Meditation while Parenting

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Meditation while Parenting

Postby wizi » Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:38 am

One of my fellow meditator has a child of 2 yrs old. We've been discussing in earnest the challenges of parenting and this is something profound she has written:

I find myself reacting to my daughter sometimes that frightens me very much.

Involuntary outbursts or reactions that come from the depths of my being that frightens me when I am conscious of it. I have been trying to understand why I lose control like that, and I am coming to realise through restarting my daily meditation practice that I have reflexes that my parents used to have. Their impatience, their lack of attention, vacantness... involuntary outbursts of frustrations. I have been deeply conditioned by my parents.. deep sankharas that are as if they have been etched in stone.

That's why I am delving into the suttas about the nature of sufferings, how they can create more sufferings if they are not ceased.

Why do i seek the wisdom in the words of the Buddha and his exhortation of practice in mindful meditation ?

It's plainly this : I don't wanna hurt my own child in ways that cannot be undone.

So, my child and my lovely spouse has become my meditation practice.

I am very concerned about moulding my daughter with deep complexes, that's why I meditate to let go of my own deep complexes. From a meditative state of being, I am hopeful my actions and words are not that harmful on my little one.


I have her permission to publish her words which I thought are astoundingly true.. but how is it for other meditators who are parents?

What has been your concrete experiences which you may be able to share with us?
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby Ben » Mon Mar 21, 2011 10:18 am

Greetings wizi

I can assure you that as a practitioner, parenting is one of the most difficult yet rewarding challenges that I have ever faced. One of the issues with parenting is that it is never a stable environment. You change, your children change and the difficulties you both face as children and parents also change. In some ways, parenting gets easier yet in others, more difficult. One of the great benefits of maintaining daily practice of (predominantly) vipassana is that I can arrest the previously sub-conscious urge to respond negatively to certain situations and respond appropriately to a given situation. I am not suggesting that by maintaining your daily practice that parenting becomes easy. There are still difficulties but the cultivation of equanimity, sympathetic joy, compassion, loving kindess and no small measure of wisdom has a positive influence on family relations.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby Nibbida » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:45 pm

From "Bringing the Monastery Home" by Shinzen Young:

"One question I struggled with early on was how to make the practice doable by anyone, without watering down its intensity. When people read accounts of traditional monastic training, the usual reaction is, “If that’s what it takes to get enlightenment, I think I’ll wait for a few lifetimes.” And indeed it’s true. Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to do intensive formal meditation practice. Why should they? Isn’t there enough physical and emotional discomfort in ordinary life? Why intentionally seek it out?

But the monastery will come to each of us when we have to confront our fears, losses, compulsions and anxieties, or process the aftermath of trauma. The monastery comes to us in the form of emotional crisis, illness or injury, a phobia or a failed relationship. The question is whether we will be in a position to recognize and use it as such. If there were a way to help people maintain continuous quality meditation through intense real world challenges, anyone could experience insight and purification comparable to that of traditional renunciates’ regimes.


Children are just another monastery, and an intense one at that. Every single interaction with them is an opportunity for practicing mindfulness, equanimity, compassion--toward them and towards ourselves. The goal is to have a good understanding of the techniques and some practice with them, so that when the opportunity arises, you just apply them as best you can in the moment.

It doesn't mean we're going to be perfect parents. We're still going to slip up, although less and less so over time. Children are a terrific reminder that we're not as in control of life as we like to think. But we can develop equanimity with that, or have equanimity with our lack of equanimity at times (which I like to call "meta-equanimity"). And just when you think you've got them figured out, they go and change again.

The trick is to have the mindset and some level of skill in order recognize those opportunities. Otherwise, it's too easy to just feel overwhelmed and ignore the opportunities as they pass. Opportunities don't announce themselves unfortunately. But they're just sitting there waiting for us to recognize them. The nice thing is that purification happens even when the situation doesn't go as perfectly as we might have liked it to. It's the intentional practice that matters, and that gets results over time.
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby andre9999 » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:02 pm

I find myself reacting to my daughter sometimes that frightens me very much.

Involuntary outbursts or reactions that come from the depths of my being that frightens me when I am conscious of it. I have been trying to understand why I lose control like that, and I am coming to realise through restarting my daily meditation practice that I have reflexes that my parents used to have. Their impatience, their lack of attention, vacantness... involuntary outbursts of frustrations. I have been deeply conditioned by my parents.. deep sankharas that are as if they have been etched in stone.

That's why I am delving into the suttas about the nature of sufferings, how they can create more sufferings if they are not ceased.


