This is the most-read post on my site. Why? Because we love our children. The love we have for our children may well be the portal to our own meditation practice, even though we don’t recognize that at first. Children lead us to do all kinds of things we never thought we’d do.
To begin, understand this: you are never going to teach your child a life skill that you don’t already have.
But I know. You’re not here for yourself. You’re here because you’re worried about your child.
How do you teach children to meditate?
I’m asked about this all the time. Please know that I speak only from my own perspective as a mother and a practitioner. Everyone has his or her own view. Here is mine.
Children don’t need to learn to meditate. Parents do. Children are immensely helped in all ways by living with one or more parents who practice meditation. One powerful way is that our children see us do it, regularly, like brushing our teeth and putting dirty clothes in the hamper. They learn by what they see. Parents who already meditate don’t need to find anybody else to teach their children meditation. They simply invite the kids to sit down with them, if they are interested, and breathe quietly.
This might sound like heresy coming from a Buddhist priest. After all, there are many well-meaning parents and programs that aim to teach children meditation. Young children are very curious and adaptable, and with clever instruction, they can be taught nearly anything. But my point is that children already practice single-minded attention and non-distracted awareness. You may not see it in their stillness, but in their activity: games, art, or outdoor exploration. (Engaging with your children in any of these activities is a form of group meditation.) We all have this capacity for single-minded focus within us. As adults, we practice to return to this state – the state where we can lose ourselves in what we are doing, carefree and undisturbed.
My teacher sums it up quite clearly every time he reminds our sangha: “We don’t practice to cultivate our Buddha Nature. Our Buddha Nature is functioning perfectly. We practice because we are neurotic!” Not many children are yet neurotic, plagued by delusive thoughts, fears and feelings of alienation. This is what I mean when I wrote in Chapter 24 of Momma Zen: “Children are exemplars of the art of being.” The aim of all Buddhist practice is to return to our natural state of wide-eyed wonder and unselfconsciousness that we can observe in our young children many times a day. read more