Brainful parenting begets mindful parenting

October 25, 2009

red black and blueIn a five part NPR series about spirituality and the brain, Barbara Bradley Hagerty explores issues ranging from prayer, to health to near death experiences.  In the third segment she touches on research that strongly suggests that just a few minutes of daily meditation for just a couple of months can have strong positive effects on the brain as well as the immune system (for this article see:

This is exciting because earlier research consistently shows that long-time meditators, such as monks, have rather different brains from non-meditators, but most of us cannot find an hour or two to meditate on a daily basis.  As parents, we rarely find that sort of time, and yet if we could cultivate more monk-like brains our anger management would be much improved.  Our feelings of depression and anxiety would also be helped, all of which are good things for the kids who depend on us.

Simple visualizations, such as picturing a showering of love and compassion on our kids, and then on ourselves… and then onto those we have conflicts with or carry resentments toward is an excellent way to make real changes to our brains. 

Along these lines I encourage readers of this blog to contemplate how just the act of reading/writing/sharing in this venture seeking to wish consciousness and compassion for all our collective children, may be positively changing our brains as we go.  Let’s be positive and encouraging to ourselves in honor of our kids—thus instead of thinking that we must add yet another thing to our to-do list (i.e. two minutes of meditation), let’s consider the possibility that maybe we’re already on the case, and that the few minutes we meet here, in a spirit of compassion and mindfulness, is in and of itself helping us be better and happier parents—in our hearts, our minds and our ever-changing brains.

Sometimes it’s not the words but the music so to speak.  So whatever you wish to cultivate in yourself, consider placing the reading of this blog today in the service of your intention (or see June 21 post to set an intention) and stay open to the possibility that by changing our consciousness we bridge a divide between our alienated ego-selves and our truly connected higher selves. 

In the brains of long-meditating monks the part that focuses on the individual sense of self goes dark while the higher mind that brings feelings of oneness lights up; and like the tortoise and the hare, we may get there all the same in our own good time… maybe by the time our kids are twenty-seven (which is when adulthood begins in our culture).  Skeptics may try and reduce our minds and our spiritual beings to just some hardware firing electrical impulses (and if this is what we choose to see, this will be the world in which we live), but try to convince a parent that his or her child is just a bit of equipment.  In our deepest souls we sort of know that there’s something more going on—not that we necessarily know what any of it means—just that if there is one thing we can generally agree on it’s that we love our children and that we want the best for them.  That alone is something that unites us across all manner of other differences and allows us to potentially harmonize with each other in ways we may only dimly sense and yet benefit deeply from.

So, here’s to a moment of gratitude for whatever lays before us today, or tonight—to savoring the transcendent beauty in tucking a kid in who had a happy day after a string of sad days, to a child getting better after a 104.5 fever, to a bowl with three lemons and an onion, to a laptop with one key that doesn’t work… and to love for all our collective kids.

Namaste, Bruce