Embracing Family

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Young and old

Children can practice, seriously and playfully, in ways befitting their age. A very simple ritual at mealtime or bedtime may be enough for everyone involved. If a young child expresses an interest in meditation, suggest the "chrysanthemum" or "half-chrysanthemum" position (definition: any position you like). A twelve-year-old boy explains why he enjoys meditating: "It awakens my brain so I can think better."

What are some meaningful ways to nurture children’s spirituality?

Some practices assume surprising forms when translated for children. For a teenager, being mindful may mean: When you are talking on the phone, just talk on the phone. Unexpected questions are bound to come up. "Mom, how do you fix the precepts once they're broken?"

Children find ways to deal with religious activities that do not feel natural to them. When young Dhyana Cabarga and her friend Audrey were included in events at a California Zen center, they began adding the word "not," sotto voce, to communal chants. The mealtime verses thus became:

Innumerable labors brought us this food; we should know how it comes to us.
Receiving this offering, we should not consider whether our
virtue and practice deserve it.
Not desiring the natural order of mind, we should not be free
from greed, hate, and delusion.
This food is not for the Three Treasures; it is not for our teachers,
family, and all beings.

Which is preferable, chanting "not" or not chanting? "Saying the chant. this way was fun, and no one knew we were doing it," Dhyana recalls. "And we didn't know if our virtue and practice deserved it anyway."


In this food we clearly see the presence of the entire universe supporting our existence. Thich Nhat Hanh