It all started when my wife started working nights.
It was a temporary job, not intended to last more than a few months, but it was a period of adjustment for us. I became in charge of dinner, evening activities, and bedtime. Before, mom had been the sole ruler of these things, as is probably true in a lot of households.
It wasn’t a big change. We believe in actively sharing the parenting duties, so I’m used to doing lots of things with the kids.
One night after bedtime, my son James (age 3) came out of his room and caught me meditating by the front door.
Some explanation is necessary.
For the past 10 years, I’ve been a morning meditator. I am the rare person who loves getting up early in the morning, so I’m up before everyone else and I enjoy a great deal of peace and quiet in my house before anyone gets up. This has always been the perfect time for me to meditate.
But, in recent months, I had added meditating before bed. I had been wanting to add another meditation style to me practice of following the breath, and I thought the easiest way to do that would be to add more meditation. This practice, by the way, is called ‘hua tou’, or “What’s this?” meditation.
So, I would put the kids to bed and go grab my meditation cushion and go sit by the door and meditate every night.
When my son James came out and caught me meditating, his sister Nissa (age 7) was already asleep. (She’s an early riser, like me. James is a crazy person at night, like his mother.)
James came out of his room and just looked at me as I sat facing the wall. Without a word, he went back to his room and returned with a pillow.
He placed his pillow right next to my cushion and faced the wall as well. We sat there in silence for the rest of my meditation practice, nine minutes.
Anyone that has meditated with children knows that nine minutes is a pretty big accomplishment, especially with a three year old. But James did it.
Then he asked me, “Dad, what’s this?”
And I replied, “Meditating.”
The next night, as I was getting ready to put the kids to bed, James said, “Dad, we have to ‘editate! We can’t go to bed.”
“What did he say?” Nissa asked.
“We meditated together last night,” I replied.
As James grabbed his pillow and headed for the wall, Nissa grabbed one too.
Now, I should point out, I lead a Buddhist Sunday School every Sunday. I know that my daughter does not like meditation. She’s really into chanting and Buddhist stories and yoga, but she is not a fan of sitting still and being quiet.
So, I thought she probably just didn’t want to feel excluded. Or perhaps seeing that a three year old boy can meditate is really good inspiration for anyone to take the practice more seriously.
I set a timer for 15 minutes and gave a little instruction.
“Just follow your breath. Every time a thought arises, just bring your attention back to the breath,” I said.
And we sat there in silence for 15 minutes. Neither child got restless or distracted. We just meditated.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: courtesy of the author