How Your Practice Affects Others

My son Aidan and I from 2011

My son Aidan and I from 2011

The other evening – it was more like late afternoon about 4:30 or 5 – my 8-year-old son Aidan needed to get his piano practice started. He always gets a resting break for about an hour after his summer camp is done for the day. But today he wasn’t having it and he had a BAAAAAAD attitude about it.

We are all affected by the moods of others, both positive and negative. Often we become reactive and/or defensive when someone cops an attitude with us. But meditation can help us remain calm and think of more skillful ways of handling the situation with compassion. I could have forced my son to continue his piano lesson and be a tiger mom or something like that. I could have raised my voice and gotten angry with him for his attitude.

But I did something different. I let him be. Be with his anger. I let him know that being angry is OK. I said we could practice later because I didn’t want to sit through a practice with such anger, as it would be torture for both of us, and not a way to also enjoy music.

Speaking to him in a calm voice, I then left him alone. He hid in his closet and told me that sometimes he feels mad for no reason. (I had previously asked him what it was that was making him angry, trying to pick apart what he was feeling a little bit.)

So I went into my bedroom and started folding the laundry. A few minutes later he came to the doorway and I asked him if he wanted to fold up his socks into balls, which he likes to do now and then. I also know that kids, boys especially, tend to open up their feelings if they are also doing something at the same time. So he came in and he quietly began folding his socks.

We talked every now and then about nothing in particular and gradually Aidan’s mood lifted and by the time we finished the laundry, he was back to his old self. After dinner we practiced his piano with no trauma or drama. And I have to say that it felt wonderful to approach my son in this way. It could have been horrible, with both of us fighting and becoming upset, but I learned to be patient and compassionate toward this little being whom I love so much. We had an enjoyable piano lesson and we were both happy.

Thank you meditation practice. Thank you mindfulness.

Yearning for books and knowledge

Oh my gosh, my Kindle library is filling up fast, full of sample books I’ve downloaded that I use instead of my wish list. I don’t know how I am going to choose the next book to read. You know that dilemma, that paradox of choice called Analysis Paralysis? That’s what it might be like – I’ll have to close my eyes, swipe my tablet screen and choose whatever book is in the front. Talk about first world problems.

But anyway I’m still reading The Autobiography of a Yogi, as some days I have time only for a paragraph or a page. I also end up looking on Google Earth for some of the cities and towns in India that Paramhansa Yogananda mentions. Or look on Wikipedia for some of the saints and gurus. Isn’t it amazing all the information at your fingertips!

I would like to read a few more books of Yogananda’s and enroll in his Kriya meditation course, to compliment my Vipassana practice. It just feels right, that developing my own spiritual practice will also help my paintings. Just the other day during a meditation sitting, I had the vision for my next two paintings, so I went to my sketch pad right away and drew out rough sketches. I haven’t been able to do a whole lot of painting over the summer because of my work and summer school obligations, but I will be able to get back to it soon. It’s why it’s been over a week since my last post here!

More knowledge tempting me, too. I found a spiritual leader who runs a Yogananda center in the greater Seattle area – I found his blog and found his blog posts to be easy to read, informative and quite interesting. Read a couple of his popular posts listed on the homepage. One book he mentions is called American Veda, by Phillip Goldberg, and he writes a little bit about it. Sounds really interesting about the teachers who have come to America from India to bring their spiritual practices and teachings to the West. OK, added to my list. Even though I identify as Buddhist, I’m open minded about all this.

Then my friend Paul Garrigan, an Irish expat living in Thailand, wrote a book review on his blog. It is a book for beginning meditation and in it the jhanas are discussed. Jhanas are higher states of consciousness that is achieved during meditation, giving feelings of bliss, euphoria and causes insight. Yes, that sounds good, please.

But I want to find out more about jhanas first and I found this article in Reality Sandwich about Jhanas where another book was recommended called Focused and Fearless by Shaila Catherine. I looked it up immediately and she’s also written a new one called Wisdom Wide and Deep: A Practical Handbook for Mastering Jhana and Vipassana. Oh my, how am I going to ever get around reading all this?

Well, I can tell you that my interest in watching movies has gone down. I don’t sit in front of the TV much, just as part of a routine Golf and I have with Aidan every night before bedtime. Then I usually to go bed, too, reading my book til I fall asleep, usually 1/2 hour later or so.

Then as part of my 3-for-3 challenge this summer, I get up super early, have a coffee, read my uplifting book, then meditate for 30 minutes. No time in my day for movies or TV. I prefer my books.

Too bad that American Veda book isn’t on Audible yet. I just finished The Bond, and found it really interesting, confirming what I know deeply as truth.


Do you have a story about how meditation and mindfulness changed a situation around for the better? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to read it, as would others. Thank you for your practice.

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3 Responses to How Your Practice Affects Others

  1. Paul Garrigan August 10, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

    Hi Amy, I found this episode with your son to be very interesting. I think one of the benefits of meditation/mindfulness is it gives me a choice before I react.

    I remember a few years ago, during a time when I was meditating a lot, I got into an disagreement with my wife over something silly. My usual automatic reaction to this type of event would be to sulk and give her the silent treatment. That time though, I realized that I had a choice, and I decided to apologize instead. It defused the situation, and I’ve not used the silent treatment since.

    • AmyT August 25, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      It totally gives you a choice! In Buddhism, that is the second arrow. Remember that story? The Buddha asked, “If you were hit with an arrow would it hurt?” Yes, of course. “If you were hit with a second arrow, would it hurt more?” The impulsive answer might be yes, but instead it is a choice on how you react to the first arrow, which is suffering that exists.

      I like your story with your wife, and I imagine that this more open communication has brought you both closer. Similarly with my practice, it has enabled me to open up and listen to my husband when he has something critical to say of my behavior. I was always listening to my iPod or radio with my headphones, so I was never really there with Aidan and him. And they would both feel that and not like it, but they would keep it to themselves. Finally he opened up to me and instead of being defensive, I was receptive. Now I only listen when I know I am not going to interact.


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