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Mindful Parenting

Somewhere between the lullabies and your child's first driving lesson, parenting becomes your spiritual practice.

By Stephanie Renfrow Hamilton

The trick is to stay in that recognition of mutual divinity, to stay in namaste during all our dealings, especially those involving our children. For, in our impatience with our kids, we sometimes forget our shared connection to the infinite. And in our fear of losing our children—to independence, peer pressure, death, disorder, or despair—we may hold onto them too tightly. At times the childrearing path seems impossibly narrow. That is, until we actually walk it and experience just how vast it is.

Ritual & Routine

It's no mystery that practicing some form of yoga or meditation with some regularity can nurture a sense of security and order in kids' lives. Haji and Jasmin Shearer are a young, soft-spoken couple living in Dorchester, Massachusetts, raising a son, Patanjali, age 8, and a daughter, Sakeena, age 5. Both have had some success getting their practices down to a routine, dedicating either mornings or evenings to sitting meditation. Fitting in time for yoga—both of them have practiced hatha yoga since 1985—takes a bit more maneuvering. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all, save for the occasional Savasana before bedtime or Tadasana while waiting in line.

As a couple, they speak often of peace. Sometimes it's direct, like when Haji, speaking for the four of them, says, "All of us have this ideal that peace is possible." Or when you can't catch them home and their voice mail kicks in: "If you think about it, every moment is a miracle. Thanks for participating in ours. We'll call you back. Peace." And sometimes it's indirect, as when Jasmin talks about the family singing nightly bhajans (Sanskrit songs of devotion) before tucking in the kids. Her account of these bedtime rituals takes you right back into childhood, under the covers, listening in wide-eyed awe to ancient melodies rendered that much sweeter by the voices of people you love. "The children take turns picking the songs, and it's a good way to pull our energies together," she says. "It feels so relaxing it's hard to leave them and go do what I have to do for the evening."

These kinds of nesting rituals are your "family practice," says Bo Lozoff, who along with his wife, Sita, launched the renowned Prison Ashram Project near Durham, North Carolina. He is currently working on a book about everyday spirituality called A Meaningful Life: It Just Takes Practice, so his memories of morning family sessions with their now-grown son, Josh, are not far from the surface. From the time Josh was 4, Bo would pull up his recliner and read to him from the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. He'd start the day in this way at a leisurely pace, allowing time for the stories to be understood at a deep level.

Even watching television was a mindful act in the Lozoff household. After Josh turned 5, the Lozoffs agreed to turn on the television only as long as they watched shows all three of them liked. "Viewing was a conscious choice for us," says Bo, "not something we did because we were bored. When there is a child in your home who loves watching these programs, it just becomes a part of your practice."

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Reader Comments

Lynne Golodner

This is a lovely article, and I'm so glad you contribute it to the conversation. I've just launched workshops, Parenting Without a Map, which show parents how to Be Present in their parenting and with their children in order to create their own map in the moment, every day. And I am so fortunate to work with Karma Yoga in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where family yoga - from pre-conception onward - is now part of the regular schedule. The world is awakening to the truth!

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