My Story
One week after I graduated from high school, I moved into an ashram (the Indian equivalent of a monastery). I wanted to experience the Truth of my existence. Also, if my parents relationship was any clue to marriage, I wanted to get as far away from that as possible. I saw marriage as a death of sorts, filled with repression, dishonesty, drudgery, and pain: lots of pain.

In addition, I saw raising children as a further step into this "hellish" realm.  Children would only add chaos to the picture, exacerbating this horror. I believed that all things joyous and free were not to be found as a spouse or parent. So, I traveled down a path of celibacy and monasticism for 6 years.

Even with this strong fear of relationship, I met my first wife in the ashram and we were married within a year. Six years later, we had a son. For the first few years of his life, I feared his dependency on me would exclude all life outside of taking care of him and working. I believed that for the next 18 years, I would have no freedom. No time for me.

This fear that we'll lose our freedom, upon having a child, is common among new dads; one that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We transfer our fears of parenting onto our children and our lives, creating a life of drudgery. We tell ourselves that our children are in part, the cause of this drudgery. "If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have to work so hard, so long". We may find ourselves regretting time with our children, while waiting for a few "precious" moments to ourselves. I call these thoughts "what about me"?!

Fear Turns To Guilt
During my first sons teenage years, I felt much guilt, that I had been so distracted by my fear, during his early years.
This guilt lead me to not be clear in my relationship with him. I would invite him to participate with me, in activities that he wasn't interested in and then I'd be disappointed/ sad when he didn't want to join me. I would take this as a rejection. My decisions were clouded by my guilt, such that I couldn't see that he just wasn't interested. What a tangled web we weave!

These fears of marriage and parenting were the phantoms from my own childhood, continuing to haunt me. I was raised in a home where we children were often separate from our parents. When our father (who worked long hours) arrived home, we weren't allowed to be with him, or my mother. They went into the den, closing the door. When we wanted to be with them, we would knock on the door to the den and wait for a "yes" before entering. We'd stand in the doorway, ask our question(s) (usually rehearsed), receive an answer, and then leave, closing the door behind us. Formal, impersonal, and cold.

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." ~ Albert Einstein

How remarkable that the very lifestyle that I feared most is the one that has encompassed over 1/2 of my life!  When we invest energy into pushing something away (in this case, marriage and kids), we give it energy. To the extent that we reject anything is the extent to which it stays with us! Think of yourself as standing inside a big rubber band. As you push against one side, you are met with the same force. The more you push it away, the more force there is on you.

Healing Your Inner Child
To recognize just what "wounds" you are bringing into the present, take a moment and recall the most painful memory from your childhood. Bring that memory fully into your minds' eye. Place yourself into that scene. As you are reliving this scene, what do you feel? Sadness, fear, anger? The extent to which you feel these emotions is the extent to which that experience still colors your life today. I invite you to give yourself a few minutes for the following exercise. It may assist you in freeing yourself from the influence of your past.
Imagine the child (who was you, from that memory), standing in front of you. See them feeling all that you felt in that scene. Take a moment for this.
Imagine centered in your heart, a brilliant colored light. Let this be the 'Light of your inner Love'. Breath in this Light and let it fill you. Send a steady stream of this Light to the heart of this child. See them receive it. See them fill with gratitude, and peace. See this Light fill their chest. See them rejuvenated by this Light of your Love, as though they are receiving the most enlivening Nutrition. See Joy fill their being. See them feel Inspired, Creative, and Loving. Do this now.

As you send this Light to them, take this moment to tell them whatever you are inspired to say. Reassure them that you are aware of them and their needs: that you now advocate for them in every way. Take a moment for this.

Now, see in their heart a brilliant, colored Light of Love. See a steady stream of Light and Love extend from their heart to yours. Allow yourself to receive it fully. Let it fill you as they have just been filled. 
Now envision a flow of Light and Love from your heart to theirs and from their heart to yours. Take a moment for this..

You may wish to imagine taking them in your arms: feeling the warmth of their little body against yours. You may then wish to create a beautiful, sacred spot for them in your heart. Place them there, surrounded by your Love.

Every time you find yourself in the influence of these past hurts, remember this child and send them Love.

The Gift Of Parenting
I see parenting as a journey of clearing the path before us, so that we may see the "path" that our children are on, not the one we think that they should be on. Whatever unhealthy beliefs and behaviors from our childhood, that we carry into our parenting, our work is to free ourselves from allowing it to influence how we see and therefore parent our kids. Our work is nothing short of completely freeing ourselves of these influences, that we may see our kids clearly: that we may no longer see that there is anything at all that we need to change in them. In so doing, we see our children's innate ability to handle whatever is in their lives. They come into this world with the strength to meet any challenge. They come in with the creativity to rise and flourish. For example, infants are fully aware of what they want and don't want, and have no fear expressing this. An infant will cry until they are fed, changed, given a nap: until the unmet need is met.

