Monday, November 1, 2010



I'm such not a fan of passing out sugar to kids. It's hard enough most days to be in touch with what you want and how to get it, without jacking up glucose levels and making everyone's eyeballs spin backwards.
Nonetheless, my kids do love it, and we weren't able to come up with an acceptable substitute to the ritual. After about six streets, our little devil, batman and ballerina-princess-mexican-wrestler reconvened with us at a friend's house, to proceed wading through the booty: Nothing with artifical colors or gluten for this one; nothing with egg or dairy for this one; and this one - well, she can eat most anything but that's just way too much, so pick out your favorite half of it.
I did enjoy seeing my wife (the Naturopathic Dr) in rare form, having decided to throw up her hands and let fly, suspending almost every food rule for 24 hours. And as the kids got crazier, and wilder, and more out of control, she just kept on exuding patience and calm, reigning them in only as much as was needed to keep them from running out in the streets.
[I on the other hand was done with the event before it started, and had to keep almost constant watch over myself, forcing myself to have fun with them. "There's just so many OTHER ways!!!"]
One of our friend couples have introduced their kids to the "sugar fairy," this poor fairy lady with a ton of kids who all basically live on sugar over the winter, and never quite have enough to satisfy them. I forget the details, but it has something to do with sending them a message via the moon, and leaving the candy our where they can get it and leave you a present in exchange. Seems like a pretty good deal, but our 9-y.o. is so close to breaking the code on the whole fairy/bunny/santa thing that we can't risk "discovering" a new one.

Bodhisattva Activity

Once again we find ourselves sitting on three large sacks of variously shaped and colored sugar junk, which we hardly ever have in our house other than this time of year. And once again I find myself forced into the position of consuming as much of it as humanly possible without my kids noticing. It's not fun, but for them, I will accept the burden. (Especially after having trained them to choose Reese's when there's an option.)

Do you have a clever way of handling the Halloween craze other than throwing up your hands and wearing earplugs for two days?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mr Mom

Scene One, Take One

My wife is away for a three-day conference, so Mr Mom is pulling all the stops to make this a fun weekend. I usually end up clearing my schedule almost wide-open to play, so it's kind of a "break" for me as well.  a way.

Smoothie, pancakes and eggs on the table, twenty minutes to eat before teeth and shoes and off to school. Then, basically the first full sentence I hear this morning comes from my 9 y.o.: "No offense, but it's a lot easier when you're gone than when mom's gone."
Nice. She left about twenty-five minutes ago.
I later confirmed by phone what I thought that very moment: "There's no way in hell she's more accommodating when you three are climbing all over her flying solo."
And anyway, how did such an awesome Buddhist practitioner come to raise such a little shit? Need to look into that.
"I said 'no offense,' didn't I?!" Yes. Yes you did. None taken. Would you like another pancake?

I've been really digging this whole "teach your kids to hold you to bodhisattva ideals" thing. Not only because it really pushes me to raise the bar in terms of generosity, discipline and patience, but because at the same time it shows them the real measure of what it takes to be on the path. They are learning what a bodhisattva "ought" to act like, and that's a good thing, even if I don't measure up.

Day Two

We carved pumpins today. I took the opportunity to remind them of how things don't always go according to plan. What's the Japanese saying? "One pumpkin, one cut" or something like that. My oldest quotes her art teacher that sometimes a "mistake" turns into a masterpiece. I agree, but add that some mistakes end in a pile of rubble, so we need to be careful at the same time we're open to medium-influence.
As it turns out, all three pumpkins are mighty fierce and everyone is pleased. I'm happy to postpone the lesson. ;)

Afterward, we played a little more with the watch-your-mind-for-thoughts game. This time, after a few moments of the "say THOUGHT" bit, we changed it to waiting and watching and when a solid worthwhile thought arose, we were to sing "om mani padme hum" and imagine the thought turning into butterflies and dried leaves, blown away by the wind, and then return to watching.
I was amazed at how interested they were in the whole thing. We didn't spend as much time as the other day, maybe ten minutes if that, but it was pleasing just to feel that I'd given them another bit of exposure to the world of training the mind.

