Taking care of the little (and not-so-little ones) can be a challenge, but that doesn’t mean that “mindful parenting” has to be an oxymoron. Here then are some simple tips from Karen Maezen Miller, which appear in our current (March) issue as “The Monastery of Mom and Dad,” a companion piece to her feature, “Parents, Leave Your Home.”
Practice in plain sight. Place your zafu meditation cushion in a conspicuous place in your home, such as on your bedroom floor. As you pass by, let it invite you to practice meditation daily. Even five minutes in the morning or night can turn your life around.
Live by routine. Take the needless guesswork out of meals and bedtimes. Let everyone relax into the predictable flow of a healthy and secure life.
Turn off the engines. Discipline TV and computer usage and reduce artificial distraction, escapism, and stimulation. This begins with you.
Elevate the small. And overlook the large. Want to change the world? Forget the philosophical lessons. Instruct your child in how to brush his or her teeth, and then do it, together, twice a day.
Give more attention. And less of everything else. Devote one hour a day to giving undistracted attention to your children. Not in activities driven by your agenda, but according to their terms. Undivided attention is the most concrete expression of love you can give.
Take a break. Before you break in two. Designate a chair in your home as a “quiet chair,” where you can retreat to decelerate conflicts. Or walk around the block and see how quickly your own two feet can stamp out the fire on your head.
Be the first to apologize. Practice the miracle of atonement and instantly restore household harmony. By your doing, your children will learn how.
Be the last to know. Refrain from making judgments and foregone conclusions about your children. Watch their lives unfold, and be surprised. The show is marvelous, and yours is the best seat in the house.
Karen Maezen Miller is a student of Nyogen Roshi and a priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She is the author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. You can read the Shambhala Sun’s review of Momma Zen here.