Buddhism, Anxiety and the Modern Family

Lodro Rinzler
7 min readNov 1, 2021

If you think you’re so enlightened, go spend a week with your family.

— Ram Dass

With the holidays coming up I have to point out that there is one particularly lovely and stressful community each of us participates in from the moment we are born: our family. Unlike your religious community, your book club, or your friend group, you don’t (at least initially) get to pick which family you participate in. You’re born into it and that one is yours until the moment you die. Some of us couldn’t imagine not speaking with our family every week, while others are far removed from engaging them. The extent to which we want to interact with our family, and how we define it, is up to each of us, but it’s something we can’t really avoid participating in, one way or another.

The television show Modern Family depicts the antics of one large family which consists of a number of iterations: the grandfather/father (who is on his second marriage and has a stepson and a son in that second marriage), a daughter (who is part of the stereotypical “nuclear family” as she is married to a man and they have three children together), and a son (who is married to another man and has adopted a child).

The basic premise of the show (and my long-winded explanation of it) proves how these days family is what we make of it; it’s not about who came out of whose vagina. It’s more fluid than that. The etiquette expert Millicent Fenwick, way back in 1948, defined the word household as “a unit, a group of people joined together, living under the same roof.” I like this way of thinking of a household because some of us may consider our roommate family, or our close friends, or the dog we adopted. However you personally define your family and household society, you likely already know the importance of figuring out meaningful ways to show up for it and recognizing the inherent goodness of your family situation.

There are many stages of relating to our family members. As a child, we learn from them about what is appropriate and kind and what is not. They are our first spiritual teachers, for better or for worse. In my case, my parents were about a decade into their Buddhist practice by the time I was born. As a result, they were able to embody the principles of mindfulness and compassion in ways I internalized subconsciously without them having to tell me those are things one might consider a priority in life. For that, I am very thankful. For some of us, our…

Lodro Rinzler

Lodro Rinzler is author of “The Buddha Walks into a Bar,” “Love Hurts” and a handful of other fun books on meditation | Co-Founder of MNDFL. lodrorinzler.com