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    Creating Harmonious Families Starts with Me

    karenThere’s nothing like taking off to sunny Florida at the start of the polar vortex that overtook Cleveland in mid-November. I’d booked my reservation at the Florida Nature and Culture Center months before, so I was ready. For what, I knew not.

    When I got there, and found out that the theme of the conference was “Creating Harmonious Families Starts with Me,” I thought, “What does that have to do with me?” After all, my sons are grown men now, living on their own in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Clearly they love big cities while I am quite content to be ‘suburban urban.’ They are whom I think of when I hear the word “family.”

    Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist philosopher and world peace advocate, has submitted peace proposals to the United Nations for decades. An excerpt from the 2001 Peace Proposal reads:

    “The family is said to be the oldest form of human community…Nowhere is the impact of the crisis of life, heart and spirit felt more intensely than in the family. Parent-child relations, and family ties in general, differ from other human relations in that they are essentially not of our choosing. They should be recognized as something that issues from the depths of our being, and as such, they represent the most real and vital connections.”

    Wow, talk about food for thought! I was so encouraged to read these words and to ponder on the relationships that I have with people I consider “family of origin” and “family of choice.” Oh, I can experience radiant love and abundant spirit with my family of choice, largely composed of my LGBTQA circles, while the status of my family of origin is a little wobblier and even prickly at times. At the conference, I got to feel my heart open with more generosity towards the idea of creating an expanded view of family, yet I was baffled about where to begin.

    Duh, Karen. Begin where you are! I realized that I have to strengthen my resolve and aim for transformation of myself first in order to regard everything as food for growth. How startling, yet refreshing, to have these realizations when I wasn’t looking for them!

    With the holiday season right around the corner, we humans once again get to decide how we are going to treat one another, particularly those with whom we share family bonds. Whatever our families look like, and no matter what the configurations are, we can embrace our differences, polish our inner selves, and dig deep inside to bring out compassion, love, warmth, wisdom, and desire for peace and joy for ourselves and others. The truth is that once we change, everything—and everyone, for that matter—around us changes.

    Well, I got a lot out of my time at the FNCC, and I look forward to going there again, though I may be more diligent about checking out the conference themes before I set off. The idyllic setting of 126 acres of protected everglades, along with delicious nourishing meals and warm heartfelt life lessons, added to my spiritual experience. I came away with a heightened awareness that creating my harmonious family does start with me! The loving exchanges with friends and family members since my return home are actual proof that I want to embody what I’ve learned.

    I also signed up to serve food again this year to families in need of heart, body and soul food. It’s my honor to be with people who allow me to extend myself beyond the confines of blood relations, and live out my true identity as a child of the universe.

    May each and every one of you have wonderful times with your families at the close of this year; and may the coming year grace you with health, happiness, life force, prosperity and wisdom.

    Karen Williams is a proud Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhist! For more information, go to