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The Monk-ess with a Begging Bowl

By Pia Harden

Pia Hardenwhy would I agree to write on “Extended Family and Friends’’? It pains me, confuses me and it is one of the biggest challenges and dismays in my life. However, later it will become clearer why I even would attempt to sort this out for you and for myself on a piece of paper.

Starting out for people that don’t know me, I did leave my family when I was 14-15 years old. In Sweden is not all that uncommon since laws are a bit different there, yet still it is far too early and my reason was the neglect and what I saw as complete dysfunction in my household and it had gotten worse as the years went by.

So I literally ran away from home one winter night without shoes on my feet to quickly escape my father’s furry and after that I did not have much contact with my parents for several years.

In the beginning I was incredible busy to build a good life for myself, I worked five jobs and went to college. I got jobs at nightclubs, sales, as a cleaning lady and finally at seventeen, I became a manager for an art gallery and then two, and was moving on up, then at nineteen, it hit me. I missed having support from a family, and I started to want to mend my relationship with my immediate family but they were not ready, for any sort of healing unless it went their way. The same dysfunctional way as always. So again, I moved on to look for family in friends.

I worked on this for about 25 years, and I have I met people that have become a big parts of my life. I moved to Switzerland and met a Swedish family there that was marvelous. They were of great help to me when I got chased down by people that were dealing with human trafficking. These Swedish families hid and fed me in their basement for 2 weeks until they helped me out of the country and safely back to Sweden.

I kept in contact with them for a while yet when you are alone there are so much to do and to take care of in your own life, that it is sometimes too exhausting and impossible to continue these relationship, and since these relationship are not blood, it is easier to disappear because every blood family have there own issues and there on life to conquer and figure out. Yet these kinds of people and experiences I cherish forever.

I like to keep this real and in my experience I have discovered that people throw the words’’you are like my family’’ or ‘’you are family’’ around, way to easy, at least in my taste, at least in my value system.

I used to for years take these words as serious can be, and I would change my life around those words. A complete vulnerability for me, a deep, deep need down to my soul core, and my heart has been aching for family pretty much every day my whole life.

On top of it I am this type of die-hard person, I won’t give up easily and even if I have a bad experience once, twice, three, four times with this ‘‘you are like family’’ concept. What do I mean by bad experiences? I guess this has to do with my value system of how you treat people in your family and how you expect to be treated. and this is where I think it has gone very array for me, and as a stubborn and go-getting personality as I am myself I also had to realize that obviously my approach is not working.

Most of the time I ended up in a confusing heartbreak lying depressed in bed for three days.

So what did I learn, well to begin with I think I learned to set boundaries, that was a trial and error as well. How does a boundless girl, woman, learn healthy working boundaries? A lot of therapy, I might add here and a whole lot of self -help books.

A lot of communication, courage, again trial and error, a lifetime of inside reflection and getting to know my own limits and what I could emotionally afford.

So what are these bad experiences? Well for me, bad has turned out good even if I still feel gun-shy from a few, yet the teaching in each experience when taken to a spiritual level has a huge rewarding outcome, however that is not how I would see it when I was in my twenties.

I have always been ready to give my heart to anybody that comes along and says the family word, people would get complete loyalty and all energy that I could give. Ouch, that is just not working any more for me.

I would ask myself how I could better do this and it started to be revealed to me that all these ‘’nice talking’’ people that could smell me out as there savior in a rough patch in their life, when they sucked the energy out of me, I call them energy vampires, they would not only clearly start to reject me, avoid me and be down right mean and behaving with not very mature intentions. And that is the nice way to put it.

So I spent years in sadness, especially when I saw how some of this people wouldn’t be aware of their behavior, cause they were so into their own ego, and what ever they could gain.

One woman that had said ‘’the family word’’ to me in times of her own depression, she literally decided to turn on me in front of other people at several occasions and told me that I wasn’t the popular one to be with but someone else was, and she was crying like a baby on the playground while we were attending to our kids, she said that the popular one had been mean to her and in the meantime she could easily be the meanest of them all. I was so shocked I think I still am when I think about it, these are people in their forties I am talking about.

A lot of people like this, energy vampires that is, are presumed intelligent and have a flare for words and for being there own best defense lawyers when they have to fess up to their doings. And their most important outcome for them is to feel as they were in the right and it doesn’t even occur to them that people are hurt and one simple apology could be sufficient in terms of establishing a path to peace. To some people being witty with words are more important than emotional intelligence and oh boy, is that a sad reality for someone like me.

