(Photo above by Craig Adderley / Pexels)
Who did my brother bring home? Grandma voted for !%@#? If Dad makes one more stupid joke … OK, put down the gravy boat, it is not a weapon.
The holidays are coming and, this season, there are so many things to think about. Should I visit family this year? Is it safe to travel? Will meeting on Zoom be the same? Some of my family members want to meet in person but I don’t feel comfortable, what do I do?
Without the added difficulty of the pandemic, just spending time with family can be a source of stress and anxiety. Sometimes we don’t feel close enough to truly express ourselves. Sometimes we’re too close and we keep it real with them to the point where keeping it real goes wrong. How can Buddhism help us navigate those family relationships that we’d rather not deal with?
A harmonious family can start with one person.
This holiday season, here are 3 helpful tips from our Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda for how to navigate family relationships.
1. Change starts with us.
A harmonious family can start with one person. Our hearts change other people’s hearts. Expanding on this point Daisaku Ikeda explains:
When the sun rises, it illuminates everything on earth. When a single lighthouse shines out to sea at night, countless vessels can navigate safely. When a family has one person who acts as a strong pillar, all of its members can lead secure, tranquil lives.
Simply blaming others won’t change anything. We can be the ones who decide that our family will be harmonious. We can be the people we have been waiting for to change our family.
2. Try saying “thank you.”
How we feel about our family members is often a reflection of our own mood and attitude. Is our uncle’s sense of humor really that bad? Sure, our family members push our buttons, but it’s because we have buttons to push.
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo brings out our best self, which has the capacity to embrace everyone and everything. When we chant before seeing our family, we can have a big heart and not let a thoughtless comment or bad joke throw us off. It can also give us the courage to say what needs to be said at the right moment and in a way that creates value.
In this sense, a great way to improve our family dynamic is to say “thank you.” This is a sign of our humanity to our parents, who, after all, gave us life, and our family members, who have supported us. As Daisaku Ikeda shares:
When we cannot say thank you, our personal growth has stopped. When we are growing, we can see how wonderful others are, too. When we stop growing, all we see are other people’s faults.
At home, instead of trying to change our partner or our children to our liking, why not start with a simple “thank you”?
3. Happiness is built on patience and perseverance.
Creating a more harmonious family sometimes takes years. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo allows us not to give into disappointment or hurt when things do not go as we’d like them to in our family. To improve our family relationships, we have to put in the work, we have to persevere and continue to be a source of love, respect and stability for our family members. As Daisaku Ikeda writes:
Happiness is built on patience and perseverance. There are many who dream about happiness without being willing to invest such effort. But that is merely a dream—a fairy tale, a simplistic and childish view of life.
So, this season let’s bring our Buddhability to the holiday table. It can change everything.