by Kerry Lee MacLean
As parents of five children (two his, two mine and one together), my husband, Hector, and I had a lot of reasons not to include our kids in our daily meditation. For one thing, it was the only bit of peace and quiet we ever got—we’d be crazy to give it up—we needed it! And then the prospect of convincing our children, who’d been raised in a non-stop entertainment society, to stop and do nothing with us for a period of time each day was pretty unpleasant. We knew we’d be in for a long, drawn out battle. Besides, we didn’t want to make the same mistake we felt our parents had made with us—forcing us to go to church. It seemed more politically correct to let them decide for themselves what they thought of Buddhist meditation when they were old enough to understand such things.
That all changed a couple of years after we’d all moved in together. Somehow, we hadn’t automatically blended into one big, happy family, as we’d hoped. Laying the ground for real trust and open communication between new parents and young children coming from radically different home-lives turned out to be incredibly stressful for all seven of us. The children were acting out—often shocking us by behaving like cruel savages with each other—and Hector and I weren’t doing much better! If it weren’t for our sitting practice, we probably would have ended up divorced. It took a while for it to dawn on me that if meditation helped us to abide peacefully together, maybe the children needed it, too. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that it would, in fact, be unkind not to share such an effective tool with them. They were having a hard time!
So, literally, for the sake of keeping our family together, we braved our children’s indignant protests and insisted they sit with us for ten minutes a day. And when they complained, we just said, “You have to brush your teeth to keep them healthy; you have to sit to keep your mind healthy.” Eventually, most of them accepted it as such, and have even grown into peaceful young adults who believe deeply in the mental health benefits of daily practice. They believe in it, because they know it. Having grown up meditating, they understand it on a cellular level.
Over time, Hector and I discovered that the simple act of abiding peacefully together for ten minutes each day helped our family to:
• Soothe emotional turmoil
• Calm anxiety
• Settle nervous energy
• Increase self-esteem
• Arouse confidence
• Face fears
• Enhance the ability to self-reflect
• Deepen concentration
• Arouse natural empathy
• Open channels of communication between all family members
• Foster family bonding
• Build and strengthen inner peace
How? Because regular meditation cleared that cloud of confusion gathering in our minds as a result of rushing around all the time and not working through and letting go of old hurts and disappointments—in short, the emotional baggage of our lives. As Buddhists, we know this dark cloud is the root cause of:
• Emotional turmoil
• Low self-esteem
• Lack of empathy
• Inability to concentrate
• Inability to self-reflect
• Negative, whiney attitudes
Can you picture in your mind what it would be like for your family to gather each morning to practice being peaceful together? Can you imagine what it would be like for your entire family to carry that peaceful experience with them throughout the day?
Instead of waiting for a crisis, like we did, why not jump in and give family meditation a try? See if practicing being peaceful together for ten minutes a day over a three-month period makes your family feel closer, saner and all together happier.
If we can pull it together to get our kids to brush their teeth every day, eat nutritional foods and get a good night’s sleep, perhaps it’s not such a big deal to add a little mental hygiene to the routine as well. Ten minutes a day is all you need to cultivate a peaceful place in the heart of your family.