Then of course with all my spiritual reading and practice, that even if it hurts and you feel for a moment like something the cat dragged in, I realized that that has nothing to do with me, and that when a person has intention just tapered to their own ego it is all on them. That is a hard practice to realize, but is there and it is closer to a truth, than feeling bad for other peoples sorry behaviors. Bottom line, we all have to take responsibility for all of our own stuff, and when it comes to me, so do I.

I mention this particular woman because I think she was probably my savior in my dilemma. I got so crossed that I said to myself that no more, not again. And since then I have been on a new road to find the balance with the concept of extended family in friends.

What should one expect from these ‘’you -are -like- family’’ people?

Here is my new take on it; NOTHING.NOTHING. Yes I said nothing.

No expectation is the way to go, although I never gave tit for tat, I did expect respect and kindness back, and sometimes when I was down and out I expected people to be there for me, not stamp harder on me when I was already down.

But turning my new anger into energy to resolve, I did resolve a few things.

I got to know myself even more and liked what I saw within me, I like my kindness that I own and I like the kind of friend I am to people I care for, so I won’t stop giving it, yet now only giving with no expectations and only when I am spiritually strong to do so, so I won’t end up destroyed by old wounds and emotions, lying in bed for a few days unable to take care of my life. And that is certainly my stuff to work out.

God has given me new eyesight to see through people with no good intention and he has also given me the profound tools to make it work for me if it is real and I am more of the time very clear.

I have met so many of this ‘’you are my family’ people and very very few of them will come through in the end.

However there are the few people that will, and in life we go through seasons with people, and some I feel strongly for, people that feel really real, and again with an approach of no expectations and give what I can afford in the moment I believe that this is the right way to go.

I have met a wonderful family, the Brea-Josepher family and in this season they are definitely in my circle, and I intend to give to them what I believe is my best value system and I know it is and awesome one. They have also taught me things like being in the moment and this is also a spiritual practice that I have been practicing back and forth for years however, they reminded me and led me to a website called, there I learned how to put my stuff into real practice and the point is when you are not in the moment you are in wobble. You are wobbling!!! Try it out, it is awesome.

On top of that they are a wonderful professional family and tons of fun. Hang out with this family for a day and your vocabulary approves 100 % they teach me new words all the time. Yet, most importantly was a reaction from Laura Josepher-Brea, that when I was really going through another week of my built-in depression, instead of turning on me, trying to fix me, she simply said’’ Pia, let me know what you need, let me know if I can do something’ and she did do something by saying just that.

Her husband Juan, is a fighter in more than one way, he is a stellar protector of his family and you feel that if you are in his circle, in their circle, you are protected in a very loyal way, and I believe you know if you are in or out of the circle, I believe he is very clear about these thing. This “gels’’ with my value system very well.

I have other people I feel deeply for, my friends and neighbors Jan and Chayda. I am so comfortable around them. Chayda and my daughter Camilla have known each other since they were fourteen months and they have been like soul sisters and still are. Jan is one of the most giving, generous and artistically talented person I have ever met.

My friend Erica, Phillip and Finn are people that I have more fun with, yes tons of fun it is with them. You can always count on teasing and a good laugh, but don’t get me wrong we can have our ups and downs yet this is one lady that has no problem of courage to communicate and listen and work things out.

These are just to name a few wonderful people. Extended family? Who knows, how could I really know what that means and that brings me to my final point.

Remember how I mention that God has shown me the way to go for me? Well many years ago I spent endless hours with my head buried in spiritual books. I also went to an older lady her name was Jace, and she became my spiritual teacher. For three years twice a week 3 hours at a time I was sitting in her spiritual chamber listening, learning about leading a spiritual life. She taught me so much, she read to me, she lectured, she explained to me, and in the end of the hours I got to ask her all the million questions I had.

One very very high practice, that really spoke to me was the monks that renounced everything, went out everyday after their meditation with a begging bowl, and whatever they were given they ate that day, not only food but also spiritual food. Some of it was disposed of and some of it was contemplated on.

I have often thought about this practice and have worked a whole lot on material detachment, emotional detachment to name a few. Some success and some not so. Obviously I can’t renounced my children, my family and nor would I want to. Yet what was very clear to me was that this is a very good opportunity to practice this ‘’begging bowl’’ practice with a modern twitch.

We can not expect what is to come to us from other people we can’t know what we need all the time, But here I am having this great opportunity to heal and better my own stuff. I can practice putting my own ego in check. Every day, I can set out to see what is placed in my empty bowl, if anything, to learn to discern, contemplate and to welcome what is. Yet not to expect. How thrilling.

Since I am a woman I would now see myself as ‘The monk-ess with a begging bowl”. And proud of it.

The End

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