World Moms Network has teamed up with the Heartfulness Institute as a media partner for their upcoming meditation conferences in the United States. As part of this partnership, World Moms Blog will feature a meditation related post each week through the end of June. This week, World Moms Senior Editor, Kyla P’an, sat down (virtually) with Heartfulness trainer, Tonia Anne, to have a deeper conversation about meditation. Here’s what Tonia had to say about her journey:
Tonia is a terrific example of a World Mom: she is half-Irish, half-French, her husband is Indian and they live across the river from the Melting Pot of America, New York City. She is raising two children, ages seven and four, and has been practicing meditation for more than twenty years. Talking with Tonia is a little like listening to classical music, it’s melodic and soothing. She’s delightfully at peace and put together but she says her life hasn’t always been so.
“In my early-twenties, life seemed quite confusing. I was a sensitive young adult quite lacking in self-assurance. I was studying and working in the professional theatre and life felt complicated. In this context, my mom, who had started practicing meditation a few years earlier, encouraged me also to try meditation.”
When Tonia’s mom put her in touch with a Heartfulness trainer, Tonia was surprised to discover how easy it was to get started; all she had to do was meet with a trainer for 30-minutes each day for three consecutive days to learn how to do this heart-centered meditation. After the three sessions, Tonia knew how to meditate on her own. The trainer encouraged her to join weekly group meditation sessions, which she did. There was a lot of support.
But Tonia didn’t become a regular meditator overnight. Just as acquiring any new skill, it took practice. “I didn’t do it every day at first but I did find myself looking forward to the good feeling I got from meditating, so I found ways to fit it in,” she reflects.
“Heartfulness meditation is so utterly simple. There is nothing complicated about it. You connect with your heart, rest your awareness there, the ongoing thoughts recede into the background. You are still; and at the same time you are receptive to your heart, which enables you to capture its guidance. Progressively there’s a growing sense of clarity and peacefulness,” says Tonia.
“It feels like the most natural thing to do, like following an inner compass. Like bringing yourself back to yourself.”
To hear Tonia describe meditation makes you realize, perhaps anyone can do this successfully. She’s convinced they can. Meditation, after all, is tuning into a quality of being rather than making something happen.
To help non-practitioners better understand what happens with thoughts, Tonia provides a simple, visual image:
“Picture a river with a bridge over it. Crossing the bridge are lots of little cars. These cars are your thoughts and rather than focusing your attention on any one of the cars (thoughts), you can step back and notice that the river flows nonetheless. At any given moment you can choose where to direct your attention, here we rest our attention on a single point in the heart.”
“We work well with patterns and routines,” she adds. “If you create a place for your meditation (a comfortable chair, a room, a specific spot on the floor), and set a regular time each day to practice, be it 10, 20 or 30 minutes, then soon enough, it becomes a routine.”
Twenty years in, Tonia now meditates every day. Her practice starts when she naturally wakes up before 6 a.m., “before everyone else in my house gets up; before the hustle and bustle of the day; before the e-mails and schedules, when the mind is calmer.” This is the time she takes for herself and she does it by settling into a designated chair in her family room for a thirty to sixty-minute session. She says it makes her feel centered and gives her poise. It sets the tone for her day, and the whole family seems to benefit.
“We are constantly being solicited, especially as moms. We are constantly nurturing and attending to others’ needs. Meditation is my time to be nurtured. Setting aside time for myself in a deep way, where I am connecting with my deepest longing, helps me find balance and deal better,” says Tonia.
When asked how she decided to make meditation such an integral part of her life, Tonia’s answer was simple and beautiful:
“As a child I would wonder in awe at life, at this life that had been given and that I was in, and have a sense that there must be something to make of it…a sense of a diffuse dream. Meditation is like remembering the dream and living more on purpose.”
To learn more about the Heartfulness Institute and their upcoming US conferences, please visit their website: www.heartfulness.org
Last week I took my daughter to a local book store to spend a gift card she received for her birthday. My daughter loves books and had a hard time deciding what she wanted most, to purchase the final books in one of her existing collections or get something totally new.
While I was in a different section, my daughter engaged the children’s department manager in a book discussion. Evidently sharing with the woman all of her latest good-reads, which included much of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, all of the Harry Potters, and several non-fictions like I Am Malala and A Long Walk to Water.
When I arrived back on the scene, the woman commended me for raising such a voracious reader and said she was amazed that my daughter went to public school, being convinced that only private schools could produce such a 3rd grade equivalent.
I didn’t know if I should be flattered or offended.
The woman, who was in her late 50’s, was a retired educator herself and clearly had a deep passion for books and strong opinions about appropriate reading levels. She impressed upon me that many of my daughter’s book choices were advanced for her age and encouraged me to consider steering her away from further indulgences.
