A traditional teaching says that in all of our past lives, we all have had mothers. In this current life, all of these mothers appear to us as all other living beings. All living beings are my mother. You may or may not believe this teaching is literally true, but the wisdom contained within it is quite profound and valuable.
Various wisdom tradition teachers have passed along the sage advice, “Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings”. This comparison is used to illustrate the essential practice of lovingkindness. It is from verse 7 of Buddhism’s “Metta Sutra”
My former teacher once said, something to the effect, that in our personal history we had mothers who bore us in wombs for nine months, gave birth to us, cleansed us of impurities, hid us in their bosoms, carried us around and nourished us.
Even if there was a dysfunctional mother-child relationship, a daughter or son can still appreciate the biological gift of life obtained from their mother. There was some level of nurturing given to us to allow our growth to adulthood. This may have been provided by our biological birth mother, or in her absence, by someone who took her place.
One of the values of meditating upon this teaching is the intention to never give up trying to care about and love other people and sentient beings, regardless of how difficult she or he might behave. This is an essential state of mind to cultivate if a person wishes to be happy and to share happiness with others.
I think about this teaching when I reminisce about my birth mother and dad’s second wife. I was fortunate to have a reasonably good relationship with mom. There was probably the average or typical sort of dysfunction in the mother-son bond that is found throughout society. Her basic goodness and benevolent intent were always present. I have many good memories of her.
A few years after mom’s death, dad remarried. Tippy filled a role to which she wasn’t obliged. She was the mom most of us have, after we become adults. There is a sense of kinship that evolves into true friendship. When she died, I felt a similar depth of grief as I felt for my birth mother.
Once in awhile, a classmate or an older male relative would call me a “momma’s boy”. I knew that they intended to insult me. I didn’t receive it that way, though. I just knew, in my heart, that being a momma’s boy is a good thing. I later figured out that most of us guys, in our hearts, are all mommas’ boys.