All Children have a natural connection with God or whatever you wish to call that which is higher than yourself. They have a pure innocence without a doubting mind; they have a thirst for learning and a need to constantly ask questions in order to understand something until it makes sense, they have an intrinsic honesty and a deep sense of unconditional Love; and they have an effortless creativity. This creativity comes from a source within them, which they can learn to access by themselves, and through learning this they will be able to attain it throughout their whole lives so they need never be consumed by self doubt, fear, lack of self worth, and they need never feel lonely.
We live in a world today surrounded by negative outside influences; most obviously we see it in the mainstream news, marketing, magazines, billboards, on T.V., and social media: promoting and selling products that essentially say, how you are right now is not good enough. The fashion and so called “beauty” industries thrive because they have tapped into something that they can endlessly sell: telling people that their physical appearance is a problem and needs fixing is a lucrative business. These businesses feed off and fuel people’s feelings of inadequacy, fear and their endless desires. This is why it is so important to be aware of what we are exposing into the minds of our children.
For true happiness children need to learn how to love themselves and follow their intuition. With this intention Swami Vishwananda has given us Bhakti Marga Children Yoga so that we can embrace this natural light that shines in children. We all have this light but as we get older it gets clouded with our mind, negative thoughts and outside influences. Through cultivating spiritual practice in young children they can have the strength and capability to trust in themselves, develop self-love and help share this Love with others.
If you have a Spiritual Sadhana let your children be involved, meditating with your children is not always easy but it can be worth it. It helps them get an idea of what Sadhana is, this unique and precious time connecting with the divine, and they too can experience the peace, serenity, and love. With babies this is relatively easy and then once they become more active it becomes more challenging, but try not to let that deter you, young children learn through imitation so involving children right from the beginning in your sadhana practice will encourage such behaviour.
Introducing children to mantra is hugely beneficial for them. Swami Vishwananda especially recommends Om Namo Narayanaya and the Gayatri Mantra for kids. These mantras use the vibrations of sanskrit words to awaken and manifest positive qualities such as acceptance, compassion, courage, peace, and love. Memorising and reciting mantras has profoundly positive effects on the mind and they have energising and healing effects on the body.
As human beings we all have different likes and preferences and often (it was certainly evident with my sons) they are there right from birth. Recognising what your child enjoys doing and is naturally attracted to and then embracing that will help them tap into their creativity and joy. At the moment my 3 year old loves painting Deities, especially Kali and Shiva in his various ferocious forms. So we go online and find a picture he likes then I will sit with him and draw it, he gets immense joy from watching me draw. Recently his 5 year old brother has started to draw his little brother´s favourite Deities, so the older one draws and the younger paints, or sometimes they paint together. As well as drawing and painting my 5 year old has always enjoyed organising and rearranging: pictures on the walls, furniture and items around the house. From an early age he made altars of deities and saints which he was totally immersed in doing (Swami Vishwananda describes this intense focus children have within the moment as “kriya”) and he has always had a great interest in Deities in the form of pictures and Murties; for his third birthday present he asked for peacock feathers which he then placed around the house.
Spiritual Stories are also a hit with both boys, in fact I haven’t come across a kid that doesn’t like a good story. The Hindu Stories are engaging for children and enlightening for adults. My boys love how entertaining they are and I love learning and realising what they symbolize. We use books as there are some fantastic books available and also we watch cartoons of the various stories.
Something else popular in our house is singing and dancing. On youtube there is a plethora of Bhajans, Kirtan, and Mantras that we often play on the T.V., phone or iPad. The boys love dancing around to these and also they enjoy learning the Mantras or songs, I much prefer having a Mantra in my head than a nursery rhyme !
And finally, integral to Spirituality is Ahimsa (non-violence), not causing harm to oneself or to others: essentially being a kind and loving human being and within this being vegan is very important. Not supporting industries that exploit, injure, and kill sentient beings is something I discuss with my children often and also how to care for Mother Earth; being a conscious consumer by boycotting products that can endanger species ( such as certain palm oils ), avoiding products that create a lot of waste ( especially plastics ), and learning about recycling and reusing. Taking care of and loving our planet has a deep rooted connection to loving ourselves.
It is so important for children to know that how they are right now in this very moment is perfect and within them, within their heart, is pure Love from which there is everything they need for true happiness.
Bhakti Marga Children Yoga has a number of different activities teaching children practical ways that can help them embrace their individuality, foster their creativity, and discover the Love that is within them. For more information please contact: sadhana [at] bhaktimarga.org