“Meditation is one of the tools in your mothering quiver, one of the arrows in your quiver that you’re going to use to get yourself as rested as you can possibly be.”Thom Knoles
Few situations make us second guess ourselves more than those that we come across as parents or guardians of children.
In this episode, Thom provides some guidance for parents who face some fairly typical situations, balancing the needs of their children with their own self care, as well as one parent facing a parent’s worst-case scenario, a child at risk of taking their own life.
Rather than being prescriptive about what each parent ‘should do’ in relation to their child, this episode is a reminder that Vedic Meditation is ‘a tool in our parenting quiver’ that can put us in the best position to find our own answers and make the best decisions we can in any given situation.
PS – If you haven’t listened to it already, you might also be interested in listening to Thom’s episode on Raising Conscious Children.
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Q- What is Your View on Sleeping With Our Children Vs. Teaching Them To Sleep On Their Own?
Children Want a Comforting Launch Pad To Put Them Into Sleep
Be a Spiritual Coach to Your Child
A Comforting Presence During the Phase Transition
Our Goal is Self-Sufficiency for Our Children
Create Those Memories You Would Like to Have
Your Number One Priority as a Parent
Relax and Be In the Present Moment With Our Child
Q – Can You Give Advice on Postpartum Meditation and the Effects on the Newborn?
Practice Meditation On a Catch-As-Catch-Can Basis
Your Child is Your New Spiritual Master
Don’t Be Concerned About Meditating Too Much
Our Primary Spiritual Program
One of the Tools In Your Mothering Quiver
Mommy, I Think You Should Meditate
Give the Baby Everything You Can Give the Baby
Q – How Can I Create a Life of Joy While Living In Fear of Losing My Child?
Meditation is Your Coping Mechanism
Look After Yourself
Arjuna’s Dilemma On the Battlefield
Developing A Resolute Intellect
Jai Guru Deva
[00:00:45] Q- What is Your View on Sleeping With Our Children Vs. Teaching Them To Sleep On Their Own?
[00:00:45] Thom, I have listened to every podcast episode, and I have found every answer to my life’s questions, except one. Thanks to meditation and all the knowledge that I’ve received from you. I feel so much more confident as a parent in every situation except at bedtime. What is your view regarding sleeping with our children versus teaching them, despite their cries, to sleep in their own bed?
[00:01:08] Sleep deprivation has been the most challenging part of parenting for me. I love lying with them, except when I’m genuinely exhausted and have so much to do. My children are two and four. I’m with them 24/7.
[00:01:21] I do all the cleaning, journaling, meditating, and showering when they’re actually asleep. It feels like a very precious time for me.
[00:01:29] I hope it’s not too silly of a question, but I have a feeling the answer lies in surrender, and perhaps a realization of me complaining about lack of time for myself.
[00:01:39] Jai Guru Deva. It’s a wonderful question. And one with which I can relate. I’m a father of children, as you may know, and very experienced in that, and my answer is going to be, perhaps, not all comprehensive, because every single child is different.
[00:02:00] There’s some things about them that are the same. For example, they’re all going to end up wanting to stay in bed forever. I can tell you that, and you remember from your own youth, that children will end up loving bed so much that when it’s time to go to school or time to get up, or time to do things, they’ll complain about having to get up, and they will end up sleeping through the night beautifully.
[00:02:26] This is the one thing that unites all children, is that, on their way to this, there are a variety of answers, but there’s one thing that they all end up doing. Everybody ends up loving being in bed, just as, evidently, you do, which is fine.
[00:02:44] Horizontal rest is an important thing for us, and getting all those things done while our children are sleeping is also a very important thing to us. We do have to remember that one pivotal point, and that is that our greatest spiritual evolution, as parents, is in providing to our children the best experience they can have, the very best experience they can have.
[00:03:13] Children Want a Comforting Launch Pad To Put Them Into Sleep
[00:03:13] Now, as regards to sleeping with them versus not sleeping with them, and at what point and so on, I think with every child it’s different. Some children are going to be children who have very rapidly, compared with other children, gain self-sufficiency.
