My son, Gavriil, and I went to the Lion's Roar Dharma Center meeting at the Quaker Friends Meeting Place this evening. Lama Yeshe Jinpa, the director and resident teacher, led a brief meditation followed by a very short Dharma talk (I think the shortest I've ever heard). After a break, there was another sitting meditation session, but Gavriil was not up for that so we left early.
It's wonderful attending such meetings with my son. Although he is only 5, he knows he must be quiet in places like that and he chose to sit with us instead of playing in the playroom. About half way through the meditation, he started getting fidgety. Fortunately, it was cool in the room and he came over and sat on my crossed legs and was fairly still for the remaining 10 minutes. Exposing young children to the Dharma and to practices is so valuable. Moments spent in silence together plant seeds that eventually sprout and bear fruit as kids grow up and seek that calm they felt as a child and begin cultivating themselves.
On the way home, we had a talk about meditating. I told him it was like a game. You see how long you can follow your breath and if you have a thought, you get to label it, "thinking, thinking, thinking". Then you return to following your breath in and out of the nostrils. If you have a pain, you note, "pain, pain, pain" and go back to the air coming in and going out of the nose. An itch, "itchy, itchy, itchy". A sound, "hearing, hearing, hearing". Always coming back to the breath. This is a good way for kids because it helps them become aware of mental processes and physical sensations while developing the ability to focus on the breath. Gavriil likes the notion that it's a game, like swating a thought with the swatter, "thinking, thinking, thinking" and going back to the deepening calm of following what is most natural to us all, our breath.
We talked about how a calm mind is a happy mind and about how you can always be happy by practicing meditation and by being kind to others. Our talk made the trip all the more worthwhile.
I didn't realize it before I arrived, but Lama Yeshe Jinpa is a Western psychotherapist. I thought I was going to hear a Dharma talk by a Tibetan monk! It was rather strange seeing other Westerners bowing and treating this plain-clothed American with such reverence. According the the website, "He was given direct heart/mind transmission by Lama Geshe Lobsang Gyatso of Sera Je Monastic University in 1995 after 25 years of Dharma study and practice."
For more information about Lama Yeshe Jinpa and Lion's Roar, visit Lion's Roar Dharma Center online.