May 17, 2011

Hanging with the monks

Meditation is the bridge to a place of inner calmness.  
It really is. I know that - I started my regular meditation adult practice some 20 years ago. I meditated as a child too - in the yoga classes that my mum took me to as young as 6 years old, and in times of pain and anxiety as a child (I was prone to anxious headaches). 

As a counsellor and psychotherapist I taught my adult clients the meditation techniques I had been using so effectively in my own life  - sources gleaned from Buddhist teachings, Hindu yoga practice, Christian ministers, indigenous dreaming and visualisations.

How to teach meditation to children?
Naturally as a parent I wanted to pass this on to my lovely daughters. But it was hard to find the time....

Sure, I had taught them how to calm themselves with their breath, wriggle their toes when needing distraction from pain, focussing on a positive image to let go of the negative, even how to go off to sleep when too tired to fall asleep! But I hadn't ever taught them to sit still and be mindful in relaxation. I was daunted, unsure how to begin...

Meditation through chanting
Hoorah! The meditation cavalry arrived! The Gyuto Monks of Tibet are right here in our family's neighbourhood, on their "Infinite Present" tour as organised through Gyuto House Australia. For 16 days they are chanting, meditating, talking, holding ceremony - and most exciting for us - holding "Culture for Kids" (essentially spiritual craft). 

Our girls are busy and wriggly. They do not like to sit still unless enthralled - your kids are probably the same. But sit them in front of a group of monks chanting, droning, Tibetan throat singing? No problem. 

Once November (7) had had a good, long look at the monks in their beautiful maroon and saffron robes, walls hung with tapestries, and a model stupa carved from yak's butter (amongst many other things), she closed her eyes and let the sound wash over her. For 30 one spot. Without a word. Wonderful.

As for our 5 year old July, she had a lot of whispered questions on day 1, but lying down on cushions in front of the monks on day 2 she silently lay entranced and really l-i-s-t-e-n-e-d.

Playing with monks = eclectic homeschool MFP style
Here is our homeschool routine while they are here: maths, meditation, morning tea, craft with monks,  home again, and back into the usual routine for the remainder of the day. Yes - every school day for the next 2 weeks!

We are supplementing with geography lessons on Tibet, and India (as the monks are in exile from Tibet), as well as reading narratives set in Tibet. We are learning about their lives back in India here. The monks discussions of kindness, compassion, and mindfulness tie in very nicely with Mike's teaching work with the girls using David A. White' s excellent book "Philosophy for Kids" - look inside here

There are naturally a lot of questions about the monks - what about their culture, are they married?, do they drink coffee, all of the usual run of questions curious kids ask when you expose them to a new idea, a new way of seeing. All great discussion prompts, I know, but for me the best thing about spending time with these very special people is how wonderful I feel just being there. 

Calm, and wonderfully happy. Can't embed a clip of that - just gotta feel it.

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