Q: How can we create a spiritual environment in our home? We have a small child and would like to instill spiritual values in her at an early age.
A: You will create and nurture love for spirituality in your children when you allow your own spirituality to manifest effortlessly in your thoughts, speech, and actions. Your children expect love and affection from you; the last thing they will accept is the imposition of rigid discipline.
The foremost component of spirituality is love for inner truth. Creating a spiritual environment means working toward that inner truth, using all worldly objects and achievements as means. Meditation is a system through which we shift our search for truth from the external to the inner world.
To create a spiritual environment, therefore, you need only to maintain a regular schedule for your spiritual practice and let all your other schedules center around it. You may not be able to alter the time that you must leave for work or the time you get home, but leave for work only after you have attended to the core of your life: your formal meditation practice. It doesn’t matter if your practice time is relatively short. Your children will come to understand that the 10 minutes you spend in meditation are more important to you than the 10 hours you spend at your job. This concept gradually sinks into their mind and, one day, they automatically find themselves drawn to spiritual practice.
If, as in your case, your child is quite young, simply sit down at the same time every day and do your practice. If possible, let your partner take care of your child during that time. If this isn’t feasible, let her occupy herself with some other activity while you meditate. But be warned: because you are quiet and not paying attention to your daughter, she will want your attention. To get it, she may cry. If that doesn’t work, she may pull your hair or pinch you. If this happens, manage the situation by lovingly ignoring her. Let your daughter know that you love her very much, but that these 10 minutes are very important to you and you will attend to her only when they are over. For a week or even a month, she will try her best to get you to acknowledge her right to your attention. But gradually she will see that you cannot be swayed and she will be trained. This childhood training is more important than any other spiritual training you may provide later on.
This is how I managed my practices while raising two children. I kept an extra pillow and blanket and a bottle of milk next to my meditation seat. When my son was two years old, he always woke up at exactly 5:00 a.m. and walked sleepily from the bedroom to the meditation room. He would cry if the door to the meditation room was closed, so I left the door open. I knew that he would be coming, so when he arrived I extended my hand and gently laid him on the pillow, put the bottle in his mouth, and covered him with the blanket. While he drank the milk, he fell asleep and I continued my practice.
My teacher used to tell me that a young child can be taught during sleep. Before having children, I never knew how this was possible. Now I know that my son learned meditation while he was sleeping next to me as I did my practice.
Source: Inner Quest by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD