by Subha Srinivasan.
Today I want to write about unsung heroes: the heroes in our lives who make it possible for us to build something we love. And who do it joyfully without knowing the ripple effect they create.
Eileen Ruml, a fellow sangha member, is one of those heroes. Eileen, along with Daniella Malin, a parent and sangha member, had the vision of beginning a mindfulness family group where kids could come together and train in this practice of being present and being a community, while at the same time providing an opportunity for parents to sit together separately and cultivate their own practice.
The family sits came at the perfect time for me. I had been part of the sangha for many years, but, since becoming a parent, I found it hard to attend the sits regularly, though I tried many times. Evenings were difficult because dinner and bedtime made it hard for me to commit in a sustainable way, and I was looking for a way to be more regular in my practice. Catharine Engwall, another sangha member, was also deeply interested in this family group.
The first family sit came together in the summer of 2016 on a Sunday afternoon, and Eileen generously offered her beautiful home as a place for us to meet. A few of us showed up with our little ones. The kids practiced mindfulness with breathing balls and meditation bells, after which they played at the playground, while the grown-ups sat together uninterrupted for a meditation sit and discussion.
I could not believe this opportunity! It was incredible to have the time to sit together and also know that my daughter was getting an opportunity to learn some of these valuable tools herself. We started going regularly; however, as winter came, keeping up with the logistics was difficult, and the group took a hiatus.
The group began again this summer in a new location: the Howe Library on Sunday afternoons. And there was one more change: we now had Peg Meyer, our amazing teacher from Valley Insight, to guide the grown-ups at least once a month. Valley Insight had long been looking for a way to support families. This connection between the VIMS sangha and this new community of parents and children was a precious gift for all of us. And it would not have been possible without Eileen stepping in again to guide our children. She seamlessly picked up the threads where they had been left the previous winter. Our kids returned to the practice, and we met some new faces in the group. New parents and kids joined us, and the beautiful and somewhat public space at Howe removed some of the stress of keeping the group going. With support from Peg and the sangha, and despite the various comings and goings of families––and children being sick or attending birthday parties––we have managed to show up on Sunday afternoons to sit together.
In the first week of October 2017, we had our first sit at the Kilton Library in West Lebanon. The room was filled with children listening to bells and giving their thoughts on what they noticed about the sounds. The grown-ups seemed refreshed after sitting in silence in the conference room, led by Valley Insight sangha member Bob Metz. My heart felt so happy! As many of us in this group are realizing, a mindful community cannot be built without the commitment and support of teachers and parents, and we are so very grateful to have both! With her thoughtfulness, Eileen keeps this practice alive for a new generation of five- to eight-year-olds that will build our community and future. And the ripple she is creating is already felt in my home and community.
Please join us if you have a family and would like to practice together! The group meets at the Kilton Library in West Lebanon at 1:00 p.m. on Sundays. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with the ages of your children so that Eileen can plan the activities accordingly.