While we are on the topic of Sikhi and Youth…there is always the issue of how as a parent we can teach and give our children an experience of Sikhi. How to give something that is more than history and facts, but something much deeper that they can experience for them self? I for one am traveling this path as a parent and figuring this out as I go. My six year old son Narayan Singh is quite a kid. We sometimes joke and call him "Narayan Lion Singh" because he is very much like a lion in his personality. He wants to be the leader of the pack and doesn’t like to be told what to do. He is fast and strong. He always wants to do things on his own terms. He is full of energy and can be very aggressive at times. He also can sometimes react strongly to things and get emotional easily when something doesn’t go his way.
So, with all these ingredients, the challenge is to train this lion so that he can be in control of his mind, body and emotions. One of the things Arjan has been doing with the kids and some of the other kids/parents is to have a morning Sadhana just for the kids. So on Friday morning they all go and meet at someone’s house and they take turns leading the other kids in doing yoga exercises and then a short meditation. I think this has been good starting point because it is fun for them to be with other kids and helps them get into this practice (rather than it just be something that I tell him to do). It really helps to have a few kids to do this together.
Taking this a step further we have tried to do something with him on a daily basis at home but it always seemed to slip by in the rush of getting ready for the day and school. In the past when charanjeet was smaller and waking up in the night often we didn’t get much sleep so it was hard to wake up early. Now that Charanjeet is older and sleeping well we are both nice and steady waking up early to do our own personal sadhana, so things are not as rushed in the morning when Narayan wakes up. A lot of it comes down to establishing a routine with him so he knows that every day he has to do x,y,z. At first he fights it….but as long as we are consistent and make sure that he does it every day it becomes easier after a while and it is not an uphill battle.
Now every morning we all know 7:45am is Narayan’s time to meditate. It helped to pick a specific time so that it always happens and everything else waits if that is the time. We start by doing a few yoga exercises to stretch out tune the body up for the day. He normally leads and chooses the exercises and help him. We then sit together to do a short meditation/simran. We started with 3 minutes and are increasing a minute each day. Currently we are chanting the Waheguru mantra (Wahe Guru, Wahe Jio) along with a recording. At first he had a hard time keeping his eyes closed and was squirming and moving all over the place. Today was a nice breakthrough and he was rock solid and very focused. He had such a good experience with it that, after we were done he wanted to just keep going!
I think it is important to do more than just sit and chant waheguru. You have to give more instruction. I explained to him about meditation and how it is a tool to clean your mind just as taking a shower cleans your body. I also talk to him about the importance of posture and sitting up straight. When your spine is slouched and bent over the energy does not flow, so he sits up straight. The other tool is the mental focus. It is easy for the mind to wander and drift so I remind him about focusing his eyes at the third eye point (between the eyebrows). We chant together powerfully with lots of energy and then end with taking a full breath filling up the lungs to capacity, holding for a some time and then powerfully exhaling. We do this three times and then relax….and end with chanting a long "Saaaaaaaaaaaat Naam". All this doesn’t take long either but has made a HUGE difference in how Narayan acts. This is all part of the training as a parent :)
Today after we were done I asked him how he felt. And he said he felt sleepy. I then explained how this isn’t really sleepiness but actually calmness that he is feeling. I went on sharing how it is this calmness and neutrality that will help him in every part of his life. So, when a kid at school calls him names he can stay neutral and non-reactive, or when we his upset he can keep his calm. This type of training for children is so important because it empowers them to be in control of their own minds and trains them to deal more effectively with situations. Their mind becomes their slave….rather than being a slave to their own mind and emotions.
This to me is one example of a way that each parent can take time to teach and train their children. We have to take the time with our kids to teach them. No one else is going to do this for us. Don’t expect them to get this from the Gyani at Gurdwara or a camp that happens once a year. If we wonder why our kids are not into Sikhi there is no one to blame but ourselves. We are the first teacher and they learn by our example. So, I invite you to start this process as I have and spend more time with your kids teaching and explaining things. You can start this process by YOU having a daily practice and then expand this to something with your kids. This way you both benefit.
I know from experience that I can’t worry about Narayan and whether he chooses to stay a Sikh or not. All I know is that It is up to me to give him the "roots", teach him as best I can, give him an experience of Sikhi, and be a good example for him to follow. Then if I do this, the rest is up to God and Guru to guide him has he get’s older. This topic reminds me of conversations with other Sikhs who have so much fear and worry about "if my kid cuts his hair and leaves Sikhi". We all must try new things, experiment, practice yourself. Every day explain things as they come up, so that Sikhi will mean something more than a ritualistic religious practice. I’m no Sikhi expert; I have to learn myself in order to teach my children. We can all help each other with this too. I’m sure for many parents they are just unsure how to do these things. With the new SikhNet website we will have a discussion forum meant specifically for parents to share ideas, suggestions, etc. Hopefully this will help become a support and resource for people. Don’t wait though, start with something :)