Maybe it makes up a little bit for me wanting to sell them to the lowest bidder just hours before, when for reasons beyond comprehension they decided to test how annoying and sarcastic they could be to one another in the car.

What is the seasonally adjusted market value of a three-pack of monsters?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't Fence Me In (Boredom pt 1)

I'm BORED!!!

I'm convinced kids are not built to be inside an enclosed structure for more than about 20% of their waking hours. If I can manage to get them fed and clothed and physically out the door they are perfectly content watching bugs, climbing trees, raking leave (yes really!) or "helping" in the garden.
For some strange reason once there's a roof and walls involved, it does not matter how many toys or activities are at their disposal, they have an amazing skill for finding "nothing to do." In my town there's at least 300 days of sunshine, and very few of the other days where there's not "some" sun shining; getting them outside for part of the day is not usually a problem. But with a three-year-old I do have to be present, and I can't always be outside, so there are points where they (gasp!) have to come in. Understand, with three children, our house is rarely very clean for very long, and I think that's part of the reason things seem so uncreative - there's just too much going on. (It is not lost on me the striking similarity to own mind and hesitation to sit down among the clutter.) Outside there's room, freedom. Everything has space to be its amazing self without being shouted down. But sit inside for long, and everything is somehow not just uninviting, but downright unwelcoming!

Mind Games

I tried a little something the other day, with all three of them. [Keep in mind: 9, 5 and 3 years.] We sat in a circle and took a few breaths... ("oh boy, here comes another one of Daddy's weird exercises; admitted, sometimes they're fun) and tried to see how long it took one of us to have a clear thought. "Swirling mushy thoughts don't count." When a thought arose, we were to shout "THOUGHT!" at the top of our lungs.
At first they all just wanted to shout, but then they started to sense the challenge of holding out the longest, and the ever-present sibling competitiveness kicked in. Somehow the tension between wanting to hold out and wanting to shout kept them somewhat honest. We spent most of the time giggling, but once that got old I changed the rules a bit: instead of shouting, we were to gently say what the thought was. I was amazed at how similar their random monkey-thoughts were to my own: "How long are going to do this?" "I'm hungry." "Poopy Butt Penis Head!"
[Well, okay, maybe they aren't exactly same, but qualitatively there's not much to pick between.]
We did this for about twenty minutes before they'd had enough and I cut them loose. After that they seemed a little more content to run off and play — maybe because they were more tuned in, maybe because their creative juices were flowing, maybe just to keep from being wrangled into another weird experiment. Regardless, the results have motivated me to come up with more interesting "games" to try out on them, to help them be more aware of the space in and around them, but also to give us a chance to study our inner world together.
I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Do you have any ideas for kid-friendly meditation exercises?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Perfections (1 of 6)

Heart and Soul

Yesterday I brought up the issue of attachment to homeland and family. It's a potent topic, especially for those of us that think it's not.

The question I've been playing with is:
To what extent if any can family ties transcend worldly attachment to "me and mine?"

Anyone with children knows the profound feelings of cherishing another, of being fully responsible for their safety and well-being and of simple adoration that arises naturally as part of making a human. These feelings are part of our nature, even more so it seems for the mother than the father. Call it part of being womb-born, like having to eat and shit: there's no sense aggressively fighting it off, and anyway it would seem to be a subtle form of asceticism to reject these feelings.
What we can do however is apply what we know about interdependence and shunyata, suffering and non-focused compassion so that our place and meaning within the family is seen as the immediate, particular example of how we beings are all "in this together," and need to help one another.

Dāna what t'do?

