Awakin Kids Village
Posted by Nandini Iyer on Mar 10, 2019
What's the right balance between adjusting to a new baby, and having the new baby adjust to us?
Harshida Aunty, Parveen and Geet had all encouraged us to attend, assuring me that it would be completely normal for Savi to nap or eat or cry as she pleased and that plenty of other kids might do the same. Harshida aunty told me -- there are no expectations at this space for the kids to do anything in particular, and that the intention is just to plant seeds and to give parents mindful time together. Parveen told me she had taken her 4 month old to kids awakin, and it was wonderful. Geet told me she called this space a "lifeline" and described the energy of the place to be magical. After the intensity of 2 months of sleeplessness and of a demanding baby, a "lifeline" and "magical" sounded perfect. So, despite our anxieties we went. I'd been waiting for this all week long, and really we had been waiting for this opportunity ever since I knew we were having a baby, to bring her to our community and start sowing the seeds of good values in the larger world.
The evening started with parents and kiddos in meditation, and Aunty lovingly inviting the kids to ring the gong and to sit in silence. Even kids as young as 1, waddled their way to the gong to ring it, while older ones helped them. Moms and dads sat in silence, some with their kids on their laps. For a good 20 minutes children from 2 months to 8 years maintained silence! Our 2 month old who has usually been fussy sitting in a stationary car seat her whole little life, had her eyes closed in her car seat the entire time with not a peep! What a miracle for us! But then again, I am used to witnessing the miracle of community and stillness co-created in that living room. After the meditation, parents and kids alike sang and danced to Nimo's "Planting Seeds." It was something else to see the room light up, and everyone let loose. Prahallad and I had listened to and sang this song countless times pre-baby, always moved by the humility and profoundness of its lyrics. But this first time with our baby and all the other babies was special. I saw tears in Prahallad's eyes as he moved to the tune of the song holding the car seat with a sleeping Savi in it. I felt my heart get so soft in a deep understanding of those tears, and felt so much love for all the parents and children in that room and for all children everywhere. Indeed, I thought, all we can do is plant seeds in ourselves and in our daughter. I felt my new-mom anxiety dissipate as I felt held by the community of parents and children.
The hardest part of the evening was meditating for 30 minutes when the parents sat in their circle as the kids did their thing in the other room. I had not previously attempted meditating with SO much commotion. There were kids laughing, screaming, playing, running back and forth with balloons, jumping on their meditating parents' laps, singing -- being themselves, completely free. With one hand on my napping baby in the car seat, and another resting on my lap, I found myself extremely distracted, and couldn't keep my eyes shut. I opened my eyes and looked around at all the other parents who were sitting in silence. Also sitting in silence amidst us with his eyes wide open was little Samayan, sweetly inspecting the room of meditating parents around him. Our eyes met and we shared a smile smile. Then, Amir darted onto Parveen's lap calling for her attention, and she so gently pulled him close and continued sitting in silence. Still amidst the chaos. Yes, I thought to myself -- this is the new norm, and this is the unique opportunity of parenthood -- to cultivate equanimity in the midst of noise and demands and melt-downs and fears and highs and lows of having your precious heart live outside of you. I closed my eyes again and tried to meditate for what felt like the remainder of the longest 30 minutes of my life.
Being in the Kindness Temple in an Awakin space was indeed magical. I saw parents hold, love, and watch out for others' kids, saw children play with each other in kindness, and excitedly help aunty make pizza and lemonade. Kids and parents helped clean up, and at no point was there any stress of child rearing at all. It seemed like for those 3+ hours, the kids could be kids, and adults could be adults, and yet everyone's needs for security, nourishment, and love were more than adequately met by the collective. Savi awoke at some point during the parents circle, took her bottle, and happily stayed with others besides Prahallad and me. Parents and older kids showered her with so much attention and love, but yet in a way that wasn't over stimulating. It just was how people in that space were being -- watching out for each other with kindness. Savi seemed invigorated and soothed by the love and energy of the kindful and mindful community.
I know we can't raise this baby alone. As a new parent, my weaknesses are all too apparent to me, and so I know raising her in a community of others is not just a wish but a need. It takes a village, they say. And being at this special awakin circle felt like coming home to that village. I feel so much gratitude for the space created and nurtured by Aunty and Uncle, and tended to so lovingly by other parents. Its a beautiful journey that our daughter will be embarking on with all these other beautiful young souls and it will be such a treat to see them all grow with each other.