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Walking the path - with kids

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Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/22/14 12:28 PM
Hello everyone,

for the last 5 years meditation and the path to enlightenment has become the most important thing in my life. At one point I even considered becoming a monk but gave up that idea since I am married and love my wife very much.
Problem is she wants to have kids and makes not having them a disqualifier for our relationship. Personally, I could very well do without them. I don't mean that I don't like kids but I'm not keen getting them myself. I know that's in part because I am pretty self-absorbed and love to live a more or less reclusive life. But aside from studying the dhamma and practicing meditation I have enough hobbies to fill every single day. And my biggest fear is that having kids will make it harder to walk the spiritual path. I know that practice is all about getting comfortable with whatever situation you are in and for some having kids can be spiritually enriching, but I wonder how much harder it is to dilligently practice and walk the spiritual path even with kids.

Since I know that some of you are parents and still seem to make progress I would like to hear your opinion on that topic. How has having kids influenced your practice? Does it make it harder or do you find it beneficial? And even if you don't have kids, what's you take on this?

Cheers,
Andreas

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/22/14 12:45 PM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
Hey Andreas,
couple of questions-
how old are you?
how long have you been married?
Sounds like there is some negotiation/mediation that needs to happen there completely seperate from the practice angle if you don't want kids and she does. That's a toughie!

Then before addressing the kids/practice question I would say, it sounds like you have something to think about: what do YOU want? Really? Before adding this whole other element into the mix (practice) just looking at your whole life it sounds like you  would simply prefer not to have kids. Of course, in some stages of the path, for some people, there can be a strong renunciate urge to simplify life, and this can change for many reasons, so can you count on that motivation staying the same?

Personally I found becoming a parent a really important aspect of my overal waking up and growing up. Indispensible. Yes, for the first few years in particular it was tough to fit it all in; that's part of the process. It's given me much better appreciation for my 'me' time, hobbies, etc (and I really thought I had lots of appreciation for those things before lol!). But even more importantly for me, it helped turn a lot of that young adult self-absorption inside out (which was especially good because I was allready in my thirties by then haha!). This was incredibly transformative and really supported my path. If having kids is going to disrupt your path than I am not sure what kind of a path it is, honestly. In some sense I suppose that could be said for any circumstances in life-- but the bottom line is, having a kid doesn't mean you won't have time to practice. You just may need to prioritize among your 'hobbies' and use what little free time you have for meditation if that's your priority for the first couple of years. Once they are able to entertain themselves it gets a lot easier! That said, I had some pretty good meditation sessions with a toddler literally crawling all over me and a cat curled up in my lap etc...

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/22/14 2:57 PM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
I have three kids and one more on the way. emoticon

Having a family while on the path can be very difficult, but it also has its advantages. Don't let the childless hermits on long retreats scare you away from having kids.

Disadvantages

The first thing about having kids that I noticed-- my life was no longer my own. I could no longer play video games late at night, randomly hang out with friends, or even pursue a lot of my hobbies. Caring for children, especially when they are infants, is very, very time consuming. Your life will revolve around that child. Time for formal sitting? Forget about it. What little spare time you have will be used for sleep, because guess what-- babies wake up quite regularly in the night, and sometimes they stay up. You have to sleep when baby sleeps.

Another thing that can be quite disconcerting is that meditation will often be interrupted. Remember when you used to meditate for any length of time and not be interrupted? As it turns out, that was a luxury. This can actually be a big problem if you are in weird and whacky insight territory, and suddenly your baby starts crying. Good luck getting that sorted out, it can be a real mind-fuck.

Advantages

Metta practice. Having children flooded me with emotions that I didn't know I had-- love and compassion deeper than anything I've experienced before. This makes metta very easy. Childless meditators will never know the depths of parental love. Chalk that one up to a huge advantage.

As for more advantages... I can't think of too many. When your child(ren) get older, everyone gets on a schedule, and you can set aside time for meditation again, and arrange for childcare for short retreats. 

I personally crossed the A&P and made it up to Equanimity with two kids, one of which has special needs. Don't be afraid to blur the line between "formal sitting" and "off-the-cushion life." Be mindful at every moment. Profound insights can arise at any time if you work at it. It's very possible.

I highly recommend this book about Dipa Ma to meditators with children. She was a firm believer that enlightenment was possible in any circumstance, and many of her students were "householders." One woman got enlightened just by being mindful while nursing her baby, and another attained profound insights while folding the laundry.

