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Buddhism for Parents

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Spiritual traditions have a lot to offer in any sense, especially to parents: remember all those lovely boozy night out, pre-children? You need spiritual grounding to go through the next 18 years and beyond, it's as simple as that. Buddhism has a lot to offer to the seeker of truth and to a parent who needs some relaxation: although I don't intend to take the Buddhist path, the meditation classes at the Jamyang Buddhist Centre in Kennington (http://www.jamyang.co.uk) have been for a real discovery, and made a great difference in my levels of stress. Attending the classes prompted me towards exploring what Buddhism is about and I think the following may be perfect for parents!

Meditation
A. Life. S.A.V.E.R. Why didn't I discover this earlier? There are several styles of meditation, but universally it's a bit like going to the gym: you feel terrible when you are exercising (as it becomes obvious you are awfully unfit), but great afterwards. The point of meditation is to clear the mind of the constant stream of thoughts that come in and out: it's easier said than done, as even if you try to 'not think', something always pops up. It's lovely though to sit down in silence, in a room full of like-minded people; soothing for the emotions, grounding, beautifully simple. I highly recommend it, even if like me, you don't intend to become a Buddhist. While it's difficult to clear the mind there and then, an unknown sense of peace descends over you after the event: and it's the best kind of peace, as it comes from within.

Compassion
One of the staples of Buddhist practice. So, how do you integrate compassion with your parenting skills? Well; do you remember by any chance in your pre-parenting days, your thoughts in regard to crying babies on planes, restaurants, public places in general? Can you see the shift, now that the one with the crying baby is you? Compassion by the way should not be confused with pity: compassion is the opening of your heart to the suffering of others. It may be that crying baby you feel compassion for, or that poor parent who has tried every trick in the book- yet, baby still cries, and louder. Be compassionate.

Attachment
Buddhists are right! What are you getting attached for? The nice new dress will soon have patches of sick on; forget about 'looking good', when you have to look after everyone else; besides now most of your money is spent on the children, and that in itself is a huge lesson in non-attachment. Attachment is one of the most misunderstood concepts hailing from Buddhism: being detached doesn't mean necessarily that you 'don't care'. Being detached may for example mean that you give your children the freedom to be who they are, regardless of the fact that you may see and experience things very differently. We all know a relative or two who think they can live your life better than you can: for pity's sake, don't become that relative.

Enlightment
Is when 'you get it'. Note: you'll never 'get it'. If by chance you do, you will realise that most the things you have done could have been done better, and that others were simply mistakes. My theory is that we all have the potential to become 'enlightened', but it's in fact a very scary thing to be, because it forces us to be faced, bang smack in, with our painfully obvious imperfections. Yet, it's something we should strive for: it's good practice as parents. Why? Because, as a parent you start off with being virtually perfect in the eyes of your children (no matter what kind of failing and incomplete human being you may be) to inevitably lose most or all your mystique when they hit the teen-age years. You may be a high earner, a star, a dedicated and successful member of society: all they'll see is your imperfections and pathetic ways. Why? Because they need to, to grow up. So, to sum up, that's where enlightment comes in: you are imperfect, get happily used to it.

The above has been a huge moral help, I hope it can help you too!