After my silent mediation retreat in June, I felt socially meditating with my husband and three boys was tangible. For those of you who don't know what social meditation is please read below.
"...Meditation is the bringing of attention to experience, and training in meditation is training in attention. By this definition, neither isolation nor silence are required; we can train together, and that is good, because together is what we were born for.
Social meditation brings the benefits of traditional silent meditation while simultaneously cultivating intimacy and strengthening bonds between humans. Social meditation is engaging in a way that only social activities can be.
And social meditation provides a built-in feedback loop; when two or more people are taking turns reporting their experience in real time, there is little time for mind wandering. Meditators stay on task, thereby increasing the efficiency of training," Kenneth Folk.
So I gathered all of my boys and sat them down in the center of our living room floor (or "front room" for my Chicago peeps). I explained that we were going to take turns simply noting when we are at the top of our breath and when we are at the bottom of our breath.
I set the timer for seven minutes and we began.
I was focused and my body quickly relaxed as it knew what to do. I thought it was great hearing my family note their breath.
Until I heard this loud, THUD followed by an "OW dude WHAT THE HECK??"
I opened my eyes and saw M and B angrily staring at one another.
"He's not even breathing - he's doing it wrong," explained M.
"I am too breathing and you don't have to kick me!," said B.
When I'm meditating I'm in such a "trance", for lack of words, that I'm having difficulty "waking up" and refereeing this conflict. It feels as though I have been abruptly woken up from a deep sleep - the seconds that it's taking me to adjust feels like many minutes. I can feel the tension in the room and part of my brain is screaming at me to address it.
I feel conflicted here because if M is irritated with B for not taking this seriously that means M is on board with this, which makes me happy. At the same time kicking B in the shin is obviously not the right way to handle his frustration.
I pause the timer.
"M don't kick B. If you think there is a problem just say something. B, do you have any questions about what we are doing? You breathe the entire time, not just when it's your turn to note," I explain.
"I know! THAT'S WHAT I WAS DOING UNTIL M KICKED ME!," said B and punches M in the shoulder.
J, my third child, remains in criss-cross position and is for some reason wearing pajama pants that are three sizes too small. They are so old that the tags inside the pants are blank from being washed so many times. His legs are completely exposed from his ankle to his knees because the pants are so short. His eyes are barely open as he quietly watches the drama.
"HEY! That's enough. Let's just try again," I said as I prepared the timer.
In this moment I'm trying very hard not to lose my patience and discard the entire idea of us meditating together. I can easily go down that path of thinking, "When they want to try something I'm supportive. I buy them what they need, I drive them there, blah, blah blah. But when it's MY TURN no one is supportive."
This story simply isn't true. I need to give everyone a chance to try it and remember that B is in a very defiant stage of his life right now. Furthermore, this isn't something they know about or are interested in. I'm asking them to step out of their comfort zone. They are being supportive in their own way. They are doing the best they can.
"OK, everyone ready?"
We started again and completed the seven minutes.
"So what did everybody think?" I asked.
"I thought it was relaxing, " said my husband. "I thought it was cool that at one point we were all in sync."
M hits B. B lunges at M.
"What is the problem here??" my husband asks.
"B is laughing!" says M.
"M why is B bothering you so badly? I ask.
"Because he's not trying it!!!," yells M.
"Well I don't know what dad means by 'being in sync', that's why I was laughing, OK??" said B.
"Look, it's our first time. The first time I tried it I didn't do it correctly either. We will try again tomorrow."
I thought this was a successful go at family meditation. Yes, there was interruption and fighting but this was our first time. I was proud of them for finishing the seven minutes. Having three unmedicated, ADHD boys sit for seven minutes can be challenging depending on where they are at.
I was also proud of my husband for setting an example and being supportive to my family goal.