I find that most times, if not all times, that I become frustrated with my son it is because I lack patience at that moment. I lack patience because I seem to think I've got something else to do or somewhere else to be... I have expectations and views. When I reflect for a moment, I realize that I almost never have something else more important to do or more important to be.

It's plainly this : I don't wanna hurt my own child in ways that cannot be undone.


She has already, and she will continue to do so - we all do. Might as well get used to it. All we can do is try to be the best parents that we can.

So, my child and my lovely spouse has become my meditation practice.


They can certainly be a great way to practice off the cushion, but wouldn't it be best to focus her meditation on her? When she reduces her suffering, the suffering of her family will also be reduced.



When my son was two I still wanted to do things that I wanted to do alone. I wanted to read more, play more games, surf the internet, work more, etc. I've found that as I refocused my time towards shared experiences that we're all happier for it. My son has more fun, I have more fun, we both learn more, and so on.
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby wizi » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:45 am

Nibbida wrote:Children are just another monastery, and an intense one at that. Every single interaction with them is an opportunity for practicing mindfulness, equanimity, compassion--toward them and towards ourselves. The goal is to have a good understanding of the techniques and some practice with them, so that when the opportunity arises, you just apply them as best you can in the moment.

It doesn't mean we're going to be perfect parents. We're still going to slip up, although less and less so over time. Children are a terrific reminder that we're not as in control of life as we like to think. But we can develop equanimity with that, or have equanimity with our lack of equanimity at times (which I like to call "meta-equanimity"). And just when you think you've got them figured out, they go and change again.

The trick is to have the mindset and some level of skill in order recognize those opportunities. Otherwise, it's too easy to just feel overwhelmed and ignore the opportunities as they pass. Opportunities don't announce themselves unfortunately. But they're just sitting there waiting for us to recognize them. The nice thing is that purification happens even when the situation doesn't go as perfectly as we might have liked it to. It's the intentional practice that matters, and that gets results over time.


What an inspirational way to advise on the role of parenting! Indeed, it's tricky to recognise those opportunities for us to develop equanimity with our children!

My friend has been talking about attending another 10 day retreat but she can't quite leave her child with her spouse behind for that period of time. A consolation may be that there's perhaps more opportunities to develop equanimity with her child than a 10 day retreat? :lol:

Another question, when is a good time for parents to return to 10 day retreats to reinforce their practice?
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby andre9999 » Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:58 am

Why not do a shorter retreat?
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:17 pm

wizi wrote:A consolation may be that there's perhaps more opportunities to develop equanimity with her child than a 10 day retreat? :lol:
Following completion of a ten-day course your friend should have access to the 'old student guidelines for daily practice'. I suggest she reads that, maintains her practice and attends weekly group sits if they are organised in her area.

wizi wrote:Another question, when is a good time for parents to return to 10 day retreats to reinforce their practice?
Whenever she can. As Anders has suggested, a shorter course might be of benefit if she cannot get away to do a ten-day course. Contact your course centre and ask when a three-day course for old students will be scheduled next.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby wizi » Wed Apr 06, 2011 6:42 pm

Thanks Ben!

This thread introduced me to Shinzen Young and for the past week or so, we have been exploring his video teachings on Youtube. Here, he gave his take on Zen Parenting right here which I would like to take this opportunity to share:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUGigTkD ... re=related

In the video, Shinzen guided a mother-to-be that a baby is a dynamic nothingness, like a little roshi just doing his stuff and going through his field space of expansion and contraction, and his/her parents are going through their 'sattipathi'(?) with the baby..in their feel, image and talk space.

We really wanna know at what point does the little roshi become a conditioned being? Pre-school??
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.
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Re: Meditation while Parenting

Postby Nibbida » Wed Apr 06, 2011 8:01 pm

wizi wrote:Thanks Ben!

This thread introduced me to Shinzen Young and for the past week or so, we have been exploring his video teachings on Youtube. Here, he gave his take on Zen Parenting right here which I would like to take this opportunity to share:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUGigTkD ... re=related

In the video, Shinzen guided a mother-to-be that a baby is a dynamic nothingness, like a little roshi just doing his stuff and going through his field space of expansion and contraction, and his/her parents are going through their 'sattipathi'(?) with the baby..in their feel, image and talk space.

We really wanna know at what point does the little roshi become a conditioned being? Pre-school??


By the way, "expansion and contraction" is essentially synonymous to "arising and passing" in his usage. "The Source" is synonymous with "emptiness."
"Dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body, acquire strength by exercise." --Thomas Jefferson

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