[00:03:27] I know one of my children, some of you might know Charlie, who at the age of three, would excuse himself from the dinner table or whatever entertainment was going on after dinner and just say, “Well, everybody. Good night. I’m going to bed now.” And he’d just walk off and put himself to bed, climb into the bed and go to sleep, and didn’t need anybody. He didn’t want anybody.
[00:03:49] And other children of mine, whose names I won’t mention right now, were the ones who really needed someone to lie down with them and comfort them. Not necessarily sleep with them, but to provide a kind of comforting launch pad into the sleep.
[00:04:05] And when we are doing that thing of being, you know,the lie down with them and help them make the transition into sleep, we’re doing it with a particular aim, of course, which is the amount of time that that should take, should become progressively less and less.
[00:04:22] Be a Spiritual Coach to Your Child
[00:04:22] Some children love for you to lie down with them and listen to some music that you’ve chosen, maybe after a story. Other children don’t even want the story, they just want you to lie down with them at their head and give them a few caresses, and they want to feel as though you’re having a shared experience with them in making that transition.
[00:04:45] And of course, this is a very important role to be, in a sense, a spiritual coach to our child, because they are making a transition from waking state into the sleeping state, and they’re passing through a transcendent state on the way from waking to sleeping.
[00:05:02] And anytime we go through a transcendent state, we might also release stresses. Stresses might begin unwinding that could cause some thoughts of fear or anxiety or some sadness or something like that.
[00:05:16] A Comforting Presence During the Phase Transition
[00:05:16] And so, for us to be a comforting presence in that transition for certain children could be very important. And I think then we need to assess all of this on a child-by-child basis.
[00:05:30] “What is going to bring about the smoothest and easiest spiritual transition for my child, moving from the waking state to the sleeping state? And yes, of course, I have the needs, I have to clean, I have to journal, I have to do all those things that are very important,”but let’s not forget the deep, deep importance of the experience children have in making consciousness state transitions, the phase transition between one consciousness state and the other.
[00:06:00] And of course, with a view, constantly, that this is not the way they’re going to be when they’re 18, or 16, or let’s keep going back ten or eight or maybe even six.
[00:06:13] Our Goal is Self-Sufficiency for Our Children
[00:06:13] And as we keep going back in time, we begin to, in terms of which child at which age is going to develop what degree of independence, this is absolutely going to be a child-by-child phenomenon.
[00:06:28] And very specifically in relation to our style of parenting with each of those children, because our style of parenting is different with every child.
[00:06:38] Overall, of course, our goal is self-sufficiency for the child. And in the end, you will have lots and lots of time to get all the things done.
[00:06:50] Create Those Memories You Would Like to Have
[00:06:50] And let me assure you that, once you get past this very early childhood stage of your children’s experience, a day will come when you’ll look back as your child is older, a teenager, or has even left the nest, you’ll look back, and you want to, right now, today be creating those memories that you would like to have. The memories that you would like to have with that child.
[00:07:18] Not, “Oh, I managed to get some journaling done.” We won’t remember that 10 or 15 years from now, or 20. ” “I got some journaling done,” or, “I really cleaned up the house,” or ,”I really got all that stuff done,” or, ” “I made sure that I got plenty of sleep myself.”
[00:07:34] These things are going to fall into insignificance compared with, ” I had a shared experience with my child, and one that was precious to me, and foundationally precious also to them.”
[00:07:46] Your Number One Priority as a Parent
[00:07:46] So, I’m not going to make a statement, come down and say, “Oh, definitely don’t sleep with your child,” or, “Oh, definitely do sleep with your child.” The politics of all of that and so on and so forth, they’re all based on intellectual analysis, which I’m not into.
[00:07:59] What I’m into is the fine level of feeling. What does your child need at any given time? Our number one spiritual priority, as a parent, is to give our children what they actually need at a specific time.
