This week we meet Laura, a long-time passage meditator now splitting her time between the Bay Area in California and Illinois. Laura shares here how the eight points have helped her spend quality time with her granddaughter, and she also shares the "Granny Project" collection of Easwaran stories, ideal for anyone raising a child.
Being a hands-on granny to our 16-month-old granddaughter Rosalie has been a high point in my life. I have the good fortune to be her granny/nanny two full days a week, and my husband and I see her on weekends as well. We moved across the country to be near her, bought a condo and now spend six months a year in her neighborhood. What joy!
As a longtime 8-point practitioner, it comes naturally to use the practice with Rosie. She was given a mantram by her parents from day one (my son Adam and daughter-in-law Emily also follow Easwaran's teachings), so chanting Rama at various times throughout the day is a staple. Rosie calms down quickly to the tune of Rama, and putting her to sleep for naps or nighttime is now easy (it wasn't easy the first 4 months of her life, but that's another story). This lucky little lady is getting a jump start in falling asleep in the mantram!
On those occasions when I put her to bed for the night, I follow the ritual that the kids have set up. Just before sleep, we pay a visit to her puja table and say goodnight to the holy figures assembled there: mother Mary and baby Jesus, Sri Krishna, the compassionate Buddha, and of course teacher Easwaran. This Jewish granny also says goodnight to King David via a miniature Book of Psalms on her table, and shalom to the little dreidel that sits next to it. Sometimes I recite a stanza of the Prayer of St. Francis as well, or the Shema (in Hebrew) or another short passage. Wide-eyed Rosie drinks it all in.
Adjusting my pace to Rosie's rhythms means that slowing down is part of the package. She has her own ideas of how long things should take, and I follow suit. It's nice to be on "Rosie time" and not worry too much about the external clock. I love putting her first, and have never found it easier to practice that discipline (wish that were so with others in my life)! So if she wants to play peekaboo repeatedly for 15 minutes, or go through the tickle tunnel for what feels like endless rounds, granny complies. Hearing her laugh is reward enough for repetitive activity. And she used to require me to read the same story over and over again, which I did dutifully and cheerfully, such that I now have quite a repertoire of children's books thoroughly memorized.
Which brings me to one area of challenge in this otherwise idyllic picture. In the earlier days of Rosie's career, she had what I considered to be an extraordinary attention span. This was particularly so in relation to books, and I loved reading to her while she listened with rapt attention to quality children's literature, even to relatively lengthy and wordy books. But that was in her sedentary days. Now that she is Ms. mobility, she doesn't want to sit for stories, and even when she brings me a book, she's off and playing with something else after one or two pages. That frustrates me!
In my zeal to encourage one-pointed attention, I sometimes continue reading the book aloud and complete it, even though she is engaged in other activity. But I am beginning to think that this strategy is flawed. Perhaps the best tack is to drop the book reading when she's no longer interested and attend to her one-pointedly. Then I'm practicing what I preach.
It is interesting to note how we become attached to things being a certain way, and when that changes, we feel dismayed or irritated. And how likes and dislikes enter into that equation: I like reading stories to Rosalie; I dislike her current tendency to be distracted and to move from thing to thing. But the bottom line is that I adore Rosie, and trust that she will find her way back to enjoying whole books again if I am patient and present. Perhaps a few mantrams at the appropriate time wouldn't hurt either.
Spiritual reading is part of the grandparenting package as well, and I find particular inspiration from the Granny stories assembled by Adam in the Granny Project: bit.ly/GrannyProject. These stories are drawn from Easwaran's books and talks, and they are a treasure trove of wisdom. Granny was Easwaran's spiritual teacher, and turning to her for advice and support (as Easwaran did) is a helpful tool. When in doubt, I ask, "What would Granny do?"
Meanwhile, I exult in Rosalie's utterly enchanting ways: the way she wiggles her little body to the music, tries to say "granny" (alongside many other more pronounceable words), twirls around to "Twinkle twinkle little star," blows kisses, lights up when I sing her theme song ("Now my life is rosy, now that I've found Rosie..."), eats her lentils and rice with gusto, exclaiming "Num num num!" Ah, she is a cornucopia of delights, and I am the luckiest granny in the world. And a better one, thanks to Easwaran and the eight point program. Baruch HaShem!