Mother in Law!


How to come out of stress cause of family problems?and is that good to bow down in front of mother in law whose behavior is disturbing my mind badly and relationship with my husband also (because she lies about me)?

—Priyanka, India


Oh my, Priyanka! For how many thousands of years has the “mother-in-law” posed such troubles! (esp in India, or so it seems!)

Close relationships are among the greatest tests our karma gives to us and, yet, they are a great opportunity to grow, mature and to love God in all. So, what to do?

  1. The first step is to get centered: this means to accept the reality that your mother-in-law (“MIL”) is part of your life.
  2. It is NOT your job to change her (or anyone else for that matter).
  3. The real issue at hand is NOT your MIL, but your own reaction, behavior and peace of mind! It is upon yourself that you must center your attention. Your very own Mahatma Gandhi is famously and daily quoted as saying “Be the change that you seek (in others).” My teacher, Swami Kriyananda, said “Peace is my bottom line. Never let anyone get “your goat” of inner peace.” Your MIL is your karmic opportunity to become a better person. The “God” in you is saying: you can be a better person!
  4. Where she is (or may be) untruthful, you must always be calm and truthful. Truthful means more than mere facts: truthful includes being calm, kind, and dignified, think, as you are able, of the highest in yourself and in her! Not easy, I agree!
  5. Where she may be unkind, you must remain centered and positive.
  6. Where she may be unloving, you must attempt to love her AS a child of God and, to forgive her always.

By now you must be thinking you will have to be like Mahatma Gandhi or Jesus Christ! Well, YES, why not?

Patanjali teaches us (in the Yoga Sutras) that the key to happiness lies in gaining control of the reactive (think: emotional) process. If your MIL says something provocative, upsetting, untruthful, take a deep breath (probably several, in fact); train yourself to say nothing but just go about your duties (in time, she’ll get the idea); remain dignified and centered; never let anyone treat you like a doormat; if criticized, either be silent or say, “perhaps you are right.” Or, “I don’t agree but now isn’t the time to discuss it.” (You must of course at a calmer moment be willing to ask yourself if her criticism is justified; if so, change your behavior or do better next time; it not, say so and let it go.)

Because I do not know the two of you, it is more difficult to be more specific. You will have to learn (and pray) for tools for how to respond with dignity, calmness, kindness (where possible) and in silence or with words. Be strong in your own center: “nothing and no one can harm you if you remain centered in God.”

Take extra steps to show your care for her (when they are not immediate issues, that is). Do special things for her and show to her that you care about her and can accept her as she is. (Again: this would be at times when there is nothing at stake; it would be of your own free will; without any motivation except that of kindness. She mustn’t think you are trying to “butter her up” or that you are in fear of her.)

This could take years, or maybe just months, but either way you must be willing to do this without regard to results but because your behavior is right and just and kind.

There may come some special moment, between the two of you, when you can talk kindly but openly (again: I don’t know the two of you). Such a time would be to say that you would like to be friends; to be family; to love and help one another but that it’s been difficult for you……words like this along these lines.) Be at least open to a moment when she is “open” to share more deeply and honestly.

I hope this can be helpful to you and I ask that God and gurus shine the light of wisdom and mercy upon you both!


Nayaswami Hriman