Dāna, generosity, is the first in the list of six pāramitās in the Mahayana tradition. Despite being first, it is actually quite difficult to practice. [There are loads of excellent articles written by authentic teachers on the net about the outer, inner and subtle aspects of the six perfections, so I won't bother trying to explain the details. If you need some direction, please let me know and I'll point you there.]
We're charged with practicing the six pāramitās within the so-called "three empty spheres," being the awareness that the person acting, the act itself and the person/being receiving are all three empty of inherent nature, and so the effectiveness of our practice is immediately gauged by our understanding of the nature of things, which understanding is of course always deepening — but we start where we are.
It might make immediate sense to think that parents have a knack, forced as they are, to give generously... but I haven't seen it. Taking care of your own is not particularly a higher deed, it's standard samsaric M.O.  Every creature takes care of its young.
Just because I hand my paycheck over to "the family," and take the small glass of morning smoothie when I don't make enough, and take time to read to my kids at night...I won't say I'm not a decent dad, but these aren't the actions of pāramitā. What we need is to translate that caring and generosity to all beings, and again our relationship with our children can give us a solid starting point.
I feel like my relationship with my spouse is, in a sense, a bridge from that relationship with my kids as provider, to the relationship I have with others in the world: she's in charge of her own fate, and yet I care for her deeply and find it easier to give for her happiness than I do for a stranger. It's like my kids are showing me this precious and fragile egg, which I can then carefully bring to show my wife, and from there have an easier time taking it out the door to share with others. (Does that make any sense whatsoever to anyone else?!)

Quid pro quo

With this pāramitā in particular, there really is a sense of giving to get. I wonder if it's part of why it's listed first. The other five are easier when we "get" that the losing-its-opposite is actually a treasure. When we give, people treat us better, we have more energy, and we gain stability beyond these temporal collections we lean on. This in turn helps us clear the way for understanding this "emptiness of the three spheres" in a way that's not just intellectual theory. But first we have to appreciate that the having and keeping are the problem, and the giving is actually the treasure. That little bit of figuring is why we listen, contemplate and meditate on the teachings.

Is the need to support and provide for your children an obstacle to practicing generosity in the world?
How can this be overcome?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Married With Children (pt 2)

Fine, and You?

I was thinking about daily life vs. that of a wandering yogi. The deeper truth seems to be that we are all wandering, it's just the the yogi manifests it openly while most of us live in denial of it. We keep ourselves very busy, frantically trying to erect order, and then spend any spare time spackling all the cracks in the walls as the ground moves.
As much as we like to think our job will be there tomorrow, and our insurance will cover"it" whatever that might be, the closest we can ever get to "security" is making friends with insecurity. As a parent and husband, there's lots to want to protect, but as a follower of the Buddhadharma I see there is really no way to avoid the suffering that pervades life, and (in fact because of that) nothing actually to protect and nothing to protect from. It would be lovely if everyone - my family included - could have a long and happy and healthy life, but it doesn't always happen. Much of the "tragedy" in any tragedy is the destruction of that fantasy, that things are fine.
On the one hand, things are fine: we have food, our health, etc. But on the other hand, there's no getting out of here alive, and the causes for our current relative comfort are many and uncertain, as evidenced with the recent economic downturn shuffling countless out onto the street without much warning. The recent fires here in Northern CO are another reminder of how quickly things can "go south."
Most people avoid confronting the possibilities of tragedy lurking around every corner, because it would simply make them upset. But it's not such a good trade-off if you ask me. When you realize just how precious your situation is, then you can find the motivation to do something worthwhile in life. And then the "safety measures" that life does warrant can be taken without either tip-toeing around in fear or strolling off a cliff in denial. I have fire insurance on my house, but I'm not scared or worried about it burning down. I also have two extinguishers handy, and keep an eye on their pressure.
When look into my kids' eyes, that terrible preciousness of having a human birth, unbearably and inevitably transforming from present to past, is a steady reminder that none of this is "mine." I will not choose to ignore that, but it doesn't make me want to grab a bowl and wander off; quite the opposite.

