11/07/2012 08:25 pm ET Updated Jan 07, 2013

Are You My My Mother?

It's my mother's birthday this week, and I have been spending a lot of time thinking fondly of her. But I know that I am fortunate to have had a great relationship with my mom. For many of us, let's just acknowledge that this relationship can be a bit more... complicated.

Many of us our very aware of our mothers' shortcomings; we may have a much harder time understanding her kindness to us. Unless you have been blessed as I have to witness the sacrifice and love that goes into feeding, cleaning, clothing, carrying, and rocking to sleep an infant, it is very easy to take "mother" for granted.

But regardless of how we feel about our actual mother, we have all probably received the benefit of the "good mothering" energy.  Maybe it's easier to see it in a grandmother, or an aunt, or a neighborhood mom.  Maybe it was a dad, or a teacher, or someone else.  Someone who really listened to us, who made us feel protected, heard, and nurtured, who took care of us even on our worst days.

I am reminded of a classic children's book that for some unknown reason left a lasting visual impression on me.  It's called Are You My Mother?, by P. D. Eastman.  In it, a baby bird whose own mother has flown off to find food for him falls out of the nest and begins a relentlessly simple quest to find her.  In his search, he asks a kitten, a hen, a dog, and a cow if they are his mother. They each say "no." He also has an encounter with a "Snort" (some kind of power shovel), who initially appears to snatch the baby bird to take it to its doom, only to be the one who tenderly places him back in his nest, thus enabling the happy mother and child reunion.

Interestingly, there is a Buddhist meditation that might be called "You Are My Mother!"  In it, we are invited to appreciate every being we encounter as our good mother, and to treat them in kind.  This practice is often linked to reincarnation, the notion of countless rebirths and thus countless mothers, who have now been reborn as beings you encounter.  As such, it is often then easily dismissed by those of us who do not have an understanding of or belief in reincarnation.

But I invite you to temporarily suspend any disbelief and instead to conduct an experiment. Don't focus on trying to rationally talk yourself into believing everyone you meet is your mother; rather, for one day, simply remind yourself to look at everyone you meet as embodying that good mother energy, and treat them as such.

When someone cuts in front of you in traffic... "Oh, mother. Your eyesight is going a little bit. You almost cut me off.  I will slow down and create space so you can drive safely."  Or if you go out to eat for lunch, and someone brings you a meal and serves you your favorite beverage, rather than dismissing them, you might think, "Oh, mother. You have brought me my favorite sandwich. Oh, and you will clear my dishes for me?  And you baked brownies! Oh, how very kind."

You won't remember to do this for everyone.  And sometimes when you do remember, you may struggle with seeing the "good mother" in the other person.  But make a sincere effort. Commit to doing this for one day.  And at the end of the day, review your relational activities and see how the experiment went for you. Then please come back and share with us a brief summary of your experiment.

Let's see if this is a practice that might be able to help us feel a little better ourselves, and maybe even feel like we just might be part of one big family.


For more by Doug Binzak, click here.

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