Children are amazing creatures. They learn quickly and adapt to their surroundings to create their own calm and peace. Their ability to see the world through innocent eyes is a lesson many adults could learn to incorporate into their daily lives. However, children do grow up and become teenagers. Sometimes, we need to teach those valuable lessons they once taught us and some lessons they seem to have forgotten along the way.
Lately, we have been suffering through our 12-year-old daughter’s ego. It has gotten to the point where she can hurt others without realizing that she is doing so. She is also testing her boundaries, especially slacking off in the area of obedience and respect. We discovered the majority of this negative behavior stems from her need to be the center of attention. We give our girls equal attention and have found a way to provide them one-on-one attention with Daddy/Daughter and Mother/Daughter days. However, this need to be the center of attention has outweighed many of her positive traits. As a result, it has become somewhat unbearable for the rest of the family.
A couple of weeks ago, this child asked to attend a youth group meeting with her friend. I was so enthusiastic about her desire to go to church that I practically pushed her out the door. She was giddy, happy, and excited that she finally got to do something fun with one of her friends on a school day. However, her mood shifted when she returned home about two hours later. She tried to distract me with other things that did not involve her visit to the missionary church. When we finally sat at the table, she continued rambling on about what girl liked what boy, and so on.
“So, did you have fun at youth group tonight?” I interrupted her, trying to veer her back to that night’s activities.
She immediately quieted down and said, “Yes.”
“And, did you learn anything?”
“Yes.” She quietly said while she wrapped her arms around her chest and looked down.
“What did you learn?”
It was barely a whisper, but I caught it anyways, and I could no longer suppress my giggle as she scowled at me. God truly does work in mysterious ways!
This very same girl had also told me that she was unsure which religion to choose. My husband and I have always been open to various forms of religion, and we have taught our daughters to do the same. Acceptance of others’ beliefs is highly important to our family. It is a form of discrimination if we judge others for what we believe. Therefore we do not judge people based on their belief systems. So far, the girls have learned about the Mormon, Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist churches.
Now that they are of the age to understand the more complex religions out in the world, my husband and I have started with Buddhism. We thought our quest to teach the girls this form of religion would help them with some valuable life lessons. Such as lessons of compassion and respect for other living beings along this journey that we call life. Richard found a book called How to Be Compassionate by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. It was just what we were looking for to start our four months of lessons in Buddhism.
Last week, our family sat down to watch Seven Years in Tibet. It gave our girls a greater understanding of the Buddhist way before our lesson plans. We explained the way of the Buddha. They asked questions, and we answered, which left our study sessions free to focus on specific issues without spending too much time on the history.
We have a Sangha that meets regularly at our local art studio. However, children can tend to be restless and disturb the group’s meditations. They are allowed to join if they can maintain a sense of calm and quietness for a couple of hours. Therefore, we planned to increase the meditation time so that the girls could experience the Sangha at the end of our studies. We have worked on brief five-minute sessions with them for a while, and now we decided that an entire 10-minute session was a great starting point. With each session, we increased the meditation time to include a walking meditation. Then, we can attend a Sangha meeting when they can be still and quiet for long periods. At which time, we will take them to a Half Day of Mindfulness. There, they will meet others, experience a Sangha meditation, learn about mindful eating during the potluck afterward, and eventually decide if this path is right for them.
On Sunday morning, we prepared the altar with Buddha and explained the four elements as we placed them on the altar. Then, we got comfortable with our pillows and blankets for the meditation. Next, we informed the girls of our plan for that day’s session and showed them the forms of respect we used during our Dharma discussions. Finally, Richard rang his bell, and we began our 10 minutes of meditation.
After our meditation, Richard rang his bell, and we read The Five Mindfulness Trainings. Then, we opened our Dharma discussion, using the time to read from How to Be Compassionate. Then, we encouraged questions and answers on the lesson we just learned – including anything else we wanted to discuss. After we finished, I had to point out to our youngest her lack of respect by slacking off and not bowing with her hands in a prayer position during the Dharma discussion. I hated to do that, but it was a valuable lesson that she needed to learn. Then, she informed me that she struggled with unpleasant thoughts during her meditation. I told her to recognize the thoughts and release them from her mind, explaining that meditation was therapeutic for those seeking refuge from their thoughts. I even suggested using a mantra with prayer beads to get beyond those bad thoughts.
It was a very simple session that lasted less than an hour, but I felt optimistic about the outcome. As far as the lesson was concerned, it wasn’t much. I just read the forward of the book and asked a few questions to test their attention skills. They felt uncomfortable because they could not answer the questions. But, they learned the importance of paying attention in the future, and would you know it? They remained quiet and still during the entire ritual!