On his blog "Treasury of Ati," Malcolm Smith translates a bit of  (I believe Rigdzin Godem's) terma The Ten Steps of Profound Critical Points:
The Guru said, “Lady Kharchen, all ordinary activities of married couples in samsara are like unclean shit, piss and semen. One vomits as soon as they are seen or remembered, so get far away from the karma of misguided thinking."
Trusting Malcolm's translation here (I haven't seen the Tibetan, but I do trust his abilities) we can ask what these "ordinary activities" are, and what might be "the karma of misguided thinking." (I'm not sure why he chose the Sanskrit word here, which can easily be translated "actions" but also "fate.")
Is Guru Rinpoche here saying that there are extraordinary activities one could enact within a marriage when we stay away from the actions of misguided thinking?
Or is he saying that the activities of married couples are inherently ordinary and samsaric, and we should not let misguided thinking on this matter seal our fate?
Before we think too much on it, I want to keep in mind that he is here giving advice to Yeshe Tsogyal as his personal student, regardless of what we might glean about our own situation and what Guru Rinpoche might think of it.

Can a yogi-reared child develop a healthy sense of self and place in the world?
Is what we consider a healthy sense of self and place actually a major obstacle our parents bequeath to us?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Married With Children (pt 1)

Sticking Around

#2 of the famous "37 Practices of the Bodhisattva" by Togme Zangpo reads:
"Attraction to those close to you catches you in its currents;
Aversion to those who oppose you burns inside;
Indifference that ignores what needs to be done is a black hole.
Leave your homeland -- this is the practice of a bodhisattva."

I have no doubt that being on one's own, wandering and finding food where you may, makes the practice of a bodhisattva easier. Not just easier, but that abandonment of personal stake in place and friends is itself at the heart of the practice. (As it happens, I see our modern society in desperate need of more sense of "tribe" and belonging, but that's maybe a subject for another post.) It remains that for the yogi carrying around his gestalt of confusion, cutting ties and refraining from putting others into groups of "attraction, aversion and indifference," the practices of the six perfections, exchanging oneself for others, the four boundless thoughts and the rest are much more readily engaged.

I find myself in the exact opposite situation, having searched for quite a while for the right town to "settle into," buy a house, establish relationships and foster an environment for raising healthy and happy kids.
So is that it, then? Do I just skip that piece of the path, or can I try and apply the deeper intent of it to my life smack in the middle of all of these family/friend ties and business negotiations?

When you're away, I'm restless, lonely, Wretched, bored, dejected; only here's the rub, my darling dear, I feel the same when you're near.
— Samuel Hoffenstein

When I go away on retreat — granted it isn't all that long — I don't have any trouble leaving my kids in the capable hands of their mother. I don't miss her terribly either!
—Don't worry, she feels the same when she escapes! Hopefully most of you understand. We see, uh... a lot of each other. ;) It's good to get away.

Kidding aside, our house is generally full of lots of love and acceptance, but I've been keeping my eye out for how to discern between simply wasted-days samsaric  busy-ness and actually applying the vision of my teachers' teachings and working my way towards enlightenment in this situation. I want my kids to know that I'm there for them like no one else. I also want them to know that I am trying to love all beings the way I hope they feel I love them. I guess in some ways it's going about it from the opposite angle of Togme Zangpo: instead of leaving the three relations behind, I'm trying to take the attachment side, and let it grow to include all those that might fall into the aversion or indifference sides. At the same time I am applying my view of empty appearance the best I know how, so that in the end I might be completely "attracted" to the empty appearance of every being, until the distinctions don't really find purchase.

Is the married life at its core a handicap for the bodhisattva-in-training?
Which is harder: abandoning one's place in society or transforming it into the path?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"I" of the hurricane

 Spins Madly On

Today my oldest two are helping each other make newspaper pirate hats and my youngest is making up songs about friendship and hugging. I had an uneventful morning meditation, as sometimes happens, after which I got some reading and study in. Things are peaceful.
Yesterday? Not so much.

My oldest had nothing to do with it, she assures me.
My 5-y.o. has a beatpoet beard and Dali mustachio, courtesy Sharpie®.
My 3-y.o. is arched backwards on the stairs, knees locked impossibly in the wrong direction, a peal of ultimate dissatisfaction searing from her tiny lungs to peel the paint off the walls.
[cue phone ringing]

There's a semi-famous ukiyo-e painting of a man standing on the very bowtip of his little boat, reaching just a little too far for a bit of seaweed to put in his bucket, at the same time a giant wave is curling above, just about to smash down on him, as he's fully aware. I wish I had a print, because I refer to my memory of it a lot.

