jason tells me that certain things I say and the way that I say them sound like her. I see my Mom’s influence on me in other ways. When I show up for my clients and love them unconditionally, when I take a risk and share what I am feeling in my relationship and when I make it a point to call my family and stay in touch with them, I know that all comes from her.

When I think about all the ways I am reminded of her on a daily basis this teaching comes to life. I know in my heart we will always be connected and no amount of time or space can change that.

Last night I went to a wonderful meditation circle hosted by a lovely new friend, Lauren. The topic was connection and we talked about the gifts we received from our Moms. There were actually 2 Mother/Daughter families in the circle and that was really cool. It got me thinking about my Grandmothers and how much they taught me and how much they are still part of my life.

In the image above my Mom’s Mom (Florence, but everyone called her Benny) is on the left and my Dad’s Mom (Jean) is on the right. Both of my Grandmothers were writers. Grandma Benny studied Journalism in college and wrote for years. She died when I was 17. We were close. From my 10th or 11th birthday until I was 16 she took me out for a special lunch. I loved to eat at the Sundial at the top of the Peachtree Plaza hotel in downtown Atlanta. I’d always order a giant bucket of shrimp and we would look out over the city and talk about everything.

Grandma Jean published her first book in her 80’s and just past away in January of this year. Her passing has been challenging for me. There is a part of me that thought she would live forever. She could be prickly around the edges but had a heart of gold and was incredibly sensitive and bright. I still pick up the phone to call her nearly every week and then remember……

In a very beautiful way I feel very connected to both of my Grandmothers. I see their gifts and presence in my life daily.

Just as we inherit the gifts from our Mothers and Grandmothers we also inherit their pain and struggles. That is part of life. There is no joy without difficulty and this is a huge lesson that I have learned from my family: we have to be willing to accept all of it. In meditation last night I was reminded that part of my journey is to recognize what part of that I can let go of and move towards being free from past struggles. As Lauren said so beautifully last night:

we are in our families for a reason, they are our greatest teachers.

When I celebrate Mothers Day it feels right to honor my Grandmothers and my lineage. Being thankful for the gifts that have been passed down to me grounds me in the present. When I look in the mirror I see that I came from some where. I remember that no matter if I recognize it or not, the wisdom from the women in my family is within every cell of my being and that I am truly never alone.



  • hope

    Needed this so bad:

    I have such a disconnect from my family and have been really trying to understand what it’s about. Of course it is to learn and to grow, and I moved to be near them again because I want it to work. Our greatest teachers are sometimes our biggest challenges? xo

    • ashley

      I’m right there with you. It was such a great reminder for me too. I think it’s part of our life’s practice to work it out however we can with our parents and families. I’ve been reading Caroline Myss again, always so timely, and see that my family work is really at the base of everything. Continuing to sort it out helps me be more available for the rest of my life. And yes, I agree that many of our greatest teachers are also our biggest challenges – especially where family is concerned! It really is a life’s work. I’m glad you have moved closer to your family and are showing up in such a big way for healing to continue to take place. Lots of love to you friend. xoa

  • lauren


    i loved reading this this morning!
    it’s so funny, because i wrote a similar post last night! :)
    your grandmothers are so beautiful, and i can see them in you. and the ways you describe your mom, i can certainly see how you are alike. :) it’s a beautiful thing.
    i am so happy we are becoming friends and that the stars have aligned and brought us together. i really am grateful for you in my life and in this world. and i am grateful every time you come to meditation, you bring with you something very special.
    thank you for posting this! i loved reading it – it’s so beautiful and lovely.

    lots of love to you, and your lineage for creating you!

    • ashley

      Of course you did ;) We are so connected! Can’t wait to hop over and read it. I too am very happy we are becoming friends, it’s been a highlight of recent weeks! I feel the same about you. Every time I read your blog or come to meditation group I am just in awe of your presence and what a generous and kind spirit you are. When you shared briefly about your Mom on Sunday I was thinking about this teaching and imagining all the ways that she is part of your life. It was such a special circle and I look forward to it every week now!
      Sending you lots of love today Lauren!

  • Sarah-Helena

    This is such a beautiful post, thank you for sharing. It resonates with me on a very personal level. I’ve been following you for a while now and your blog gives me such insight and inspiration. xx

    • ashley

      Hi there Sarah, thank you so much for sharing that with me. It brightens my day in the best way possible. Wishing you a wonderful week from windy Los Angeles. xoa

  • Ann

    Dear Ashley,
    well, it´s actually quite sad that we stay in connection with our families all life long. Because, in my case, it´s terrifying me and making me depressed and ill. My mother is an alcoholic, who isn´t ready for ANY changes in her life and reacts agressively when I want to help her. When she visits me, she only drinks and if I try to talk with her about it, it results in insults and “You don´t have the right to tell me how I need to live!”- screams. The rest of my family are self-centered, egoistic and uncaring. I don´t WANT to feel connected with such family. I´m sorry. The only thing I´ve learned from my family is to stay away from them in order to protect myself and my inner peace:-(

    • ashley

      Hi Ann,
      Thank you so much for sharing that here. Your comments really moved me and I am grateful you took the time to write. There is a great deal of Alcoholism in my family as well and I understand how painful it is when people are not in recovery. I have worked with many people in situations very similar to yours and keeping a distance is a big part of staying at peace like you described. I also know from experience that the only way we can heal our family relationships, whether we choose to spend time with them or away from them, is through acceptance. We have to be willing to accept them exactly as they are knowing they might not ever be any different. Trust me, I know what a hard and painful process this is and it doesn’t happen overnight. I completely understand your desire to help your Mother, that is very caring and natural. I want the same thing for members of my family. The way I have made peace with that is by dealing with the my feelings around the disappointment about their illness it and allowing them to be who they are, with all of their faults and issues. I’m not in anyway telling you what to do or how to feel. I know this is such a sensitive subject and I am so honored that you opened up about it. My heart goes out to you Ann. Wishing you well. xoa

  • Ann

    Dear Ashley,

    thank you so much for your kind responce! I am so sorry that you have such issues in your family as well… And I really appreciate your attitude. I guess we all should understand that we are not always able to control the situation and that in many cases, it will be better for us to accept the beloved ones with all of their faults, which surely doesn´t mean that we shouldn´t be seeking ways to help them. It´s a bit difficult for me to accept my mother´s behaviour at the moment. But I´ll work on my feelings. I think I really can do much more if I feel unconditional love for her rather than anger… Again, thank you so much! Your blog is really helping me through the tough times:-)

    • ashley

      You are welcome Ann! I completely agree with you that seeking to accept and understand is where we find freedom and that is really where a big part of our personal work it. It’s not easy in the least. But I promise things always shift with time and the more we can focus on taking care of ourselves the more grounded we will be with our family members. I find there are still many painful moments and challenging times but I also notice and appreciate the tender and joyful moments when those show up too. I am so happy to connect with you about this. I have found it isolating at times and knowing other people are out there going through it had brought me comfort. Sending you lots of love and healing. xoa

Leave a Comment