I have been parenting for 15 years and meditating intently for about half of that. Without a doubt, having a regular meditation practice has made me a calmer, more consistent parent. And the challenges of parenting make me aware of how much I need meditation! Whether you have a regular meditation practice or have just heard that it is beneficial, see if you can relate to these things they have in common.
# 1 Showing up daily and being fully present are required
No one gets anywhere by meditating ‘once in a while.’ And can you imagine if we only made our children’s lunches ‘when we felt like it?’ Both require a commitment to doing what we know we need to do – even when we don’t feel like it. No one likes learning that meditation depends on the discipline of daily sitting to reap any deep benefits. And no one enjoys getting up again and again and again when the baby cries. Yet tremendous amounts of patience are cultivated as we do these daily practices. Through consistent, persistent, and sincere showing up, we catch glimmers of growth occurring over time. Like the tender shoot of new life that grows from a seed planted, watered and protected, one day a bud of joy blooms as we bring our full presence to each moment of parenting or meditating.
# 2 The distractions are endless
Laundry piles, missing homework, undone chores – anyone with kids knows what manner of things distract when we try to get organized. Similarly, when we try to get still, the mental monkeys, roller coasters, and demons show up in full force. The challenge and the gist of the practice of course, is to stay centered amidst all inevitable distractions. If we fluctuate with every wave of chaos that races through our minds or our kitchens, we are done for. By remaining stable regardless of external circumstances, we become an anchor for our children, one that they can rely on when life’s challenges arise. By remaining focused on our breath or meditation technique amidst the swirling currents of the mind’s wandering, we diminish its ability to toss us around in reactivity. In both cases, over time, we find that there is a calm center within – one that is undistractable, peaceful and always joyous.
# 3 Love and devotion are essential ingredients for success
In Yoga meditation, the practice of focusing on one thought of the Divine is a beautiful way to still the ever restless mind. Using something as simple as Light we can perceive the beauty and ever changing magnificence of God’s light on this earth. But usually our focus can burn brightly for a few seconds like the last blaze of a sunset, and then it is gone, elusive as trying to capture a sun ray in our hands. But by infusing the technique of concentration (or whatever meditation technique you use) with love and devotion, we experience what the Yoga Sutras promise: “Boundless love and devotion unite us with the Divine Consciousness.” (translation by Nischala Joy Devi, The Secret Power of Yoga) This distinction is much like attending to our children’s basic needs while thinking of what we would ‘rather’ be doing versus giving them our full loving, dedicated attention. We know the difference – and they do too.
# 4 To experience anything, we must trust the process and let go of the results
Paramahansa Yogananda, master of Yoga meditation, explains that the reason people do not perceive benefit from meditation is because they give up too soon. When we throw a rock into a placid lake, ripples radiate, and it takes time for the stillness of the water to return. The ripples of our restless, egoic minds take more than minutes, hours or days to still. So when we approach stillness, having a ‘goal’ is just a setup for frustration. And as parents, although we might hold ideals for our children’s future, we must trust their daily evolution into that which their Divine Creator has set them here to become. By releasing ourselves and our kids from the suffering born of attachment to specific outcomes, we create a life through which trust and enjoyment can flow.
# 5 Both parenting and mediation lead us to greater awareness
It is okay that the brilliant sunset doesn’t last. And it is okay that our child doesn’t make straight A’s or the Little League team. What matters is that we show up with our full presence, attention, love, devotion, trust and enthusiasm to tomorrow’s sunset, tomorrow’s game, and tomorrow’s meditation. We embrace each moment and see the blessing it holds. And day by day, year by year, we begin to remember ourselves as part of the universal oneness. When our awareness expands in this way, both meditation and parenting become pursuits of pure joy.