[00:08:11] And I don’t think that a child crying in a bedroom and becoming distressed is part of their spiritual development that we wish to deliver to them.
[00:08:23] Whatever the books say, whatever people say, whatever all the so-called experts say, the fact is, on the very human level, we have to act on the fine level of feeling and respond to that. That’s the most important thing. That’s the number one priority.
[00:08:38] Relax and Be In the Present Moment With Our Child
[00:08:38] And it’s the most important, and let’s remember whatever you’re doing now, it’s not going to be what you’re doing in a year, two years, three years, because every child is in a very rapid process of maturation. They’re all going to grow up and grow out of whatever it is that their current need might be.
[00:08:59] And so we can kind of relax and enjoy. Time tends, for us as parents, time tends to go by rather too quickly, actually, rather too quickly.
[00:09:09] So let’s savor it. Let’s make a decision to enjoy it. Let’s not lie there with a child, if that’s what we’ve decided to do, and feel that our mind is elsewhere, and on other things. Let’s relax, and be in the present moment for our child.
[00:09:26] It’s a very, very important thing, and that’s what I have to say about it. Jai Guru Deva.
[00:09:31] Q – Can You Give Advice on Postpartum Meditation and the Effects on the Newborn?
[00:09:31] Hi, Thom, my name’s Demi. I’m from Cairns, Australia. Thank you for your time. Recently, I’ve just become a mother, and my practice has become more dynamic and flexible around having a newborn. My question is, do you have any advice on meditation in the postpartum period, and what are the effects of this on the newborn? Jai Guru Deva.
[00:09:52] Practice Meditation On a Catch-As-Catch-Can Basis
[00:09:52] Jai Guru Deva. And so happy to hear from Cairns in Northern Queensland, a place that I have in my heart, very fondly from my memories of having been there many times.
[00:10:04] Well, the effect that meditation has on us is the effect that it has on our newborn. There’s no difference really because a newborn, a neonate is the scientific word for a newborn, is in fact, very clearly, an extension of one’s own self, an extension of oneself.
[00:10:23] Now, when children have needs, neonates particularly, we have to respond to those needs, irrespective of what our preferences may have been about what time of the day we’re going to meditate and so on and so forth.
[00:10:36] And so, just as with everything else you’re experiencing with your newborn, you’re going to have to catch-as-catch-can. That means to be opportunistic.
[00:10:46] For a mother of small children like that, the rules around Vedic Meditation are virtually all very pliable, very flexible. You see, normally, we would prefer to have 20 minutes of meditation twice each day.
[00:11:05] In Vedic meditation, properly practiced, we like to rise in the morning, freshen up, don’t try to sit straight up in bed and meditate, and then, having freshened up, find your nice cozy meditation spot and have your 20 minutes of meditation prior to taking any food, if you take breakfast at all, then you shouldn’t be meditating on a full stomach.
[00:11:29] Your Child is Your New Spiritual Master
[00:11:29] And then in the evening, sometime late afternoon, early evening, we select a time that’s relevant for that particular day, find our comfortable spot, close our eyes, meditate for 20 minutes, and then come out and begin looking about what we’re going to do for our evening meal, and our evening activity.
[00:11:47] Wow, does that ever sound like a luxury to someone who has a newborn child? Is it ever going to be possible, maybe once or twice?
[00:11:55] So, what’s the reality of practicing Vedic Meditation with a newborn who is your extended self? Basically, you have a new spiritual master, and your new spiritual master is your child. You’re going to be responding to the needs of this new spiritual master. That’s the fact of it. And you have to practice your meditation in a kind of catch-as-catch-can version of this.
[00:12:22] Don’t Be Concerned About Meditating Too Much
[00:12:22] What does this mean in very practical terms? How many minutes do you meditate for? Well, I’m not going to be concerned about you meditating too much.
[00:12:30] It is possible for someone who doesn’t have a baby to meditate too much, because meditation, Vedic Meditation, should be practiced in a balanced fashion, 20 minutes, twice a day with a day of full activity.
