Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dharma at home

Dharma at home

The Na Pattalung family has practised the teachings of the Buddha to overcome life's obstacles


'I grew up in an environment where I often observed my father and mother making merit. My mother, in particular, liked to meditate at the temple. These days, my mother tries to re-create the temple in our home, with various activities that teach us to understand our own minds," said former businesswomen Thitinart Na Pattalung, 39.

Thitinart said her mother taught her the teachings of the Buddha, the tool she employs to fight through a great crisis in her life.

Nicknamed "Aoy", Thitinart is best known as the author of the best-seller Life Compass, which has sold more than 500,000 copies.

Life Compass is about the struggle Thitinart faced when she lost her husband and found herself inheriting his enormous debt. In the darkness when there seemed no way out, Thitinart turned the crisis into an opportunity as she began to search for alternatives. It was the discovery of the world of dharma and meditation that would eventually allow her to survive the hardship and discover a peaceful way of living, which she still enjoys.

With meditation, Thitinart became aware of the causes of problems and has learned to handle them with mindfulness. She became successful in business once again, but this time she decided to start a new life with her family at Si Racha, Chon Buri

Dharma is easier for children than adults

Thitinart's mother, Aree Na Pattalung, said she was not surprised her daughter would turn to spirituality, as the family environment has prepared Thitinart since when she was young.

Aree, too, who had hotel, restaurant and real estate business, always found time for meditation, merit making and other religious ceremonies. Although Aree never asked her daughter to join her, the young girl apparently learned by watching her mother.

"It was good that my mother did not teach me. She showed me by doing, but never by telling or forcing. Then, when I faced troubles in life and started meditating, my mother and the other family members also joined me in meditation," says Thitinart.

With help from Aree, Thitinart tries to teach her 12-year-old son, Drit Na Pattalung or "Talay", how to lead a mindful life.

"A child will be able to learn things quickly, as he is pure and natural, while his brain still has room for learning. The teaching of dharma to young children will, therefore, be easier than teaching adults. My son was taught the walking meditation as soon as he was able to walk. When he was three, he went to meditate with his friends on his own initiative. We did not force him at all. He just wanted to do it all by himself," recalled Thitinart.

The author of Life Compass is experienced with organising meditation camps for children. She noticed that the young camp-goers did not have much difficulty observing their own minds and shielding their greed, anger and ignorance from the stimuli.

She says it is easier to train young children to meditate than train adults, who always have numerous thoughts in their minds. It was also more difficult to correct the improper habits of the adults that they have accumulated through their lives.

Tips for parents

According Thitinart, as children usually prefer to move rather than to be still, long sessions of sitting meditation may not be an appropriate method to teach dharma.

A walking meditation or a rhythmic hand movement together with regulation of breath will be more suitable for the young. This can be done in intervals between sitting meditation sessions or lectures.

Asides from meditation, the parents should encourage their children to do one activity at a time in order to be able to concentrate on the activity. Thitinart said such habits should be developed early, while the parents should not set bad examples by performing multiple tasks at the same time such as eating while watching television or listening to music.

By performing one task at a time, the children are more likely to be aware of what, how, and why they are doing the task. Such habits will be a good start for further mediation practice.

Learning dharma from your children

Thitinart said as many modern parents send their children to learn meditation, the children, in turn, often return to teach and encourage the parents to mediate too. In some cases, the children are even able to point out the long-term improper habits of their parents.

Learning dharma from sports

Sports can be used for meditation training, said Aree. She gave an example of her grandson Talay who was taught to mediate after competing in a sport game, no matter if he won or lost.

The length of the mediation session varies, depending on the circumstances. If a person lost a game of golf, it could be because he did not have a good concentration of the game and he might need a long session of meditation afterward. If he won the golf game, he would still need a meditation session too, but a different and shorter one in order to rid off overconfidence and to let go of his attachments to the results.

Aree said Talay's family members always remind him that if he only wanted to beat others in sports, soon there would be no one wanting to play with him. Therefore, it may be better to enjoy sports without too much focus on winning and to learn to have fun even when losing. In addition, the family members spend time praying and meditating together before they split off to bed.

"Recently I played in a soccer game. It turned out my team was defeated and all the other players cried. But I didn't cry because I didn't know what to cry for. Losing is just part of the game," said Talay, who is 12 years old.

Talay said he felt extremely relaxed and void of thoughts when meditating, although he admitted some meditation tasks, such as the discipline of waking up early to meditate, can be difficult and requires great self control.

Sometimes when his mother was exhausted and talked to him in a scolding tone, Talay would try to alert his mother by saying "people can talk to each other nicely without raising voices". He wanted her to be aware that, when tired and frustrated, she might need a higher degree of mindfulness in talk and action as well as patience to problems.

Dharma at the dinner table

Even daily activities such as family dinner can be used to learn dharma and practice meditation.

"When eating, our mind should concentrate on the food that we are eating and on the family members who are sharing the table. The problem of people in the modern time is that their minds tend to drift away from their bodies. They can be eating together, but each is thinking about work or something else," said Thitinart.

She recommends the family members to extend the dinner time that they spend with each others and to chew slowly, allowing themselves to truly taste the food. When they are full, they should also talk to each others with great cares. This meditation technique can be practiced by anyone, said Thitinart.

Dharma in daily life

The Na Pattalung family says that mediation can be practiced conveniently at home without having to attend a temple. One can simply meditate right after waking up, or while watching or reading stressful news on television or in newspaper, one can also practice detachment.

"Many people are suffering from thinking too much and not being able to control their own thoughts. If they know how to look for the cause of suffering by themselves, they can meditate to solve the cause of suffering without having to go to a temple," said Aree.

Thitinart suggested that the family members to restrain their words and avoid all forms of domestic violence, while providing compassion to each others.

"As of today, I can say meditation is at its peak as people all over the world have realised that meditation is the answer for all problems and one must learn to rely on oneself. That is what any meditation school or temple would teach as it is the way to cease suffering. Family is also a good start for learning and practicing dharma," said the author of Life Compass.

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