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What kinds of programs can Buddhist centers offer children?

Update: 23/09/2016
In this excerpt from a sweeping conversation about Theravada practice in everyday life, Buddhadharma asks three teachers what kinds of programs centers can offer for families and children.
 

What kinds of programs can Buddhist centers offer children?

 

Marcia Rose: The Insight Meditation Society in Barre has\r\nhad a family retreat for many years, one of the first in the Theravada\r\ntradition in the West. It has grown tremendously as people have brought more of\r\ntheir life into their practice, and vice versa. There are now many other\r\nfamily-oriented activities at centers around the country. There’s been a\r\nnatural evolution of people bringing their family into the center and the\r\nforming of parent groups that discuss the dharma in relationship to family\r\nlife.

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Gil Fronsdal: We offer a family program for children once\r\na month, and a lot of thought goes into it. It’s wonderful to have the children\r\nin the meditation hall, sometimes running around, sometimes meditating,\r\nsometimes listening to stories or doing activities.

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Michael Liebenson\r\nGrady: We don’t do a lot with\r\nchildren, but for example this Sunday there’s a two-hour workshop for ten- to\r\nthirteen-year-olds. There is some sitting and walking for short periods but\r\nmostly a lot of discussion of principles, such as ethics and what mindfulness\r\nmeans.

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Marcia Rose: There is a young adults’ retreat at the\r\nmeditation center in Barre, where they can look at their experiences with their\r\nfriends and family, their feelings, the sensations in their bodies. Many of us\r\nteach meditation to younger children and have them do it for just a few\r\nminutes. It’s quiet time, time to work with paying attention to sound and\r\nbreath. Children do that anyway, but we are giving them permission to do so and\r\nto bring some attention to their natural experiences. We also do a lot of\r\nstorytelling and exploration through discussion.

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Just as with adults,\r\nwe are bringing the practice into the whole of their lives-their relationships,\r\ntheir activities, their interests. You need some experience to do that. I’m a\r\nmother and was a schoolteacher for many years, so I can relate the dharma to\r\nthe level of interest of a five-year-old, a fourteen-year-old, or a ten-\r\nyear-old. When dharma is brought to children, it begins to make a fuller\r\npractice life for families.

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Many parents have said\r\nthat after a five-day family retreat they go home and actually sit with their\r\nkids. It may only be for three minutes, but they sit with their kids, or they\r\ndo lovingkindness practices, or discuss certain teachings within the family,\r\nsuch as generosity. Integrating the dharma into their regular lives brings\r\npeople together.

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Michael Liebenson\r\nGrady: When you come down\r\nto it, all of what we have talked about in terms of family, community and daily\r\nlife is supported by silent practice. The conditions in silent retreat are rare\r\nand precious, and all of us value it and have derived tremendous benefits from\r\npracticing in retreat. One of the major fruits to come out of silent practice\r\nis deeper samadhi and concentration. Also, there is an emphasis on the\r\ncontinuity of mindfulness. You learn to lead a very simple life, which allows\r\nfor a lot more space, so you can really pay attention on a moment- to-moment\r\nlevel. Paying attention moment to moment leads to deep insight.

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Source:http://www.lionsroar.com/what-kinds-of-programs-can-buddhist-centers-offer-children/\r\n

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LION'S ROAR

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