Honor thy tantrum!

I have discovered — along with many other parents I'm sure, but want to share with those who haven't — that some 92% of kid crises do not need to be solved. Everything in the entire world is wrong, so there's no use trying anyway. Samsara sucks, what can you say? But in the middle of that tension and noise, assuming no one is bleeding or similar, there's really nothing required but to be present. (...And maybe check the caller I.D.)

Contemplative Tantrumming  101

I gently sit next to her, she takes it up a decibel. I step back a bit and make myself comfortable on the stair. I feel the room and my body in it and all the suffering suffusing everything in the world. I recognize the grasping-as-real. Everything is like an illusion. "To a Buddha, everything is Buddha." I bring my awareness to the boundary between the perceiver and the perception and penetrate it. There is quiet. The guru smiles from the top of my head. Every single speck of interdependent arising, completely unestablished as anything but emptiness, glows as the dance of my own karma presenting itself, laughing "with" me. I make an offering of it all, both upwards and downwards. From the beginning there has never been a problem, save my confusion regarding the nature of things as Suchness.
There's room for a few steady breaths.

"I want you to get me something to drink."
"Can you ask nicely?"
"Will you please get me something to PLEASE drink?!"
Child's play. 
[Although I can't help but wonder if she's old enough to put a split-infinitive in out of spite.]

I hold her cheek tight against mine as we head to the fridge, still dreaming.

Meditation helps life, but does your daily life make your meditation better?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Core Values (pt 2)

"Be good.”

In the first session of this diatribe I examined a few of my own ideas about teaching dharma to kids, specifically how best to expose them to some of the basic Abhidharma concepts of interdependence and cause-and-effect. It’s what happened to be on my mind, but truly, teaching my kids the “science” — to abuse a term — of Dharma is not something I spend much time thinking on.
As much as I wish my parents had raised me with an understanding of nidanas, ayatanas, etc., I’m much more interested in teaching these guys how to feel good about themselves, work with their difficulties, share friendship, value people-over-things, find joy in their day... all of that stuff; leave the real Dharma instruction to a karmically-suited teacher of an authentic lineage. My list is really not a whole lot different from non-Buddhist parents is it?
Like I said before, kids learn by example, so I might be able to guage my own progress on theirs. (Yikes!) To the extent that I don’t rank as an authentic bodhisattva, such that they would simply learn by watching, it’s been very helpful (for my side) to teach them what a bodhisattva “ought” to act like. I can say there’s not much in the world quite like having your 8-yr old stare you down arms akimbo and say, “so much for PATIENCE!!!” [sigh....]

What Would Daddy Do?

The Mahayana ideal of “holding back” from attaining personal liberation, in order to help others — all others — finds natural expression in the ease with which we sacrifice for our children. Just as with the idea of “all beings as mothers,” maybe we can take “all beings as our children” (figuratively) as a measure of how we should treat them. The pedagogical aspect may be out of place in normal relationships, but the concern-for-others bit may be very close to the mark, depending on your level of clinging.
[Excellent subject for a future blog!]
But it's just a seed. All beings take care of "their own" — nothing particularly Buddhist about that. We have to apply that care and feeling that their well-being is more important than our own, and translate it to how we treat others, especially those that slight us. Our little teachers can help us get the ball rolling, but it has to roll much further than the house.

How can we bring our children more fully into our practice?
Who’s teaching whom here?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Routine

What time is it? (A long-winded examination of daily practice.)

One of my favorite jokes I like to play on myself is pretending that raising kids means “I just don’t have time to practice!” I’ve heard this line from a number of other parents as well, even before I was a parent myself. The fact is, when I was childless, single and virtually carefree I had just as many reasons to battle on the way to the daily cushion. Disabusing oneself of the notion that there just isn’t enough time in the day is maybe Step One in my book.

