Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I converted to Buddhism in 1993. My family is Christian, and they constantly remind me of how "I won't be with them in heaven." I usually just smile and nod because I just don't know how to respond. They are always "praying for me." It's just a constant guilt trip. Help.
— Mkiwa K., Clementon, New Jersey
From what you indicate, your family is very traditional and closely bonded. Be happy for that if you can. Trying to achieve close bonding is an enormous difficulty in the lives of millions of people.
But every good thing is entangled with other things that aren't so good. In traditional culture, religion is what makes you who you are: a member of a family, tribe, ethnic group, race or culture. Perhaps only a few of these apply to your situation, but your letter could just as easily be coming from someone whose family was aghast that she was marrying someone of another skin color or ethnic group. Tradition makes people want to cling to their identity. Change is the enemy.
At 57, you need to accept this understanding and move on. You are too old to be placating your family. One would expect such worries from a person half your age. I suspect that you are giving mixed signals. You do everything you can to get your family to believe you are still the old you, the one they fully accept. Yet this odd difference, Buddhism, sticks out.
You can't change their resistance, but you can stop playing both sides of the fence. Show them that you are happy and secure being a Buddhist. Make clear that criticism isn't fair or welcome. The next time it crops up, leave the room or the house. Keep doing this until they get the message that your deeply held beliefs are off-limits. The rest of you is someone they can accept.
How do I help a family member who's mourning?
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Deepak Chopra is the author of more than 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality, including his current best-seller, Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, and The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, which are available now. You can listen to his show on Saturdays every week on SiriusXM Channels 102 and 155.
Published on February 24, 2010