Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Simple Practice

This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by hosted by Kelly of Becoming Crunchy and Zoie of TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindfulness mean to them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Mindfulness is a keystone in our home and we would not enjoy the chaos of our lives nearly as much without it.  When Chef and I first started our practice we already had the full midget crew, so including them was the Way from day one.  We did struggle at first to figure out what worked for us.  We now have a simple practice that brings us a very connected peaceful (you know, usually...) family.

Several friends with kids have asked us how we practice with kids and I always start by saying you have to adjust your expectations.  Practicing with kids is great, it's wonderful, but it's also nothing like practicing at a meditation center with nothing but adults in the room, nor is it anything like practicing alone.

We have a two part practice.  In the evening we gather together in our bedroom on our big bed.  Three across the top and three along the bottom.  It provides a nice soft spot and we are in a good circle (we also have a small house so it's a great dedicated space).  One of the kids gets to help light incense or the oil burner on the dresser.  We read a story together.  Sometimes its a bible story, sometimes its a dharma story and sometimes it's a favorite kid story.  We always adjust the seriousness and length based on how wiggly and giggly the crew is.  Some nights we get great in depth reading and others - it's short story time.  :) We often have a short discussion after the story.  The thoughts the midgets express during this discussion are usually more thoughtful than expected and as they have gotten confidence that their thoughts will be valued no matter what they say, the depth of their observations has just grown.

After story time we do short deep breathing meditation.  We either ring our bell three times or one of us plays the singing bowl for a brief time at the end to break meditation.  We then take time going around the circle to give deep heart hugs to each other.

Heart hugs are the center of our practice.  That simple step has brought us more connection, more peace than any other thing we have ever done, we crave it at the end of our day.  And it is SO very simple.  You hug to the 'other' side so that your hearts are lined up over one another.  You take a nice deep breath in the hug, really feeling that connection and time of the hug.  Take another deep breath and express your love to one another and release.

I know it does not sound like a lot but it really has changed our home.

In the morning we do a short Tai Chi practice (we rarely hit 30 min) as a family and kneel in meditative prayer together; sometimes one of the kids has something they want to say and they take turns leading.  As the kids leave for their busses we do a super short hug out the door.

Once a month we do a special meditation practice called 'Watering the Seeds'.  As needed we will do 'Deep Listening' practice to work out disputes or hurt feelings.  That's it.  The depth of our practice is probably hard to see from this simple description but that is the beauty of mindfulness.  Mindfulness grows from such simple roots when the space and time are provided.

I hope this helps give you the inspiration to add a bit of Mindfulness to your home.

Mindful Mama Blog CarnivalVisit the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Anonymous said...

Lovely! I enjoy being truly connected as a family, and your simple practice is just gorgeous. *THAT* is a family *home* evening. :)

Kat said...

Thank you! I have been neglecting to blog on topics other than food and since my retreat at Deer Park, the *feeling* has been growing that I need to return to posting more of this type.

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said...

Kat, this is a wonderful post for the Carnival. I'm very happy to have found your blog through your participation, as well.

What you write about is the real deal with meditating with children. "Adjusting expectations" is exactly right. I remember feeling dissatisfied when I didn't get a meditation or Yoga practice in like I could before I became a parent. Wanting to share the experience as a family, altering how I view mindfulness practices, not setting expectations, and keeping playful have helped make it an enjoyable experience.

I haven't tried gathering on the bed, but I think I'll give it a try tonight. I have a feeling my kids will love it

kellymseow said...

I adore this post are doing so many things that I hope to do with my little one when she is older! This is such an awesome inspiration and an amazing legacy for your children...I truly hope my family is able to have a similar practice someday soon.

One thing that really stood out to me was being willing to adjust to the needs/mood of the evening...I think that is really important and an excellent teaching tool in itself.

I look forward to sharing this post with my husband and getting to know your blog better - thank you! :)

Kelly @BecomingCrunchy

Kat said...

Zoie & Kelly - thank you for letting me be part of such a wonderful project and thank you for your kind words. I'm a fledgling blogger and I was honored to be included with such a great group of mama's, writers and practitioners.

Amy @ Anktangle said...

Your description of your evening family ritual sounds so wonderfully connective and peaceful! I really enjoyed reading this post and imagining those kinds of routines playing out in my family life. Very inspirational!

Anonymous said...

I was so moved by your post; it was so touching. It sounds like a wonderful practice. So simple, yet so powerful. I'm going to share your post with a few friends. Thank you for sharing.

Hybrid Rasta Mama said...

I LOOOOVE this post as I am slowly introducing my toddler to meditation. Attention span is low of course and your post sparked some great ideas. I love how you meditate and practice mindfullness as a family. You clearly are a deeply connected family.

Kat said...

Thank you all SO much.

Rachael said...

Hi, Kat! First I want to apologize for getting to so many of the carnival posts so very very late — I've had a jam-packed work schedule the past couple weeks (and next week, too). Second, I'm curious about your family practice. It must have evolved over time, yes? How did it start, and how did it develop to what it is now? Thank you for sharing it with us!

Kat said...

I understand completely and my biggest block to blogging full time (or even consistently) is my work schedule. Yes, our practice did evolve over time. We have always done story time at night so that would be the origin point for everything else that added on to it. My husband and I both are big 'talk parenting' people, we believe - fundamentally - that children respond best to open dialogue with their parents. We talk feelings, we talk behavior, we talk spirituality. We talk about every thing that matters to us and we've always taken time to answer any question our kids ask us. Even when its really uncomfortable or weird. If we don't know, we say so and find out (often together). If it needs to be its handled in an 'age appropriate' way, but we talk. So, talking about stories just happened naturally. As we became mindful we found ways to talk about it and include it in our family - as talkers that was the inroad. As we read about it, we talked about it, we tried it.

I feel like I could talk about this more but I realize this is already really long. If you'd like I could take a few questions and blog the answers. I love the connection with our kid that's happened as we've developed a consistent practice.

Alicia C. said...

Your evening routine is wonderful! I'm going to have to try this out. Rarely do we all take time every single day to just be together. The hugs, I can see, are oh so important. Thank you for some fresh ideas and I hope that we can make them part of our own routine!