Yeah, we parents have commitments that extend past our clock-in/clock-out, and those commitments are not easily broken compared to, say, a gym membership. But (speaking for myself only here) there are many gaps in my schedule, and what I fill them with may not always be the best use of my time. I did an experiment a few months ago where for a couple of days I tried to keep track of my “down time” with the idea that I would take half of that and add it to my practice day.
I didn’t... but I was not all that surprised to find out just how much “me” time I was wedging into my everyday life.

“Them time” ÷ bodhicitta = “me time”
24hr - (them-time + me-time + sleep) = practice time.

Of course “me” time is important for us mere mortals so young on the bodhisattva path, but just how much do we need? I would say: exactly as much as it takes. If our practice becomes just another weight put upon us by the world, we will surely have a hard time of it. However, the thought that I will “take care of myself and then go practice” has some serious flaws in it. If meditation is not taking care of myself, then I need to revisit good ol’ Noble Truth #1 and remember why I started this whole project.
Assuming good technique and training, meditation (in all the various forms under that umbrella-term) is a fascinating and amazing event. I’m certain that in all regards cushion-time is THE best me-time there is, and I reaffirm it (almost) everytime I sit down. The biggest trick is getting to the seat. It’s much like diving off a diving board, or getting out of bed too early: you just have to make your muscles move without listening to your brain. You decided beforehand that you would do this, so your brain’s contribution is finished. “Legs, walk!”
Coming to the decisive conviction that you actually WANT a steady practice in your life might be Step Two in this imaginary guidebook. After that, it’s simply a matter of making a schedule that honors all parts of your life each with the weight it deserves.

My own personal aspiration is to find four hours a day without unduly neglecting my “life duties.” To that end, I’ve been attempting three sessions (morning, midday and night) each of indeterminate time, with the hopes of haggling more time for each of them from the so-called “me-time” and sleep until I have 90 minutes in the morning and evening, and an hour midday. It’s a lot compared to what I’ve done in the past, but I think I can do it.
(Feel free to egg me on and/or shame me into it!)

I'm looking into "meditation games" to play with my children, such as sitting quietly and shoting "THOUGHT!" whenever a thought comes up... with some success I guess, but would love to hear others' ideas for inventive ways to make sitting still a normal and interesting part of a child's life.

Who else has an ideal time goal of “enough” daily practice?
How do you plan to get there?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Core Values" (pt 1)

“Pooh, how do you spell ‘bodhicitta’?”
“You don’t spell it, Piglet, you FEEL it!”

Kids learn by example. If we act with kindness and patience, tolerance and forgiveness, generosity and acceptance, so will they. End of story.

But today I’m thinking more about “education” in terms of Buddhist view, basic dharma, how the world works. When and how are these things best broached with our children?

I’ll be honest - I follow Buddha et alum because his message makes sense. (I still have lots of questions, but I’ve long since come to trust that the answers are there.) I think that’s the main reason I don't advocate pushing Buddhadharma on kids. I really want it to make sense, for them to welcome it as a refuge from their troubles. 
[The joke is that it seems to invite more troubles than you knew you had, but we’ll just put a little flag on that thought and keep moving forward!]

Buddhadharma is renowned for its myriad techiniques and perspectives, displaying an almost infinite adaptability to whatever one’s trip du jour might be. This suggests that the only thing preventing a person from grasping (at least some aspect of) the dharma is simply a matter of discovering the meeting place between that person’s view and reality. Kids don’t have the same sorts of problems that adults do... but the problems the do have, they really do have. Just ask them.

After nine years of parenting, if I were going to throw out a ballpark range of when the idea of dukkha, suffering/dissatisfaction, begins to make sense (and you’re free to disagree) it would be somewhere in the 6-8 year range. I say that because that is right around when cause-and-effect and interdependance begin to surface.