[00:12:43] If people begin meditating three or four times in a day, and they don’t have a balance of activity to their meditation, they could begin releasing stress at levels that make them feel uncomfortable, and uncomfortable means unhealthy. And not efficient release of stress either. So this is why we stick with that 20 minutes, twice a day.
[00:13:05] Our Primary Spiritual Program
[00:13:05] However, as the mother of a newborn, I would like you to feel that you may meditate as frequently as you are able. Your new spiritual master, your newborn baby may allow you, while they’re sleeping or resting, to catch a meditation for a certain number of minutes.
[00:13:25] If it turns out that those minutes are 20, 30, or even a little longer than that, go ahead and do that because you’re going sometimes for hours at night without sleeping, and having your meditation has to compensate for some of that.
[00:13:39] Sometimes you might have to meditate when you have a full stomach because your baby just went to sleep. We do like to eat our food while it’s still at least faintly warm, and we might have to quickly get a meal in and, “now the baby is still asleep, but I haven’t done my meditation session yet for the morning or for the afternoon.”
[00:13:58] All right. Meditate. And meditating with a full stomach is never as fascinating as meditating when we don’t have a full stomach.
[00:14:07] But we are a parent of this new spiritual being who has appeared on the scene, and this is going to be our primary spiritual program, looking after this little master. And so, you may even meditate with food in your stomach.
[00:14:22] One of the Tools In Your Mothering Quiver
[00:14:22] Normally we would tell people don’t meditate late at night, because if you meditate late at night, it’s very restful while meditating, but the output of meditation, the net output, is that it’s energizing, and meditating late at night could give you insomnia.
[00:14:38] This is very, very good advice and counsel for all of those who don’t have this new spiritual master called a baby living in their life.
[00:14:46] When you have a baby, if your only window of opportunity to meditate is later in the night, even close to bedtime, you may do it. You may do so.
[00:14:58] So you may meditate as much or as little as is possible, a few minutes at a time patched together, or longer meditations from time to time, and use the meditation as one of the tools in your mothering quiver, one of the arrows in your quiver that you’re going to use to get yourself as rested as you can possibly be.
[00:15:24] Mommy, I Think You Should Meditate
[00:15:24] That, along with really looking after yourself and nourishing yourself, your meditation on a catch-as-catch-can basis, for a little while, until your child grows and grows and then a day is going to come when your child values your meditation so much, because they see what mommy is like when mommy meditates is a completely different mommy to the mommy who needs to go off and meditate and hasn’t done it yet.
[00:15:50] And so sometimes your children, they’re going to come to you by the time they’re about three or so, and they’re going to say, “Mommy, I think it might be a good idea for you to go off and meditate. Don’t worry about me. You can just give me something to do and I’ll sit here quietly.”
[00:16:06] Or maybe they’ll even sit in the room quietly with you while you do your meditation because they want that freshly meditated mommy . That’s coming. That state is coming.
[00:16:17] Give the Baby Everything You Can Give the Baby
[00:16:17] But in the interim, up until that point, please feel that this is the proper way for someone to practice Vedic Meditation, which is as much or as little as is able to happen in a day.
[00:16:31] And don’t worry about your spiritual development because having the baby and giving the baby everything that we can give the baby is our new spiritual program for some time. And meditation is an aid to that. It’s our primary aid to that. Jai Guru Deva.
[00:16:50] Q – How Can I Create a Life of Joy While Living In Fear of Losing My Child?
[00:16:50] My child suffers from mental illness and has tried to take his own life several times. How does one create and maintain a life of joy when living in constant fear of losing a child by their own hand?
[00:17:04] Meditation is Your Coping Mechanism
[00:17:04] I think the fact is, it would be very cruel of me to suggest to you that you should be living a life of joy when you are in such a dreaded position that any parent could ever be in, of the concern about your child’s wellbeing and your child getting into that self-destructive activity, harming themselves, or perhaps even killing themselves.
