May 1, 2012
by Peter Smith
In 1999, Peter participated in a course on Naikan reflection with the ToDo Institute. During that time he reflected on a number of his relationships, including his relationship with his mother. He wrote the following essay, describing how this reflection impacted on his relationship with her.
Last summer, due to economic circumstances, I lived with my mother and father. I was very nervous about this as the majority of the time my mother does not want me to live at home and I rarely want to live there as well. Just to put things in context, my mother is an alcoholic, addict, and, as I was growing up, was a rabid feminist who hated men and yet was utterly dependent on them at the same time. I am just as stubborn in many ways. I don’t put up with a lot of nonsense from her and neither does she from me.
In June, I began doing daily Naikan reflection on my relationship with my mother and went year by year, circumstance by circumstance. I was absolutely amazed by the generosity of my mother throughout my life. My former therapy taught me to hate her and blame my problems on her. Yet with Naikan, I saw a very scared woman who constantly gave and gave at her own expense. Who changed a thousand pooply diapers and nursed me through all kinds of illnesses. And in myself, I saw a kid, a teenager, and a man who did nothing but take and complain and inconvenience her.
I sent her a thank you card and an . . .
an abbreviated list of the things she had done for me. This really freaked her out and she ended up complaining about it a great deal to my dad. I believe it scared her cause it was completely out of character for me to do something like that for her. But I just kept thanking her when I saw her and I told her I loved her and hugged her. Somewhere around July our relationship just started blooming like a flower. She calls me here and tells me she loves and misses me. I call her and send her letters. Did it solve all our differences? No. We are still apples and oranges. But now, I get to go home for Christmas to a mom who loves me and trusts me a little bit more and lets me talk to her about our lives.