[For fun, I just now asked my nine-year-old what “cause and effect” means to her: “Something happens, and then something happens because of that thing.” Example? “Her skirt tore, so she got a new one. She wouldn’t have gotten a new one if she still had the old one, right?” What about interdependence? “One thing depending on something else.” Well, that’s dependence. “Okay, so like a chicken and an egg. You can’t have one without the other. Or gravity - the Earth pulls on you and you pull on it.” ...not bad]

With cause-and-effect and interdependence in play, we can begin to trace the cause of suffering. This, to me, is the beginning of Dharma. Understand, I’ve been putting these kids to sleep with Tibetan-prayers-cum-lullaby since they were breathing air. I think exposure to tradition cannot start too early. Here I’m strictly talking “view” since that’s the critical point in raising a child to make some use of this life, versus just being trained to act Buddhist.
With cause-and-effect and interdependence in play, we can begin to take charge of our own happiness, and justify when things go right or wrong. We can begin to watch our karma (action) to see if they are bringing us the results we want in life. We can b*e*g*i*n to taste the dissatisfaction in our efforts and see the sprouts of bigger questions.

How does the project of helping your kids realize the inherent futility of worldly gain/pleasure/fame/praise coexist and compete with the project of developing a healthy sense of self -purpose and -value?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Parenting as Bodhisattva Training?

As of this writing, I’m 39 years old; I'm a husband, and a dad to three kids: ages nine, five and three; I’m also on a quest to attain enlightenment. No problem, right!? Ok, maybe I could use a little help. ;)

Luckily, turns out there are about 2,150,000 of us actively practicing Buddhism in the United States so surely I’m not alone in looking for ways to apply both my practice to parenting and my parenting to practice. Anyone, Buddhist or otherwise, who is trying to raise healthy and happy children in a spiritual environment can relate to how challenging this can be. I'm by no means the best parent or the best Buddhist, but with about twenty years of study, meditation and reflection behind me, I am able to make efforts at applying what my teachers have given me toward my daily life. Hopefully here I can share some of my successes and struggles, and maybe give others a place to share, vent, teach, question, laugh, commiserate and explore this profound journey. 
So then:

“How does a Buddhist parent?”
Being a parent is no better or worse than not having children, it's just a lot bigger. The profound joys are matched by the fears and heartaches in ways that non-breeders simply cannot fathom. This makes for some serious mill grist. Every single aspect of one’s day becomes an opportunity to engage in the path in a very thick way. There’s the obvious demand for one’s time and attention, patience and understanding, creativity and kindness (which is different from the easy “love” part) — these things that are required of us almost 24/7, and there’s the less-obvious stuff that comes later like providing comfort from fear; teaching flexibility, responsibility and consequences; impermanence; working hard for something you want and suffering through failure. The relationship you have to your children, the utter reliance they have on you, is unlike anything in the world. Welcome to bodhisattva training, deep-end-of-the-pool style. ;)
Hopefully our meditation practice gives us a leg up when dealing the stress and emotional turmoil of raising kids, but I won't say that it has given me any real definite rules about any of this. More just an anchor for rolling through the waves of it all. Almost ten years later, I'm still just feeling it out, you know.

[For the new parents out there, let me assure assure you: things don’t get easier, they just get different! My Rule #1 is “just hang in there.” More on that later.]

“How does a parent Buddhist?”
As the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” If we take the Three Jewels as our refuge, we can call ourselves Buddhist. If we apply ourselves to benefitting others, then we can rightfully say we are on the bodhisattva path. It doesn’t matter how successful we are, just that we are committed, and that we take every obstacle as another chance to learn. At least, that’s what I’m banking on!
My main supports throughout the day are remembering the Four Noble Truths (especially the first one!), applying myself to the six perfections (especially the first, third and fourth) and practicing lojong, “sending and receiving.” With these tools in hand, not only do I (er... mostly) find the strength to do the best job I can, but as a Buddhist I’m able to spend much more of my day actually practicing, rather than “trying to get my job done” so I can go meditate in a corner somewhere.
That's not to say we can do without cushion time — certainly one of the biggest challenges for us parents on the path — but that's a subject for another time.

How do YOU integrate your spiritual practice with the nuts and bolts of being a parent?