[00:17:34] As a parent, it’s unimaginable, and I really feel for you, and you have my condolences and sympathy.
[00:17:43] It needs to be said, however, that where meditation may not be able, right now, to put you in a state of that joyful happiness, that one day will be yours, when you come past this point, when you evolve and your child evolves past this point.
[00:18:04] Nonetheless, meditation for you is going to be a coping mechanism. It will be a coping mechanism that will allow you to be everything you need to be for your child, while your child is going through this, and in the process of normalizing and coming past this, hopefully.
[00:18:24] I do hope that you’re in regular contact with qualified medical practitioners, or a qualified medical practitioner who is assisting you and your child, and is giving you the very best knowledge of how to deal with these situations.
[00:18:41] Based on experience, I’m almost certain that that would be the case. If not, please do make sure that that’s happening.
[00:18:49] Look After Yourself
[00:18:49] But you do need to look after yourself. And looking after yourself means you need to have all the benefits that meditation is going to bring you, the release of the daily accumulation of stress. Very, very important, because where one human life is at risk, why should we make it that two human lives now are at risk.
[00:19:15] We need to be everything we can be to our child. That’s why it is critically important for us to make our twice-a-day practice of Vedic Meditation non-negotiable.
[00:19:28] But to modify our expectations, I don’t think it would be possible right now for meditation to play a greater role for you than simply a survival technique for you, a coping mechanism that will allow you to be as stable, as adaptable as you need to be to handle the current situation.
[00:19:51] Just don’t miss your practice of meditation. You will come past this. And when you do, you’ll be able to see that without your regular practice of meditation, it would be hard to comprehend how you would have come through this adequately.
[00:20:07] But please have your expectations adjusted accordingly. Meditation doesn’t always just bring us nothing but joy.
[00:20:15] Arjuna’s Dilemma On the Battlefield
[00:20:15] And I’d like to remind you that historically, this meditation was taught to someone in the most unimaginable situation.
[00:20:26] A young man who had been faced with having to go into war, and into battle, not just with mindless aggressors, but with his own family, with his own cousins, first cousins, first cousins, the children of his own uncle, had threatened to usurp the kingdom of India 5,000 years ago.
[00:20:55] And Arjuna, the name of the young man, was put in a situation where, either he had to fight to kill, not just his cousins, but he had an army of his own, and his army was going to have to tackle their army, because his cousins were threatening to debauch the entire culture, the Vedic culture of ancient India, because of their short-sightedness and greed.
[00:21:24] Or he could just do nothing, which would be tantamount to committing suicide, because they would immediately come and kill him, and destroy his army, which would have been disfranchised of a leader and would have been demoralized if he were not leading them, and the whole of India, and the debauchery of India would rest karmically at his door, because he did nothing about it when he was the only one who could.
[00:21:51] Developing A Resolute Intellect
[00:21:51] And into this came the teaching of Vedic Meditation. He had a spiritual master by the name of Krishna, and he said to his master, ” What will I do? I can’t bear the thought of engaging in battle with my family. And I can’t bear the idea of doing nothing, knowing that my non-doing will bring destruction to the whole civilization. What can I do?”
[00:22:19] And right there, Krishna taught him to meditate, taught him the technique. And on a battlefield, in the no-man’s land in between two opposing armies that were just about to engage in battle, he learned to meditate.
[00:22:34] Did Arjuna come out of that with great joy? No. Joy was not the product of his meditation.
[00:22:42] What was the product of his meditation? Resolute intellect. He became resolute about what he needed to do. And to become resolute may be the closest to joy that we’re going to have when we learn meditation, and we’re practicing it and we are embattled.
[00:23:02] Right now, you are embattled by an almost untenable situation, and being resolute is the best and most accurate thing to expect from our meditation practice right now.
[00:23:16] Please stay in contact with me, through my team, and let me know if there’s any more that I can say or do that will assist you in coming through this, what must be a very, very difficult time for any parent.
[00:23:29] Jai Guru Deva.