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Lions Roar : January 2019
To shine a light on the connection between the practice and its benefits, you might have a check-in period at the beginning of each practice where family members share anecdotes of how a particular practice has impacted their behavior or speech toward themselves or another. Each story might earn the group a point and, once you’ve tallied enough points, you might earn a family dinner at a favorite restaurant or a day trip to the beach. Once your children begin to recognize the benefits, there’ll be an intrinsic motivation for continued practice. Don’t expect anyone to jump up and down demanding their family practice, but do expect they’ll be ready to work with you to ensure that you all continue to practice together. Collaboratively Integrating Meditation into Family Life A way to ensure that you all show up for practice is to invest in a small blackboard or whiteboard on which any family mem- ber can at any time write a day and time that they’ll be in the breathing room that week. Beneath their name there should be spaces for everyone else to “sign up” to join them. The family member who first wrote their name and committed to practice might get to be the facilitator of the practice on that day. The hope is that this family member’s commitment will inspire at least a few others to sign on and arrive for the practice. A planned family practice in the breathing room helps inform our less formal practice so that, for example, even a conversation can be a practice opportunity. When listening mindfully, we listen with six parts of ourselves: our eyes (on the speaker), our ears (tuned to the speaker), our mouth (still and quiet), our mind (on the speaker’s words), our body (aimed toward the speaker), and, of course, our heart (with empathy for the speaker). Be warned that once your family takes turns practicing deep listening, you may never want to talk again without having one another’s full attention. It’s important to remember that meditation is one of the few health- based practices we can do in life that doesn’t require anything other than our body and our arrival, so your family can meditate anywhere and everywhere. Walking medita- tion, for instance, can take you to the bus stop or even to the ice cream shop where you can col- lectively enjoy eating meditation. In the spirit of asking questions, you might notice whether the last bite tastes as delicious as the first, or if you become satiated before finishing your ice cream. If prompted, maybe someone will be able to tell you precisely how many licks it takes to get down to the cone. Or maybe you’d prefer to practice in the car. Whether on a fam- ily road trip or en route to school, you’re together, so why not take advantage of some of this time? You’re not likely to get anyone to part with their earbuds for very long, but you don’t need long. On a road trip, it’s as easy as having everyone stare out the win- dow while someone (preferably not the driver) leads a ten-breath meditation at the top of each hour. With each successive hour, try adding ten breaths and by the time you arrive at your destination, you’ll have been meditating hourly for five to ten-minute incre- ments. On a trip to school, try a daily practice that begins at the last traffic light and ends as you pull into the drop-off lane. The car is also a great place to let your kids fire up their meditation apps and tunes (maybe they’re yours, but still, it’s something). Rather than playing a whole kid-centric medita- tion playlist at one time, you might introduce individual tracks at opportune moments or let your kids choose what tracks to enjoy. Better to leave them wanting more than wanting out. As with most anything we present to our children, the way we share is as precious as what we share. Consider yourself as a consumer. If someone tapped you on the shoulder and said, “You should buy this product,” you’d be unlikely to buy it. Your money is a valuable commodity and you need a good reason to part with it. For children, their free time is their commod- ity, and if you tell them to do something or even ask them to do something, you may find that your request will be met with resistance. By thoughtfully and strategically laying a three-part foundation, you’re helping your family come to the practice organically and ensuring a more sustainable practice. ♦ GAIL SILVER is the founder of Yoga Child Inc. and The School Mind- fulness Project. She’s the author of Anh’s Anger and other picture books. Antonio, age 7 months PHOTOBYADANCANOCABRERA LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2019 67