Family Practice

Last month I wrote about trying to balance family and work time. In our family and because of my particular job, fortunately there is some overlap of those two. We have had for [a few] years now, what we call “family practice.” That term could mean a number of different things, all of which in my mind would be good, but in our particular case it means daily spiritual practice that we do as a family.

Some people ask if our kids to yoga (meaning asana practice), and Forest, #2, does practice with me occasionally and is possibly the future yoga teacher. Bodhi is into many other body practices, especially Taekwondo (he’s a 3rd degree black belt) and now tap dance with NC Youth Tap Ensemble), but doesn’t do yoga, yet, though I tell him he needs it to help his sometimes paining body (maybe you have someone in YOUR life like that?).

Our family practice began as doing Amma’s 108 Names (really “Attributes”) and the Universal Prayer (listen here) every day together. Bodhi, our oldest boy, had the 108 Names memorized before he could read. We feel infinitely and continually blessed that one thing we all share is a great love and appreciation for Amma being in our lives to guide, model, challenge and inspire us. Nikki and I have known her for over 17 years, and we feel fortunate that our kids are still very happy to go be with her twice a year with us (and why wouldn’t they!? It’s a major kid party, getting to run around and play with their friends with way more freedom than at home; staying up VERY late, sometimes later than their parents! and getting HUGE LOVE and chocolate from Amma! About 13 years ago, I saw a CNN reporter in NYC interviewing twin early­teenage boys and their mom who I had seen at Amma for a few prior years. The reporter asked the boys, “Your mom loves you and probably gives good hugs, right? Is Amma better?” They enthusiastically said “Oh, yeah!” and the mom next to them was nodding her head yes at the same time!)

We started this daily practice because I felt that it was important to give some kind of spiritual foundation to our kids. I grew up in a pretty much “Sunday only” Christian household (not totally, but that was the main part of it) and was turned off by it. Since then I have lived for almost all of my whole adult years, a life devoted first and foremost to my spiritual practice and I have seen the benefit of it. Amma says the obvious, that we should teach children values and spiritual truths and practices when they are young likening it to if you make a path over young, soft grass, the path gets worn very quickly, but if you try to do it over stone (once people are set in their ways), it is very difficult. Everyone in our family loves Amma so this was a relatively easy “sell.”

I had for many years had a weekly practice of taking Mondays in silence (not speaking). Some of you remember that and even ask about it. I kept it up until Bodhi was 7 and Forest was 4, which amazes me that I was able to keep it up for so long with them around! Actually by the end of that weekly practice, I referred to it as my “not speaking to adults” day, since I had seen for a few years that it would have been more damaging in some (many?) cases to NOT speak than to speak and keep someone, usually the younger brother, from being “killed!” Bodhi and Forest didn’t like that I had that practice either, so after getting some clarity in meditation one day, I sat down with them, and said that since they didn’t like that I had my “silent” day, if I gave it up, would they be willing to do 2 malas (108 prayer beads) daily of a mantra that I would give them for their chosen beloved deity? To my surprise, they enthusiastically said “yes!” So our family practice got a little longer (and the following summer, they both got mantra initiation from Amma and now they do 4­5 malas a day).

About a year later, we added singing/playing (learning!) an Amma bhajan (spiritual song, usually devotional or having some spiritual teachings in it), and two years ago, Amma asked everyone to chant “Lokaha Samastaha Sukhino Bhavantu” for 5 minutes twice a day, so we added that to our practice also. I write all this since I already wrote of the necessity of having some kind of daily practice to realize some degree of Peace, and many of my students are parents (or may someday be parents), and if you have a practice, it IS possible, even desirable, to share this important part of our lives with our kids. We spend so much time, money and other resources to give our kids a good education to earn a livelihood, but certainly anyone reading this article has realized that earning an adequate livelihood alone is not sufficient for any lasting and deep happiness or peace. If we have developed and cultivated some practice, daily or otherwise, that helps us realize some Peace or get some inner clarity, we must share it. My practice is so important to me, I often wonder how people survive without one (and I think the answer is “barely” and just shows how resilient a human being can be).

Our kids are still young enough that we “force” them to join in, though we are fairly soft in the force and we also “force” them to brush their teeth as well, but for the most part, they are willing to share in the energy as well as to brush their teeth. If you feel at all inspired to share some practice with your kid(s)/family, as I wrote, I think starting small and if possible having something that is mutually meaningful is helpful. It could be a simple and short asana practice; it could be a spiritually uplifting song or prayer; it could be praying before your meals; it could be mindfully observing your breath together for a few minutes. What feeds your heart? How could you share that and do it on purpose with your kids/significant other?

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