This week we hear from Craig and Margaret, two meditators living in Golden, Colorado. Craig and Margaret share how their own practice of passage meditation has influenced and shaped their family.
We began to meditate at the worst – and most opportune – time. We had just moved to a new city, with demanding jobs, two children under age 3 and a third on the way. Like many starting the 8-point program, we couldn’t imagine adding a 30-minute meditation to an already chaotic morning of hustling to feed and clothe toddlers before rushing off to work. But we also knew we needed help, and we longed to do more than just survive these family years. So we tried it. And we soon discovered that this daily half hour investment (along with some effort on the other seven points) paid big dividends: more calmness, more patience, and more kindness, especially to each other.
The Early Years
This is not to say that our meditation practice was flawless, or that our lives were suddenly problem-free. Our kids still tried our patience, throwing tantrums in the grocery store or doctor’s office and finding other ways to “push our buttons,” as Easwaran might say. And our jobs were still demanding, at times requiring us to work late nights or travel out of town. But all of this was somehow more manageable – especially with the mantram as a ready tool – and we began to realize that we had a choice whether to participate in what had seemed the inevitable rat race. Each morning, we refilled our tanks in meditation and then used the other seven points to do our best – even if that just meant using our mantram to avoid saying something we’d later regret – and ended most days with a few pages from one of Easwaran’s books. Sharing our successes and challenges in our local satsang (spiritual fellowship group), organizing a nearby family satsang with a few other families, and occasionally taking turns to attend retreats in Tomales, helped tremendously as well. (This spring we will be attending a weeklong retreat together for the first time.)
Sixteen years later, we are still at it. Two of our children are now in college and the third is in high school. Along the way, the eight-point program has shaped us and our children. While we are definitely works in progress, our children have seen us strive, day in and day out, to stay calm and positive when things aren’t going as planned; to listen to and treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether they do the same; and to make decisions based on our shared values, which sometimes conflict with those of the broader culture. They also have seen us use the eight points to cope with the death of a grandparent and the failing health of another, to maintain equanimity with a challenging boss, to start a new job, and to manage a serious childhood health crisis. And they have seen us start every day, whether workday, weekend, or vacation, with 30 minutes of quiet peace. This peace seems to have created a safe haven from the challenging world that teenagers (and all of us) face today, allowing our children to explore the world with open-hearted optimism and faith in the inherent goodness in all.
Nurturing Deep Relationships
We also have no doubt that the eight-point program has played a big part in the positive, loving relationships we have with each of our children, as well as the fact that they still choose to spend time with us and with each other. In the early years, we made a concerted effort to do things with them. Living in Colorado, this often meant doing outdoor things together: hiking, camping, bicycling, skiing, and even outdoor concerts. We soon learned that everyone was happier if we let the kids set the agenda and the pace. A planned three-mile hike became a quarter-mile exploration of a stream. A day at the ski resort resulted in an hour on the slopes with the rest of the time spent reading a book together in the lodge. Trying to impose our (self) will on our children accomplished nothing other than tears and anger all around. What we didn’t realize at the time, however, is that, by putting them first, we were nurturing deep relationships. Gradually, our kids got stronger and hardier and eventually hiked, rode, and skied faster than we could. But, miraculously, they still wanted to do things with us – now at our slower pace. Today, we still frequently do these activities together, and they sometimes lead us to new pursuits, like rock climbing and country music, that we would have never tried without them.
When our children were young, we were fortunate to visit the Blue Mountain Center and stay at nearby Dillon Beach as a family. At our kids’ request, we finally returned this summer, with a few days at the beach and a family pilgrimage to the ashram. All of us were touched by the experience of returning to that special place. Our children seemed to sense the central role Easwaran’s program has had in our family and their own development and willingly did a short meditation in Shanti, the ashram’s meditation hall. We do not know whether any of our children will follow the eight-point program (though we certainly hope they do), but we do know that they have already benefited from it nearly as much as we have, in what truly has been a family practice.