My two daughters and I have a standard bedtime ritual consisting of jumping on the bed, a bedtime story and each singing her favorite song before she goes to sleep. On some nights there’s an additional step: my daughters hide under their comforters and I, pretending to be unaware of their presence, lie down on top, inducing roars of laughter. My daughters love this game and call it the “love pile.” I think “love pile” captures the idea of family quite well.
What is family? It means many things: to feel secure and comfortable, to feel loved unconditionally and to share an environment that nourishes body, mind and soul with people who always have time for you. This, in contrast to our rapidly changing world, which keeps us busier than ever—not to mention the continual bombardment of information forcing us to make, save and delete choices at every minute. It leaves me wondering if our obsession with the next bit of information isn’t making us more anxious, distracted, lonely and even sad.
It seems that our concept of family—the nucleus of love, harmony and stability—should be growing ever more important, and finding a simple way to enhance and stabilize that nucleus is invaluable.
So, how do we balance these opposite poles of our existence?
My wife and I started a practice of heart-centered meditation about 10 years ago. It has turned out to be a most rewarding and wonder-filled journey, one that has enriched our individual lives as well as our family beyond our expectations.
We found that the practice of meditation creates a peaceful connection inside: very near and always accessible. The ability to create this feeling daily was invigorating. By practicing daily, there’s been a shift in the atmosphere; it feels like lightness and simplicity permeate our home.
But the real surprise has been how the heart itself has become a source of guidance. We now make decisions not by tiring ourselves out bouncing the pros and cons in our head, but through introspection—waiting for the answer to emerge from inside. And it does.
My meditation practice has slowly transformed me from a slave to time schedules into someone who is more relaxed. I now make time for the small things, and that’s extremely fulfilling. Life choices are easier, as well, and we both find that regardless of the circumstances, my wife and I remain cheerful. That brings continuity to our daily family life.
It has been heartwarming for us to see how the effects of our meditation have influenced our two young daughters, now 7 and 3. For their age, they are very sensitive and show a delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.
An incident a couple of years ago made a deep impact on us. Our family was waiting to board an international flight. It was 2 a.m., and everyone was really tired. A child nearby was crying loudly. While this was disturbing to others around us, our older daughter went straight into her bag, took out some toy cars, and after a few attempts, was able to get the child to calm down and play with her.
Both our daughters have shown a surprising emotional maturity and security for their age. My younger daughter’s teachers were touched by her efforts to comfort the other children who were still adjusting to the transition of being away from their parents for the first time. We have been pleasantly surprised by their clarity of expression and openness when interacting with people.
My wife and I are convinced that the atmosphere created in our home by the practice of meditation has in no small measure contributed to our family’s growth. We have observed the same thing in our friends’ families who meditate, as well.
I feel confident that anyone can experience the benefits of a calm and centered mind through meditation.
Is it the panacea for a better world? I hope so. Experience “Heartfulness” on Your Own
- Place and Time—Start every day with meditation. If morning doesn’t work, set aside a fixed time of the day. Try to sit in the same place, as this helps create a routine.
- Posture—Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, but not so relaxed that you fall asleep.
- Attention—Turn your attention inward. Try to become absorbed in the thought that your heart is filled with love. Do this in a natural way, without forcing your mind. Gently ignore distracting thoughts that arise. Observe in silence.
- Duration—Start with 15 minutes and try to increase that gradually. Use a timer if needed.
- Journal—Maintain a personal diary to record the changes you observe in yourself.
- Community—Consider meditating with a group. This provides a sense of community that can reinforce your practice and make it more enjoyable.
Want to go deeper? Consider seeking the help of a meditation coach or trainer, who can offer practical help. There are a number of non-profit organizations that offer meditation training free of charge. One place to try: meetup.com/meditate-austin.
Prem Shivakumar is a father of two and works at a microprocessor design company in Austin. He and his wife started practicing “Heartfulness” after attending a meditation workshop at UT while they were graduate students there.