Presence, not Concentration
There are various approaches to meditation that can be valuable in different situations.
On approach that is often taught I would describe as “concentration” meditation. It is aimed at cultivating calm, radiant, sometimes blissful states of mind or being. To cultivate this approach, we typically need quiet, peaceful environments, which is why people often go on retreat to engage in these forms of practices.
It may be obvious by now that this approach is not likely to be easy as a parent, especially if you have young kids.
If, rather than focus on concentration, we focus on presence, the experience of meditation as a parent becomes a completely different thing.
When we start meditating, we commonly scan our experience – noting our body, noting our feelings. As well as that, now include your children – both your sense of where they are right now, and how you feel about them. Allow all of that in your experience. Allow your children into your meditation.
Let’s try a small exercise: In a moment, I will ask you to close your eyes. Before that, don’t look away from your screen. As soon as you close your eyes, point in the direction where you child or children are. Okay, now close your eyes and point.
I bet when you did this, you knew where they were, without using your eyes to find them. This seems to be a deeply biological thing, we always keep a track of our kids, especially younger ones. Allow this sense to be present in your meditation.
We can also allow in our feelings for our children. Maybe we are longing for a peaceful meditation, and our children keep climbing on us, we may feel frustrated, for example. If we decide that the frustration is not a part of our meditation, the moment our child climbs on us, our meditation is over. If, however, we take the opposite approach, interesting things start to happen. We now have a whole new range of sensations to attend to, the feelings of frustration, the physical sensations, and more no doubt!
Note, I am not advocating ignoring our children, I’ll say more about when and how to engage with our children during meditation on the next page.