This sentiment concerned me because, until recently, I had kept close tabs on what my children were reading and most of the advanced books were ones we read together. But lately, my daughter had been zooming ahead of me, finding pockets of reading time at school and also before lights out at night.
Admitedly, I hadn’t read any of the Percy Jackson books. Knowing that the books had been made in to PG-13 movies did have me somewhat concerned about content but was I really hearing this book specialist right? Was she really trying to stymie my child’s enthusiasm for reading by directing her choices?
The woman was trying to point out that my daughter is only a third grader once and there were plenty of sweet, age-appropriate books out there for her to indulge in. Didn’t I want to save these 6th, 7th and 8th grade books for later?
I really had to think about this.
After all aren’t I always trying to slow my daughter’s maturity? Aren’t I the same mother that won’t let her watch teen television shows because they’re too sassy and full of content ahead of her age? Could books be presenting the same issue?
I’ve grappled with this for the better part of 7 days now. What are the demigods in Percy Jackson doing up there at Camp Half Blood? Aside from the reality of Malala Yousafzai getting shot point blank by the Taliban, what fictional characters might be playing out scandalous scenes in my daughter’s young mind from The Secret Benedict Society?
Does it make me a less engaged parent if I don’t keep my finger on the pulse of my childrens’ literary lives? Do I need to give up my own sacred reading time to be sure I’m on topic with my kids?
A writer friend of mine told me once that the difference between books and movies was that movies spoon feed us all of the images and visuals in a story whereas books let our imaginations fill in the scenery.
When kids read books with ideas or content beyond their experience levels, their minds fill in the pictures age appropriately.
I saw this first hand when My daughter read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in first grade without having bad dreams but when she saw the movie in second grade, she had nightmares about the final images of Voldemort for months.
I love my daughter passion for reading and I’m proud of her advanced and eclectic book selections but now there’s a little nagging voice whispering in my ear every time she picks up a new and unfamiliar novel.
And in the end, instead of helping us find a few new, good books, I think the well-intentioned saleswoman may have done more harm than good.
Where do you stand with letting your children read ahead of their age level? Do you think this saleswoman had a point?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our senior editor and mom to two, Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post is credited to the author.
Solar year, 2015—celebrated in most of the Western world— is small potatoes compared to its lunar counterpart starting today: The Year of the Goat, 4713.
Today, in many countries across Asia, people are celebrating Chinese New Year [CNY]. It marks the first day of the lunar year, which begins with the second new moon after the Winter Solstice.
CNY is the most important holiday for Chinese people world-wide and is celebrated in countries with significant Chinese populations (Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Mauritius).
Even right here in America, in ways both big and small, Chinese families are celebrating the Year of the Goat too.
My husband, a first generation Chinese-American, brought his Chinese culture into our home and together we have established our own family traditions.
Both our 8 and 5 year old children attend Chinese Language School so our celebrations typically begin there. This year, each of our kids performed in a class skit—one doing a New Year’s song and the other both a song and dance.
Their Chinese school rents out a local auditorium and the celebration goes on for four hours, complete with traditional paper decorations, red lanterns and Chinese snacks of spring rolls, scallion pancakes and fortune cookies (the latter of which I’m pretty sure is a wholly American invention).
And though the four-hour Chinese school celebration feels long and drawn out, it’s nothing compared to the 15-day celebration going on over in Asia.
We live just outside of Boston, a city boasting a large Chinatown. If we’re really motivated, we can fight the crowds and view Lion Dancers, firecrackers in the street and dine on authentic Chinese fare surrounded by thousands of people.
This year, however, our city is buried under record amounts of snow (96.7in/2.5m) so we won’t be making any such pilgrimage.
Sometimes we have friends over and make homemade wontons, a symbolic food representing a pouch of coins, or Hot Pot. Other years we just make sure we eat some kind of Chinese food (either at home or in a restaurant).
We also make sure we always give our kids Hong Bao, little, red envelopes filled with “lucky” money. Since our kids don’t get an allowance, this feels special to them. We never give them very much because it’s the gesture that counts but if they happen to be lucky enough to visit their great-grandmother around Chinese New Year, they might get upwards of $50.
I know these little traditions are modest compared to mainland China but we hope that in our small way we are instilling in our children a some sense of the deep culture they are part of.
Gong Xi Fa Cai!
How do you hold on to your cultural heritage? What are some traditions you’ve incorporated into your own family?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two in Boston, Massachusetts, Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post was taken by the author.
