Is the Christmas season a time of goodwill or ill will? An email from a single mother

I trust all FF (Facebook Friends) had a happy Christmas season with family, friends, both or neither. There is the great potential at this time of year for love, for happiness, for sharing and appreciation for loved ones.

Owing to problematic desire, there is great potential for confusion, hurt and conflict. The last two weeks of the year remain very vulnerable to conflict in this time of goodwill.

I trust any presents that you bought or received were useful, aesthetically pleasing and not feeding greed, aggression and delusion.

I spent four days  with my beloved daughter and family in Stanmore just outside the northern edge of London from December 23 to December 27. Nshorna and her three wonderful children, aged 5, 7 and 12, her lovely partner, Dean, his 10 year-old son, the two Chihuahua dogs and myself spent the four great days together. Cool.

It was noisy, fun, lots of food and a general sense of organised chaos on Christmas Day starting before dawn. On Boxing Day (December 26), Dean, Nshorna and I watched the  DVD, The Messiah Complex of Russell Brand, the wannabee political revolutionary, satirist and comedian.

Mind you, his political jokes (extremely perceptive and often agreeable) kept returning to issues around men’s genitals, his prowess, with his desire to be as outrageous as possible.  I received the DVD as one of my Christmas presents, plus a onesie – a single, zip up full length pyjama, books, bottles of red wine and some welcome dana– donations – in cheques or to Paypal from Oxford, Switzerland, Australia and USA.

If Russell shows too much desire to be outrageous, he will soon bore people and get to be known as Russell Bland.

Talking of desire

Desire screws up Christmas festivities – as well as other times of the year. The Buddha makes constant reference to the problem of desire as distinct from wise and loving action.

During the Christmas season, I received an email from a north European friend, a single mother of a boy less than a year old. She wrote about her experience just before Christmas.

“I am really feeling how my family are so judgemental and critical.”

She wrote that a close family member screamed at her because the little boy’s hands were a little cold when she brought him indoors.  The relative claimed the baby was underweight, not getting enough food and that there must be something wrong with the baby because he woke up on occasions during the night.

I know the mother and single son. They are a great team. I can summarise the words of the angry relative in a single word. But I won’t.  Mustn’t sound judgemental. It undermines the blog. The relative revealed her conditioning. Buddhists prefer to read that. Who knows what other pressure the relative experience at this time of year and other times?

Such hostile views from the relative offer nothing  supportive to the loving mother or her son. She is a wonderful mother. Like other single mothers, she has a huge daily task. She receives no support, emotional or financial, from the baby’s father who lives in another country. Perhaps one day he will change or perhaps not.

The mother gives round the clock attention to her boy. The little boy is happy, trusting, healthy and playful. He wakes up in the night teething, hungry or just cries – just like cats meow and dogs bark. Sometimes babies cry – no reason needed – except perhaps to say “I’m here.” It’s primal.

The mother added: “I have become more aware of myself taking on the same judgemental attitude. I think it is only being said out loud to people that are close. I don’t know how to handle this.”

The mother has touched upon a vital truth. She has to be very mindful of not perpetuating the family pattern of the judgemental attitude, finding fault with others and the consequent inability to recognise the acts of kindness from others.

She has to practice daily letting go of any negative  judgements of family members that can be so undermining as well as any inner reactivity. This alone is not enough. She also has to express words and acts that help another person feel loved and appreciated – including all members of her family, her close friends and strangers, too.

An unresolved judgemental attitude confirms inner unhappiness.

The mother told me that she has to develop softness to people she has contact with. So true.  Otherwise she, too, will keep getting caught herself in the spiral of fault-finding and  blame. Even if fault finding goes unspoken, family and close friends will perceive her as distant through her lack of genuine interest in their daily lives. She has to explore ways with words and actions to help her family and loved ones feel happy and understood. It is a big challenge but very worthwhile. It may take a lot of mindfulness and effort to remember to apply initially until words and actions of kindness become effortless and beneficial for oneself and others.

Words and actions of softness and kindness matter for the little one, especially when a two year old or more develops conventional language skills. He will express his necessary needs and also get caught up in his desires, such as reactivity and bouts of aggressive behaviour – ah the so-called terrible twos and terrible three’s so common to children of that age.

Mindful mothers and fathers then hate themselves if they start passing on the family trait of a judgemental attitude and blame onto  their children when the children refuse to obey the desires of the parent.

We practice to bring softness and clarity to situations. We practice a non-judgemental attitude. We practise to stay firm and steady in the face of reactivity and hostility. We may not be able to change the attitude of influential family members but we can develop and sustain kindness so we do not pass these problems onto the next generation or anyone else.

It is not easy. Is there anything more important for a parent or from a friend to a friend?

Happy New Year!






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