Family / Parenting

Meditating with Monks

“The who are doing what?”
“The monks are making a mandala!”

I didn’t know how it would go over. I couldn’t wait to see them myself, Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a sacred cosmogram from colored sand for hours at a time. They’re on tour for a year, and they’re here in our town. For 8 hours a day, over the course of a week, the monks place sand on a diagram of geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols. While they complete the map to enlightenment, they transmit positive and healing energies. And then after millions of grains of colored sand have been carefully distributed to replicate a vibrant image of sacred meanings, they wipe the sand away and pour it into the water, healing the environment and symbolizing the impermanence of life and the world.

Mandala collection 6

 

I didn’t know any of that would sit with the boys. All I knew is that we had to get there and witness the ritual and hope we’d absorb some of that energy – support their mission to heal our ailing world. Explaining the project to my 11 and 8-year-old was challenging.

“They’re Buddhists from Tibet, and they are creating sacred sand art for everyone in…”
“They’re Boo-dee-usts? HA HA HA HA!!! Boo-dee-usts!”
“It’s not funny! They’re Buddhists who practice the religion of Buddhism, which is all about enlightenment and compassion.”
“Sounds like BOOBIES!!”
“HA HA HA HA HA HA”
“Ok, get it all out now because you’ll need to act respectfully while the monks are making the …”
“Monks? Like MONKEYS?? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA”
“MONKS – like holy people who spend their lives studying and praying and becoming enlightened without the burden of money or possessions.”
“Yeah, MONKEYS don’t need money! HA HA HA HA HA!”
“Especially BOOBY MONKEYS! HA HA HA HA HA HA!”

Yes, I considered not going. I also considered leaving the boys at home so that I could fully appreciate the experience. But then I thought to myself, “What would Tibetan Buddhists Monks do?” Well, first of all, they would never have children. At that moment, I felt a profound respect for them. But if they DID have children, they would want to expose them to as much healing and enlightenment as they possible could.

“GET IN THE CAR!”
“How long do we have to stay??”
“Until you’re enlightened.”
“Can I play on your phone while I’m there?”
“NO!! GET IN THE CAR!”
“If these Booby Monkeys are boring, I am NOT staying.”
“BOOBY MONKEYS…HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

I took a deep breath and loaded my little beasts into the car.

Photo credit: Maplewood Cultural Arts

Photo credit: Maplewood Cultural Arts

Thankfully, the monks anticipated the arrival of childish….uh….children. In addition to the main event, there was a table set up in another part of the room where children create sand art as well. Using metal funnels similar to the ones the monks use, kids could color a large version of the town seal.

 

After the kids watched the monks carefully, purposefully, mindfully add to the mandala, color by color, they were ready for a new activity. “Why don’t you try it yourself over there while I take some more pictures. You can add sand to the town’s seal.”

“The town has a seal?? Why isn’t it at the zoo? Or in the ocean?”
“HA HA HA HA HA!”
“And why would we want to cover it in sand? Shouldn’t we be pouring water on the seal??”
“HA HA HA HA HA!”
“Just go over there, please.”

Because they are MY children, they outlined only part of "ESSEX COUNTY."

Because they are MY children, they outlined only part of “ESSEX COUNTY.”

There was a monk that had pulled the short straw, or perhaps was more evolved than the rest of them, remaining calm and pleasant while singlehandedly managing children of various ages and temperaments at the sand table.

Levi could have colored that seal all day. Asher did his small part for a few minutes and wanted to go home. I was able to capture some photos and did my best to appreciate the experience – to imagine what it must be like to find purpose and meaning and enlightenment whist hunched over a table for 8 hours a day. I marveled at their patience and precision and reminded myself that I, too, could find meaning in the moment, choose patience over frustration, experience enlightenment in the most mundane of tasks – until my bored children disrupted my meditation.

“STOP BANGING INTO ME! I’M TRYING TO TAKE A PICTURE OF THE MONKS!!”
“Sorry, Mom.”
“(sigh) It’s ok. I’m just trying to capture this moment here.”
“Yeah, go ahead. The Booby Monkeys are pretty cool after all.”
“HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!”

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