I have long been an advocate of girls education. It is something I want every girl, wherever she is in the world, to have access to. I deeply believe educating girls is a major proponent in our quest to improve the world.
So when my daughter was born eight years ago, I committed myself to ensuring that she would always have the access to and support she needs in attaining the best education my husband and I can give her.
But along with the paramount importance her education is to me, so too is her understanding of how valuable having an education is and how lucky she is to have safe schools and multiple options available to her.
But how do you impart this to an eight-year-old?
Like the majority of other eight-year-olds in the US, my daughter takes it for granted that she attends school five-days-a-week, Monday through Friday. But she also attends school on Sunday, when she goes to Chinese School. And this she does not take for granted, instead she long viewed it as a hindrance to her free-time. Because, though she only spends 90-minutes a week at Chinese school, its homework load and test schedule far exceed that of her American school, where she spends more than 30-hours-a-week.
Whenever my daughter complains about the work load or Chinese school conflicting with social events, I find myself saying:
You have NO idea how lucky you are to have more than one school to attend.
But until recently, this was a phrase delivered with little impact. That is, until my daughter started reading her latest book: I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai.
She received the book for Christmas, along with A Long Walk to Water, from her aunt. When she opened the gift, I was thrilled because, though I love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, here were some stories that really mattered; finally, some glimpses into a REAL world, just one my child did not yet know.
I hoped, desperately, that she’d want to read these stories.
I was in luck.
Almost as soon as she picked up I Am Malala, she had trouble putting it down. It was filled with concepts she had trouble getting her head around: like the idea that a person could board Malala’s “school bus” with the intent to kill her or that having access to school was a privilege.
It had her asking all kinds of questions: about hardships and hurdles girls in other parts of the world have to face in order to get an education; about what it means to be a top student; about what sorts of sacrifices students (and their families) have to make in pursuit of education.
Reading Malala’s story is opening my daughter’s eyes to the opportunities and freedoms she takes for granted and it is giving her a deeper gratitude for what she has.
I don’t want my young children to worry about the injustices and evil out in the world but I do want them to understand better the many blessings they have and that not everyone has the same access to these opportunities.
Tomorrow, here in the US, our Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will air the third and final episode of #APathAppears. In January, when World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay and I attended the pre-screening of this series in New York, by invitation of @SaveTheChildren, it was episode 3 that resonated most with me.
The episode highlights Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya. But rather than showing us the desperate side of life in the slum, viewers (and readers of the eponymous book before) are introduced to Kennedy Odede and his wife Jessica and the organization they have built, Shining Hope for Communities(SHOFCO).
Like me, and so many others, SHOFCO knows that the pathway to hope is guided by educating girls. Authors Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn remind us that, if enough people walk in the direction of hope, ultimately A Path Appears.
You can watch the PBS series, A Path Appears online, by clicking here. Or read the book of the same title by husband and wife journalists @NickKristoff and Sheryl @WuDunn.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sr. Editor and mother of two in Massachusetts, USA, Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post is credited to the author.
As World Moms, the school massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan is not just “their” issue, it’s our issue too.
We are shaken to the core. December is supposed to be a month filled with hope, joy, peace and love. It is a month of holidays, coming together and sharing our gifts. Yet in 2012 we were faced with the horror of 36 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, a tragedy we hoped would not repeat in our lifetimes. In April, the kidnapping of 276 school girls in Chibok, Nigeria. And just yesterday, 145, mostly school children, killed in the #PeshawarAttack.
In this special report, we bring you the voices of moms from around the world as they weigh in on this very personal issue:
World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden (USA): What are we going to do about this? What is it going to take? Where are the girls from Chibok? Where are the children who died in Peshawar? How can anybody join an ideology that is violent to children? The good in the world far outweighs the bad in the world. I keep telling myself that. And I believe that. How do we unbrainwash those who are using religion for bad? Why is religion in the wrong hands so dangerous? Yet, in the right hands can be so positive? I have a lot of unanswered questions after reading the sad news from Peshawar.
Senior Editor, Purnima Ramakrisnan (INDIA): I was channel surfing on the TV yesterday afternoon and was dumb-struck by the news of the attack on the army school in Peshawar. The latest reportssay that almost 150 people were killed, the majority being children. One news channel says that a teacher was burnt aliveand the students were made to watch it. A few of them were beheaded and the rest watched the horror. Forget worrying about your child watching PG or Adult Rated Content on the TV. Some child across the world is watching it live, unable to grasp the tangible reality of hatred and violence.
