Daily Walks With Your Child
"When we let go of expectations and participate in life with full awareness, parenting will begin to flow..."
So say Judith Costello and Jurgen Haver, co-authors of a new book, Zen Parenting: The Art of Learning What You Already Know (Robins Lane Press, 2004). This husband and wife team believes that the ancient wisdom of Zen Buddhism has a lot to offer modern parents. For example, those who practice Zen learn to release their expectations and judgments. This allows them to concentrate on the moment at hand, and appreciate their life as is.
Costello and Haver claim that this practice would be of great help to parents, who are often disappointed when events do not go as planned. "When a child has a tantrum in public, we tend to judge the child, expect them to behave differently, fear the judgments of others and resent having to deal with the situation," says Costello. "[Yet] when we release ... [these] resentments, anticipation and fears, we are free to look for a solution to the problem at hand."
It is difficult to get rid of these thoughts, especially in situations that are ripe for disaster. For example, when taking young children out to a nice restaurant, it is hard not to worry they might spill drinks, be loud or otherwise disturb the other diners. The authors recommend trying the following exercise to practice freeing your mind from these inhibiting feelings:
- Plan to take two walks today, one in the morning and one in the evening. On the first walk look for three things: a red rock, a green leaf and a white feather. Are you able to find these things? How does it feel to be focused in this way?
- During the evening, take another walk. This time surrender all expectations. Focus on nothing in particular. Allow yourself simply to be in your body and outdoors. Feel the air, the wind, the rocks underfoot. Smell the trees and night air. Observe and feel it all.
Afterwards, reflect on the difference between the two walks. How did it feel to let go? Did you see more or less on the second walk? Do this with your children. Show them the value of being open to the experience without expectation.