Integrating family and dharma practice

A Dharma Project for Parents with Young Children
— integrating family and dharma practice —

I was visiting some friends who, after a number of years of dharma study and retreat work had just had their first child. During our time together, I sensed that they were grappling with the deep personal questions of how to integrate dharma practice with raising a child and being a family. The next day I sent them this e-mail. I have posted it here in greendharmatreasury with the thought that it may be of inspiration to other parents who are trying to integrate family and dharma practice.

Dear T and G

This morning I was sitting in the stillness of dawn,
a salmon horizon,
glint of ocean,
blue grey clouds hovering in the freshly washed air
and the morning calls of bird-beings waking up.

My thoughts arose as you,
reverberating with yesterday’s visit
and this e-mail is a rebound back to you,
completing the circle.

What is a life of dharma? What is the path of a lama couple? How does one flow with life’s demands? How does one balance two great invitations — life as a vast openness, a letting be into acceptance of whatever is; effortless, relaxed and responsive, and — life as a dance of detail and specifics, and here and now necessities? How does one live as a ‘householder’ and at the same time live a life that is a flower of inspiration for many beings.

G and T, this morning, I thought of a project that you might be inspired to take on.

In the past, many monks and yogis have kept journals of their paths of learning and spiritual maturing. These jottings and notings recorded challenges and insights of how they responded to the ups and downs of the path as it has appeared for them. Though initially written for their own support and deepening understanding, some of these observations became the bones and marrow of inspiring teachings that have uplifted other beings. To my knowledge, few lama-couple, yogi-parents have done the same.

My suggestion is quite simple. Each of you could get a note-book and keep a diary of your inner questions, hopes, fears, doubts, determinations, understandings, aspirations, resolutions, prayers, insights and so forth and how this relates to holistic parenting; being lama-couple parents. How do you balance meditation and outer necessity? How do you keep the big picture alive while engaging totally with the demanding detail of the moment. This is a recording of some of your insights and understandings; some of your problems and how you are able to respond to them in ways that are holistic and life affirming. Later, down the way, these notes may become personal reminders for you at times when you feel a bit lost. They may also prove valuable in terms of being able to teach or help others who are on the path of awakening in the midst of the vast mystery called family.

Child psychologist and philosopher, Jean Piaget did this and whole schools of education, healing, sociology and so forth emerged from his very personal work. I think there is a great opening for a similar project in the field of dharma, lama couples and what about lama families!

By the way, over the years, I have kept similar notebooks and they have become the inspiration for many writings, teachings and perhaps even more important, reminders of sanity and skillful action, written by myself in inspired moments, to myself when desperately seeking advice in less inspired moments! These jottings have supported a deepening confidence that, “my life, in it’s entirety, is my path of awakening”. What other path could I walk? I’m thinking that a similar activity might support the same understanding in you. Your lives are your paths of awakening. They are unique and precious and in the end they are what you have to offer to others.

These were just some passing thoughts arising in this morning’s light. May your dharma journey flower as a lama family and be of benefit and inspiration to many beings.

with love and warm good wishes from a dharma farmer yogi and friend on the path