Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Families Overnight at Aryaloka

Megrette Fletcher has sent us this report from Aryaloka, the FWBO's snow-bound retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA -

"From Saturday evening to Sunday noontime during the recent school vacation, a small group of children aged 5-11 were formally introduced to the Dharma at the Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center. Entering the shrine room, these curious youngsters started to explore the purpose of meditation, different sitting positions, making offerings, and sharing Buddhist stories.

"Each parent had a chance to connect with all of the children, sharing with them how the Dharma has opened the parents' thoughts and hearts. Other activities included visiting outside shrines, yoga, coloring Buddhist images, and reading stories. These were woven into more traditional kid play like coloring, sledding, and sharing a snack. The parents also had a chance to talk with each other about how they would like to share the Buddha's teachings with their children. Parents acknowledge that there isn't any one way to introduce the Dharma to youngsters, but whatever way is used - including incorporating curiosity - creativity and fun are important strategies to include.

"The emphasis on spiritual friendship that is central to the FWBO was also considered when planning this mini-retreat. The overall structure was purposely left flexible in order to encourage the growth and development of free play and connections among the children.

"After the event, each youngster was given an opportunity to offer feedback. The older children were interested in more formal instruction in meditation and more chances to work together. Parents thought a walking meditation with chanting might be good for the younger kids. All the children wanted to return to Aryaloka. When asked why, the answer was an enthusiastic: 'It is just really fun to be here!'"

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