One of our very own here at the Dho attained first path as a stay-at-home dad.

Good luck! It's very possible.

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/23/14 2:50 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
couple of questions-
how old are you?
how long have you been married?
Sounds
like there is some negotiation/mediation that needs to happen there
completely seperate from the practice angle if you don't want kids and

Thanks for you replies.

@ Jake: I am 34 years old and we've been married for about a year now. The negotiation part really is a tough one. The marriage already was, as I primarily did it because of legal and financial issues. The symbolism does not really give me anything and I don't feel like marriage is a strong commitment nowadays where a divorce is done pretty easy and almost without any social condemnation (at least where I live).

The question about motivation is a tough one. Though not a stream enterer I feel like my practice will stay the most important thing in my life, no matter what. At least without kids. My thinking mind says 'No, I don't want to have kids.' But I also know that my background plays a big role in this. Both my parents were married and divorced more than once. My childhood wasn't really devastating but it wasn't a happy one either. Plus I had cancer at a relatively young age which motivates me a lot to walk the spiritual path. I've become very aware of the fact that I am going to die someday - don't know why, don't know when.

So all that comes into play, too, I suppose. But another part of me thinks: when I dig through all my anxieties and conditioning, all my childhood stuff etc. I might one day regret not having kids. And I might regret not having them with my wife as she really is a hell of a kind and loveable person. But as much as I love my wife and can even see myself as a very loving and caring dad, on the other hand I see the differences and my lack of motivation to have kids. Will I turn against myself or even my wife and kids when I make this decision while ignoring my reservations? There are so many voices inside my head arguing for and against it. That's basically why I started the discussion to get more clear about it.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with your kids. Being less self-absorbed and make this life less about "me, me, me" is an important argument for me. And sometimes I think the bigger my aversion to having kids the more I might benefit from having them. That's definitely something to ponder about.

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/23/14 2:55 AM as a reply to Eric M W.
Eric M W:
I have three kids and one more on the way. emoticon
Thanks Eric for this very honest and balanced view. It speaks to both sides in me. But as I think a lot of the clarification process happens through disillussioning myself about what advantages/disadvantages there are.

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/23/14 3:00 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
I think one of the major problems is that I make this whole decision about me. Maybe instead I should take more responsibility for the (yet unborn) child. Maybe I should ask myself what would be the advantages or disadvantages for him/her if he/she one day becomes my son/daughter.
And will it make the world a better place if I raise children? Hm, food for thoughts...

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/23/14 4:35 AM as a reply to Eric M W.
Eric M W:

One of our very own here at the Dho attained first path as a stay-at-home dad.
Good luck! It's very possible.
Reading people's experiences I may be a bit of an outlier but most of the people here on the Dho are incredibly lucky to have found the information that can allow them permanent shifts for the better. I crossed the A&P around 18 and have cycled since then with a lot of time in the DN. That being said I have been a stay at home Dad for over 6 years and have gotten to 3rd path during that time. Stream entry happened before reading MCTB with no formal training in meditation. I would meditate in the recliner on my breath whenever the baby slept. I would often sleep myself. I went on one retreat after SE and have a daily practice at the gym of 40 minutes a day and sometimes twice with a couple group sits a week also. So around 7 hours a week most of the time. The kids take up the rest of the time but I do sneak in posts here while they play. So as far as a success story goes, progress and kids can happen.
The kids also teach lessons such as when I build an amazing cathedral of deep abiding calm only to see them smash this house of cards within five minutes of getting off the cushion. Staying in the moment with a 3 year old screaming at you is an opportunity that will not happen often in the monastic world. You get to test what you have and see what is real and workable and how much more there is to go. Your emotions, good and bad, get amplified and you learn new ways to express them.
Children take your life away that you are familiar with and give you a new one....what you make of it is up to you. Lots of work and lots of rewards. The older they get the easier is becomes to carve out time for yourself.
There are no easy answers on deciding to have children but I've found it is not solely an intellectual decision...follow your heart too.
Andreas Thef:
At one point I even considered becoming a monk but gave up that idea since I am married and love my wife very much.
This will happen with your children too.
I would recommend couples counseling to help get some clarity.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Walking the path - with kids
Answer
8/23/14 6:10 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thank you very much, DW. That was a very einlightening post.

@Eric: Thanks for the hint on the Dipa Ma book. I just bought the kindle version and am looking forward to read it.