Embracing Family

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When family becomes a living dojo, new dimensions of Buddhist teachings are illuminated.

Buddhism holds that, on an absolute level, we are one with all existence, inseparably linked to a farmer in Indonesia and a fish in the depths of the ocean. How much more so, then, are we connected to our parents, siblings, spouse, or children?

This is surely the relative level.

Just as the precepts can inform mindfulness, they can inform countless activities in a family setting. Reverence for life, generosity, sexual responsibility, loving speech, avoidance of intoxicants. Simply listing them will bring vital examples to mind.

Pick one of the five precepts and resolve to practice it in regard to your family for a specified period (for example, a week).

Buddhist treatises on generosity or giving (dana) analyze the eventual dissolution of boundaries between the helper and the helped.

Think of activities or moments within a family when these boundaries dissolve, even momentarily. Example: when a nurturing father puts a raincoat on his six-year-old daughter

Reflect on such moments in your life, where in the giving within family you felt boundaries melt.

Consider how family can foster awareness of the actuality of impermanence. Family is an ideal field within which to become aware of change—in a family, everyone seems to be changing all the time.