"Be The Example You Want To See" (from your children) ~ Mahatma Gandhi
The only reason that we see anything other than capable, strong, immeasurably creative beings is because of 1) how we have taught them, through our own unhealthy behaviors and more importantly, 2) we doubt our ability to support them in recognizing and living in their innate strength and beauty. Simply, when we recognize that within us is an infinite wealth of creativity and strength, we see it in others and support them in seeing it in themselves.
 The following applies to us and our kids. Read it once as it is, then replace references to you with your child's name,                                                                                 
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marriane Williamson
Enjoy this adventure with my sons::
                                                            My son's upcoming play


Meditation is the uninterrupted flow of focused awareness.

We All Meditate
In every thing we do, is the opportunity to bring this focused awareness.
In fact, you are already engaged in some form of meditation. Just discover what. A few of the activities in which we experience this focused awareness are driving, gardening, cooking, walking, dancing, sitting, sex, playing music, exercise, writing, sports, eating, reading, crafting, building, drawing, studying, painting, cleaning, washing dishes: you get the idea.

Feeling emotion deeply is meditation. Notice how when angry, there are times when you have greater focus. Notice when you allow yourself to fully feel and express sadness, how much your mind is focused. When scared, to the extent that you just feel this fear, free of blame or victimization, do you feel alive. Notice also in these instances, just how quickly emotion moves through you, returning you to peace. Emotions are just "energy in motion."
When we allow thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations to be experienced, we are in meditation.

It's when we apply meaning and/or past associations to the experience that we think of the experience as "bad" or painful. In Eastern Mysticism, the distinction is made between physical pain, being a natural part of life and suffering, caused by our overlaying of stories/ meanings/ associations onto the moment. There's nothing to be done, but accept and feel "pain", but suffering, it is said, is optional. Suffering is a choice.
Another way of looking at this is that suffering is caused by the false belief that we are unlovable, no one accepts us, and that we're separate and alone. What I call our "what about me" fears.

Notice when you are in a focused awareness (or meditation) how you have no thoughts about yourself. No thoughts about what you can get from another (no greed or manipulation); no thoughts around why you should hide (there's nothing to hide); no thoughts about any need to defend (there's nothing to defend). There's no "what about me." Notice how you're experiencing a steady flow of focused attention on your activity and how good you feel. In this "flow" or "zone", there's no self-awareness, no separate self, no me verses anyone or anything, no "fight or flight".
"I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am Life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am Now. I Am."  ~ Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks
The "Zone".
In one study of athletes "peak experiences" or the "zone", "characteristics included focusing on the present moment, effortless merging of action and awareness, loss of personal ego, sense of control, clear feedback, and an intrinsic reward system. Athletes recalled these special moments during sport participation as salient, highly valued and extremely meaningful.' This "zone" has been studied extensively in sports. while often missed in our day to day activities.

Meditation has it's formal practice as well. You may associate it with the following steps: sit up straight, in the lotus or half lotus position, place your hands on your knees or in your lap. Have a focus, whether it be on a mantra, a geometric design, your breath, or on a given location, like between your eyes or your navel.

When I studied formal meditation, I learned that meditation is one step in a series of steps. This first step being "concentration". I learned that the step of concentration is when one is attempting to bring focus to a certain train of thought, such as repeating a mantra. Think of the analogy of the meditator being like a carriage driver and our thoughts are the team of horses. I think of the stage of concentration as attempting to bring the horses (our thoughts) into alignment. Initially, the horses are heading in all different directions, not unlike an unfocused or confused mind. The next stage is "meditation". In this stage, the "horses" have come into an alignment. We still have thoughts, but we are not pulled in different directions by them. We are peaceful and somewhat detached. In this experience we're not lead by reaction, confusion, or fear. We are motivated more from peace.
                                         The "Pink Pig" family (last name Pinkham, you know)
Group Meditation
Ever been to a sporting event with thousands of people rooting for one of two teams? Quite provocative, right?  Lots of energy, lots of excitement. Whenever we are in a group with an aligned focus, our experience is amplified.  As the group aligns, we experience an amplification of the peace we experience alone. This is a form of group meditation. Take a look at these amazing results of studies documenting the profound effect on communities, of this dynamic:

My favorite form of group meditation is as a drum circle. An amazing way to align our consciousness, while having great childlike fun. Take a look at this video of a drum circle I had the honor of facilitating:

Peace, Sahar