Managing Editor, Kyla P’an (USA): I am heartsick over this tragedy. As a journalist, I typically share current events with my kids (8 & 5) and have real-world conversations with them about what’s happening globally. I simply cannot let them know about one more school tragedy. School should be a safe place. A place to be around their peers, adults who care and nurture them and a thriving environment to learn. This tragedy is beyond my maternal processing capabilities. A little piece of every mom is chipped away every time an atrocity happens to anyone’s child.
World Voice Editor, Elizabeth Atalay (USA): The attack in Peshawar yesterday was a horrific act of barbaric cowardice. As a mother it sickens me to the core, and I know that today mothers around the world are in mourning for those innocent lives lost. My heart cries for the families of the lives taken yesterday in this senseless act of violence against children. Innocent children at school. I just can’t even fully express the despair the thought of it brings.
Contributor, Maureen H. (INDONESIA): It is so difficult to process such a horrible news. I cried and as a mom I cannot imagine the kind of grief and pain these parents have to go through. How do they move forward? How do they find peace? Is that even possible? It is every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child but to have them taken away with such cruelty? I am in tears writing this.
Copy Editor, Elizabeth M. (USA): Devastating. Memories of Sandy Hook. I went to the Facebook page of my friend who had lived and worked in Pakistan for many years and saw pictures of families gathering in the parks in protest… candles… calls for solidarity. But I also feel incredibly helpless. So much intake of such bad news lately. I have a very concrete need to DO something or else I will have to tune out completely. And I suppose it’s the mundane work of peace building in my home and community, but it feels incredibly insignificant.
Contributor, Martine de Luna (PHILIPPINES): This is all very difficult to hear. I just found out a couple of hours ago, and being pregnant right now, I am rather emotional about it. Angry, mostly; hurting and crying for the mothers and fathers of the children. There is absolutely NO justification, no cause that warrants the murder of innocent children!!! It enrages me to think such evil exists in this world. We are used to hearing about war and strife, but every time innocent children are brutalized like this, it’s like I am paralyzed by grief and anger, the kind of anger only a mother would understand, the kind that stems from something unjustly stolen from you and there was nothing you could do about it.
Contributor, Karyn Vanderzwet (NEW ZEALAND): I don’t watch much “news”….. haven’t for a long time. Yet, still I heard.
I’m over hearing that children have been killed in cold blood.
I’m over feeling like my heart’s been ripped out… that, there but the Grace of God go I.
I’m over having my mother love stomped on, as if it means nothing.
Every death is painful.
Every child lost breaks my heart.
How can those mothers stand it?
How did mothers, at any time, stand it?
Contributor, Sophia J. (USA): Having just given birth the doctor asks me if I have any feelings of depression, presumably because of the birth. Well I am not depressed, but I am so saddened by what is going on in the world. I try not to be depressed by it. When you specifically start thinking about what injustices and torturous things children go through, then it becomes even harder to stay positive and happy; even if you do believe in God. Because even with a belief in a creator, you wonder why is it the children have to go through such experiences as kidnappings at school, beatings when still infants, torture by the nanny, raped by teachers and priests, and death by extremists who abhor freedom in education. Why? It’s a lot to take from a distance, I cannot begin to imagine what people in these areas are feeling! Let alone the parents….and the children….who are supposed to assume school is a safe place to be. I don’t exactly know what to say, but I feel this is a problem that comes from people’s take on religion, as well as behaviors that are accepted by the majority.
Contributor, Aisha Yesufu (NIGERIA): As an advocate and activist for #BringBackOurGirls in Chibok, Nigeria, Aisha says she is devastated by this news.
Contributor, Nadege Nicoll (USA): I am horrified for so many reasons. Firstly, by how anyone with half an ounce of human cell in them could bring themselves to commit such a senseless, heinous crime. Secondly, by the sheer injustice in this world. In the name of what can this ever be just? Finally, by the disappointment I am afraid will follow: because, as much as I want to believe that this is going to change something for the better, I don’t think it will. In the US, kids in an elementary school got shot at point blank, but following the outrage and shcok, NOTHING has changed. And that is a chilling fact. Finally, I am crying for the innocent kids who lost their lives. As a mother, nothing could be more horrifying. I am crying for the survivors who lived this attack and will have to try and make sense of something that does not. I am crying for the parents and families, the world is crying with them.
Contributor, Meredith S. (USA): This takes me back to Dec.14, 2012…. When the classroom of first graders were murdered here in the U.S. My son was in first grade at the time and it really hit home for me. Just when I think there couldn’t be anything worse than a classroom of murdered first graders, yesterday I find out an entire school of innocent defenseless children are murdered. My mind cannot comprehend the evil and I will never be able to imagine the loss, heart break, and anger the mothers, Fathers, and families of the victims must be feeling. My heart is broken. If people cannot respect the lives of children then I do not know what the future holds….