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Meditating with a Baby

Probably like many others, I am in the midst of my new year’s kick to meditate more.  So yesterday, I found myself diligently sitting down to meditate even though Iris, my little eight month old girl, was up and running around (and I was the only one home looking after her).  I set the timer for a modest fifteen minutes, and for the first five minutes, Iris, a few feet away from me on the rug, kept to herself and I settled in. 

Then she crawled over to me and began using me as her own private Mt. Kilimanjaro.  So I hoisted her up on my lap and she joined me in my sit.  She sat peacefully for about three or four minutes, then she got squirmy.  Because I was meditating, and because I had settled in a bit, I could feel the energetic quality of her squirmy-ness so sharply.  She was restless, frustrated, and uncomfortable–suffering in her little baby Iris way.  So I spent a few minutes trying to console her, while ostensibly maintaining my “meditation.”  I petted her head, massaged her arms, hoisted her back up into a healthy meditation posture on my lap.  This phase did not last long.  I wanted to soothe her, to relieve her discomfort, but I could only do so much.  I could run my hand along her hair, try to hold her firmly in my lap.  But ultimately, the trick was to just let her go.  Then she was happy again.


Clearly it’s best for me to find my formal meditation time when little Iris is asleep.  But I am curious about other people’s experience meditating with babies, or little ones.  I like the way how sometimes, when I’m meditating, Iris likes to just look at me a while.  I like the energy that a sit, even a short ten, fifteen, or twenty minute sit, injects into the room.  I want to keep sitting, even when she’s awake.  It’s important to keep sitting even as our life situations change drastically.  Does anybody have any stories to share on the topic of meditating with babies?

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posted January 12, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Hi..if you don’t mind trying.. plzz try the Muslim way of prayer/meditation. You can do it even if babies are around you. If you like more details you may contact me.

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posted January 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I usually wait until naptime!

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posted January 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm

To Maryam,
Though I don’t currently have a baby around at the moment, I would be interested in hearing more about the meditation practice you mentioned.

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Dot luce

posted January 12, 2010 at 11:21 pm

When I had small children, and was living at Tassajara monastery, Suzuki Roshi said, “meditation when a mother hears her baby call her, is the baby”, so I felt totally accepting of the fact that my role as mother was superceding my zazen, mothering was zazen. As your child grows, you’ll fit in meditation as she sleeps, is at preschool, etc, when Dad cares for her,or whatever…

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posted January 13, 2010 at 1:07 am

At our local Buddhist meditation centre, we have a group “Calm Abiding” for mothers bringing their children (up to 2 years old) to practice together once a week. Moms sit in a circle, and there are some toys and books in the middle for babies or toddlers. We usually sit for about 15-20 mins and then we will have a little break. The whole time lasts for 90 mins.
When we practice, we try to place part of our focus on breath (Shamatha) and part of our focus on the whole environment (vipashyana). The point is to allow space for our children to explore by themselves in a safe setting. And we try not to interrupt them unless it’s necessary. In that way, we also allow space for ourselves.
Interestingly, the kids are relatively tame when all the mothers are quietly sitting. Of course babies and toddlers move, make noises and do all kinds of things, but that’s ok. The space is created for both mothers and babies to practice together.
So, what I mean is, maybe it’s a good idea to form a circle to practice with other moms and babies.
For me personally, when my son was before a year old, I used to practice when I breastfed him. When he’s awake, I sometimes gave him somethings to play with. I could actually sit for 15 mins or so… There was also time when I could only sit for one min, but it’s fine… just sit whenever it’s possible. I think flexibility is such a beautiful quality in motherhood.
Many blessings!

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posted January 13, 2010 at 8:25 am

At our local Shambhala center my husband and I facilitate a Parenting as Path group that runs very much along the lines as the group Sohan describes. Our vipashyana includes our children as they move through the space and in and around us. Just as with the thoughts that arise in our practice, we touch our children and let go, touch and let go. I think child raising, particularly when they are very young, is very much meditation in action. To bring ourselves back to the present moment again and again, to be with our children, attend to their needs, without adding anything extra. As the Buddha taught “when I eat, I eat, when I walk, I walk, when I sleep, I sleep” etc. We notice when we are not just changing the diaper, not just feeding our children, tending to a boo boo, playing and so on, but lost in the past/future instead. And bring ourselves back. And back and back.
I know for me, this meditation in action includes a continual surrendering to things as they are, again and again, letting go of my own agenda and ideas of how things SHOULD be. This has been very powerful, and continues to help deepen my compassion for myself, my children, my spouse and all beings. Childraising is a wonderful ground for the 6 paramita practice! Jon Kabat-Zinn says that when you have children you are entering into an 18 year retreat. That is a view that can create great space and deepening of our practice.

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posted January 13, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I don’t have any little ones around anymore, but it always tickles and amazes me just a bit that most often, when I meditate, one of my cats will jump on me to perch on my shoulder or settle in my lap for a snooze. I figure I must be exuding good vibes which they can feel and want to be near.

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posted January 16, 2010 at 12:11 am

I do not sit. I meditate while other things are going on and even while I am doing repetitive tasks. When my granddaughter was a baby, about 18 months, she would have sad times. I could hold her over my shoulder and chant and she would instantly become calm and then recover from her sadness. This was my conversion to bodhisatva. I still meditate with her and chant while she is with me, even though she is being raised in a fundamentalist Christian home. I know that she will always be “mine” because of the rapport we built when she was so young. I know that some will say that I cannot meditate while my mind is elsewhere, but, “is everything we do not meditation?”

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Personalized baby blanket

posted January 18, 2010 at 4:32 am

I feel like this is familiar story, along the lines of the woman who sued the whiskey company because they did not warn her alcohol could have a negative effect on her fetus. The people who smoked and sued the cigarette companies because they were not warned about the hazards on the package. Where is the common sense? Use it.

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Kyla Quinlan, Knitting for Charity

posted August 22, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I did meditate in my own sort of way, since I had my children before meditation was even thought of, but I think when your baby is lying there and you are relaxed you just relax the baby as well. I think the baby gets a sense of calm and tranquility during that time.

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posted January 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

I’ve been meditating with my little girl since she was born and so she’s just been accustom to our “quiet time” and meditates as well. She’s 6 months old now and just sits quietly. Maybe I’m lucky. :-)

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