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Meditating to transform the mind

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At a Southwest Buddhist center, a local mom is 'making meaning' through meditation


SUBMITTED PHOTO - Heather Rocklin and her daughter, Piper, practice meditation at Kadampa Buddhist Center.Heather Rocklin offers a warm smile and greeting as she answers the door of Kadampa Buddhist Center at 3635 S.W. Hood Ave.

Fifteen-month-old Piper, tucked under Heather’s right arm, smiles just as warmly and broadly as her mother.

I am visiting to learn more from Heather about her practice of meditation, and in particular her practice of meditating with children. I was curious how meditation had influenced her as a parent and teacher of young people.

Heather, raised in an observant Jewish home on the East Coast, has been a resident of Oregon since she attended college in Eugene, where she studied to be a teacher. It was in Eugene that she first encountered Buddhism, and she has been practicing ever since. As Piper moved between us, grinning engagingly and playing with a small pile of toys, I asked Heather how she feels that Buddhism, and particularly her meditation practice, has changed her as a parent.

As a parent, she says, Buddhist meditation has completely transformed her mind by helping her recognize her own delusions. Now she realizes that she has the ability to choose to be agitated or calm. Heather recognizes the power of this ability in any situation, and it’s particularly helpful when parenting a toddler can become stressful or tiring!

Piper, who has been playing quietly on the floor between us, pulls out a sturdy, uninflated balloon and puts it in my hand. I blow it up and then let the air out, making a funny noise. She laughs. As we continue to talk, Piper pats my hand again and again. Again and again I blow up the balloon and then release the air. Each time the air blows out, it delights her as much as it had the time before.

As I watch Piper’s delighted face, completely absorbed in the sound and color of the balloon, it occurs to me that maybe one of the most challenging parts of meditation — staying present to the moment — is completely natural. Maybe mindfulness is pushed away by the pressures and stresses of childhood and adulthood, and the goal is to return to a state of mind that is present when we are born. Heather agrees, calling this the Buddha nature, which she says is inside everyone. 

Because Piper is of an age where she is eager to imitate adults, Heather leads her often in practicing meditation. Like her mom, Piper crosses her legs, sits on a cushion and imitates the motion of taking a deep breath. We talked about how practice leads eventually to internal shifting and then that internal shift leads to practice.

Heather recognizes how important it is to teach verbally, and also to model behaviorally for her daughter. One of the behaviors she models is seeking community. Although she has a daily personal practice, Heather prefers to meditate in a group, comparing the effort and energy to cleaning a room. Cleaning a room, she says, is much easier with a whole broom than with a single straw. In the same way, when meditating with a group, she is strengthened by the inspiration and support she finds there.

Meditation, Heather asserts, is not meant just to relax the practitioner. It is meant to transform minds so that every situation can be approached with peace and kindness. That’s a transformation that not only parents but the whole world can use.

Jennifer Garrison Brownell is pastor at Hillsdale Community Church–United Church of Christ and the author of the forthcoming memoir “Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath.”