What I Know About: Meditating With Children


We've started a night-time tradition. Family bedtime meditation. We sit in the dark for about 15 minutes and mindfully connect with our inner peace before heading off to bed. It's so amazing. We are 5 days in and going strong. In a couple days the bedtime meditation tradition will surpass the vegan lifestyle we adopted for a whole entire week. I'm sure it felt like 50 years to Bub.

Sunday night was the inaugural family meditation experience. In addition to Sunday being a day of reverence and rest, it is also no-elecronics day in our household. When I mentioned "meditation app" to the technology starved children, they immediately shot towards their bedroom, eager to bask in the glow of the iPhone.

I sat in the dark on the hardwood floor in perfect lotus pose, softened my gaze, deeply inhaled and slowly exhaled. Following the instructions of the sleepy, kind, British voice on the app, I gently.....closed....my eyes... Within a few seconds of focusing on my breath I felt a tickle under my nose. I opened my eyes and jerked my head back from the sight of Barbie right up in my face. Alana lay there, waving her Barbie back and forth, the blond hair whipping repeatedly against my nose. I gave her "The Look", and attempted to soften my gaze once again, but instead caught sight of Honey lying upside down with her head on the floor and the rest of her body on the bed. "Mom", she whispered. "Mom. Mom. Moooooooom." It was one of those really loud whispers.

Zen fled.

"Honey", I gritted my teeth, "There is appropriate, and there is IN - A - PRO - PRI - ATE - BE - HA - VI - OUR for meditation. THATISINAPPROPRIATE".

Her eyes wide with understanding of the seriousness conveyed in the single syllable message delivered whisper-yell style, she defied gravity and slid upwards back into her bottom bunk.

The meditation guide was talking in his sleepy way about noting thoughts or feelings as they came. Not judging - just noticing - and allowing it to fall like snow after you recognized it. Then softly, and gently, returning to the breath.

Determined to make a frickin awesome and incredible family bonding memory with my children gun-funnit, I closed my eyes and returned to my breath. Within seconds, I heard a desperate 2-year old calling from the hallway, "MA. MAA. MAAAAAA."

With my eyes closed, I gently noticed, "Hmmmm. Thinking. Hmmm. Feeling." I tried to let my thoughts fall away like a snowflake, but the anguished voice wouldn't stop. I realized D was deep in his own meditation/tradition/obsession of washing dishes and wouldn't hear the incessant MA-ING, so I got up out of lotus pose and walked out to the hall. The tiny human had climbed up to the third shelf of the hallway closet and was now petrified and unable to scale down. I put him down, returned to the room, and once again softly, closed my eyes.

Seconds, Sisters. I had only seconds before the floor I grounded myself on started to rhythmically rumble, pause, then rumble again, growing louder and louder with each round. With every rumble, the "WHAT THE" thoughts became more and more intrusive, begging for my attention until curiosity won out and I once again opened my eyes. The 2-year old was now squatting in the Barbie car like an oversized ape, using his hands to propel himself into the meditation haven. When he reached close to where I sat, he hopped out of the Barbie car, picked up a gun made out of Legos, and started to whisper, "Die. DIIIIIIIE."

Freaky. Where the heck did he learn that? We don't even have TV!

The rest of the meditation is a blur. But at the end of the exercise, when reflecting on the experience, Bub confidently said to me, "Mom, you know when he says to let your thoughts go, and try not to think about anything... Yeah, I do that ALL DAY LONG in school". He smiled at me the way kids do when they think they nailed it.

I always think about Oprah's last episode on The Oprah Show. When asked what she thought had made the most significant contribution to her success she said, "Everyone, deep inside, wants to know one thing. Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say matter to you? And I have said, Yes, I see you. I hear you. And what you say, matters to me".

This is the gift of meditation and mindfulness. Exercising and practicing being still and recognizing and listening and noticing and noting. It's the advanced degree for mothering. Sistering. Humaning.

Five days in and I'm proud to say that we are all getting the hang of it. D postpones his dishes ceremony and puts Sam to bed while the 3-middles and I focus on our breath. I soften my gaze and I see them. I gently close my eyes and I can't help but smile as I think about the conversations we had earlier in the evening. The songs we sang together. The books we read. The jokes we told. Ah - thinking. Feeling. I let the thoughts and feelings float down and rest deep in my belly and return to my breath.

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