We have just returned from a week long Family Mindfulness retreat at the Origins Centre, located at Balingup, South-Western Australia. It was a unique and wonderful experience.
The task of developing classic Buddhist Mindfulness with children, and with children around seems daunting. However, Lama Chime held it all together brilliantly. This is one of the unique and beautiful things about the way Coorain (the Buddhist arm of the Origins Centre) and Lama Chime approaches the Dharma. Whilst holding incredibly high lineage from the Karma Kargu tradition and Kalu Rinpoche among others, the teachings are very down-to-earth, non-esoteric and practical. This is one of Lama Chime’s great strengths.
For example, according to Lama Chime’s tradition the central spiritual practice is conducted by lay people in families; the monasteries and temples were originally established to support this practice, not the other way around as we now see it. This is a very interesting notion, indeed. I am sure that most family women and men would agree on the difficulty of spiritual practice in family life, as compared to ‘single’ life. That this is recognized as the deeper, more powerful practice is liberating.
Another example. During our mindfulness sits our children were permitted to wander in and out. Traditionally, if they pressed for attention, the disturbed mother or father would first point to the meditation object or spiritual master present in the Gompa or hall, directing the child’s attention there. This would, symbolically and subliminally show the child that the parent was not the centre of the universe, that the sacred was. A very simple but powerful bit of religious psychology.
One of the things that struck me most was the way children were seamlessly integrated into the spiritual activities. This was done in both an authentic way that respected the children, the adults and the practice and also in a way that deterred not one whit from the practice. I was very impressed. Despite being around quite a number of groups that have sought to include children since the birth of my beloved son 13 years ago (including our own EarthDreaming back in the 90s), I have never seen it done so well before.
Of course the reason is that many Western groups, like us in EarthDreaming were consciously trying to include children into activities were they were traditionally unwelcome, rather than practicing a tradition where they were always an integral component. And i don’t mean Sunday School 🙂 (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
More, and other interesting thoughts later…