Family and the Holidays

[This post is written from the relative view of a Buddhist practitioner who in years past struggled to skillfully and lovingly engage his relatives during the holidays.]

” What kind of karma did I have to end up in this family ?!
Do they have to act that way ?! I must have been adopted! ”

At one time, such thoughts arose in the mind.

Successes (nonattachment, nonreactivity, acceptance, skillful speech, lovingkindness) and failures ( attachment, reactivity, denial, resentment, anger, aversion) of practice made for a checkered engagement with relatives at holiday times.

How to engage the people-I-do-love-but-find-difficult-to-like with skill, tact and kindheartedness ?

Here are some effective suggestions that made all the difference in practice, particularly during the holidays.


Thought is not a reliable predictor of anyone or anything.

Thought is not reliable.

Thoughts about others are based entirely in memory, projected forward through imagination. And memory is malleable.

Ever notice how often thoughts about others mislead ?

How often such imaginings are wrong ?

The mind’s habit: to pretend it knows the unknowable; the very next moment.

Past and future exist as mere thought. The mind treats them as fact.

#1.: Don’t believe thoughts. Pay attention to what’s going on in experience right now.


“They should not behave that way ! ” is a belief.

What happens when that belief is challenged ?

How, exactly, should everyone behave ?

According to who ?

Look at the absurdity of this belief.

Really look.

There is nothing and no one for the mind to orchestrate, but it has it’s plan in place anyway. Why don’t they all fall in line ? Don’t they know what “I” want ?

Meanwhile, all the other minds have their own plans.

Who ends up satisfied ?

The only winner in this game is the one who isn’t playing.

Opt out !

Resolve to opt out before you even travel.

Start practicing now !

Arrive at your destination with a mind of determined non-attachment. Renew it as often as needed.

#2.: Maintain a nonattached attitude, no matter what. Another way to say this: allow what exists to be, without arguing whether, how or when it should be.


What does the knot in the pit of your stomach say when your mother-in-law starts in with the story of last year’s scorched casserole ?

Or that embarrassing thing that happened years ago ?

What’s your relationship to that event ?

Can you look at that event spaciously, kindly, open-heartedly ?

How does the experience alter ?

#3.: An open-hearted spaciousness acts as a marvelous antidote to contraction. Apply liberally wherever possible. It is always possible.


Every annoyance is a Buddha, poking your ribs.

Every dig about your past mistakes comes from a Zen master in disguise, pointing out your attachments in the dream of the separate self.

Every unpleasantness presents an opportunity for practice no less valid than a weekend intensive.

And it’s free !

Suffering stays cloaked as if a foe, until at last emerging as the prod to see Truth in any situation.

#4.: Nothing is as it appears, nor is it otherwise. Without resistance, where is suffering ?


The holidays pass quickly.
Make the fullest use of every moment.
No one will thank you for your practice.
And everyone will benefit.

In gassho,


Many thanks to Ronya Banks, Roger Walsh and Access to Insight for these excellent posts on Skillful Speech, and to Wildmind for the post on resentment.

About dominic724

A former seeker starts blogging.
This entry was posted in Buddhist Practice, Human Experience and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s