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Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Potted Guide to The Divine

A Potted Guide to Who’s Who in the Divine
Literal meaning
Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World

Northern Song Dynasty wood carving of Guanyin, c. 1025. Male bodhisattva depiction with Amitābha Buddha crown.

Guanyin is the bodhisattva associated with compassion as venerated by East Asian Buddhists, usually as a female. The name Guanyin is short for Guanshiyin which means "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World". She is also sometimes referred to as Guanyin Pusa (simplified Chinese: 观音菩萨; traditional Chinese: 觀音菩薩; pinyin: Guānyīn Púsà; Wade–Giles: Kuan-yin Pu-sah; literally "Bodhisattva Guanyin").[1] Some Buddhists believe that when one of their adherents departs from this world, they are placed by Guanyin in the heart of a lotus then sent to the western pure land of Sukhāvatī.[2]
It is generally accepted among east Asian adherents that Guanyin originated as the Sanskrit Avalokiteśvara (अवलोकितेश्वर). Commonly known in English as the Mercy Goddess or Goddess of Mercy,[3] Guanyin is also revered by Chinese Taoists (sometimes called Daoists) as an Immortal. However, in Taoist mythology, Guanyin has other origination stories which are not directly related to Avalokiteśvara.


Tara (Sanskrit: तारा, tārā; Tib. སྒྲོལ་མ་, Drolma) or Ārya Tārā, also known as Jetsun Dolma (Tibetan language:rje btsun sgrol ma) in Tibetan Buddhism, is a female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. In Japan she is known as Tarani Bosatsu, and little-known as Tuoluo in Chinese Buddhism.[2]
Tara is a tantric meditation deity whose practice is used by practitioners of the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism to develop certain inner qualities and understand outer, inner and secret teachings about compassion and emptiness. Tara is actually the generic name for a set of Buddhas or bodhisattvas of similar aspect. These may more properly be understood as different aspects of the same quality, as bodhisattvas are often considered metaphoric for Buddhist virtues.
The most widely known forms of Tārā are:
  • Green Tārā, known as the Buddha of enlightened activity
  • White Tārā, also known for compassion, long life, healing and serenity; also known as The Wish-fulfilling Wheel, or Cintachakra
  • Red Tārā, of fierce aspect associated with magnetizing all good things
  • Black Tārā, associated with power
  • Yellow Tārā, associated with wealth and prosperity
  • Blue Tārā, associated with transmutation of anger
  • Cittamani Tārā, a form of Tārā widely practiced at the level of Highest Yoga Tantra in the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism, portrayed as green and often conflated with Green Tārā
  • Khadiravani Tārā (Tārā of the acacia forest), who appeared to Nagarjuna in the Khadiravani forest of South India and who is sometimes referred to as the "22nd Tārā."


Kālī  is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, shakti. The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means "the black one". Since Shiva is called Kāla—the eternal time—Kālī, his consort, also means "Time" or "Death" (as in time has come). Hence, Kāli is considered to be the goddess of time and change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also revered as Bhavatārini (literally "redeemer of the universe"). Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kāli as a benevolent mother goddess.[1]
Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing. She is associated with many other Hindu goddesses like Durga, Bhadrakali, Sati, Rudrani, Parvati and Chamunda. She is the foremost among the Dasa Mahavidyas, ten fierce Tantric goddesses.[2]

Amida Buddha

Amitābha (Sanskrit: अमिताभ, Amitābha (wordstem), Sanskrit pronunciation: [əmɪˈt̪aːbʱə]) is a celestial buddha described in the scriptures of the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism. Amitābha is the principal buddha in the Pure Land sect, a branch of Buddhism practiced mainly in East Asia, while in Vajrayana Amitābha is known for his longevity attribute and the aggregate of distinguishing (recognition) and the deep awareness of individualities. According to these scriptures, Amitābha possesses infinite merits resulting from good deeds over countless past lives as a bodhisattva named Dharmakāra. "Amitābha" is translatable as "Infinite Light," hence Amitābha is often called "The Buddha of Infinite Light."


Shiva (play /ˈʃɪvə/; Sanskrit: शिव Śiva, meaning "auspicious one") is a major Hindu deity, and is the Destroyer or Transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine.
Shiva is one in whom the Universe 'sleeps' in a boundless void after destruction, before re-birth and during its existence. Shiva is therefore "eternal and purest". Thus Shiva is The Reality. Shiva is therefore also The Consciousness (frees from the bonds of mortal desires); Shiva is The Bliss (roots out sin and fear); Shiva is Auspicious (makes the earth religious and an abode of safety and peace).
Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power, he lives a life of a sage at Mount Kailash.[2] In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is the Supreme God and has five important works: creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer, and revealer (to bless). In the Smarta tradition, he is regarded as one of the five primary forms of God.[3] Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas (Sanskrit Śaiva).[4] Shaivism, along with Vaiṣṇava traditions that focus on Vishnu and Śākta traditions that focus on the goddess Shakti, is one of the most influential denominations in Hinduism.


Vishnu (Sanskrit विष्णु Viṣṇu) is a popular Hindu god, venerated as the Supreme Being in the Vaishnava sect. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God.[1]

Yab yum

Yab-yum (Tibetan literally, "father-mother") is a common symbol in the Buddhist art of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet representing the male deity in sexual union with his female consort. Often the male deity is sitting in lotus position while his consort is sitting in his lap.
The symbolism is associated with Anuttarayoga tantra and, while there are various interpretations of the symbolism in the twilight language, the male figure is usually linked to compassion (karuṇā) and skillful means (upāya-kauśalya), while the female partner to 'insight' (prajñā).[1]
The symbolism of union and sexual polarity is a central teaching in Tantric Buddhism, especially in Tibet. The union is realised by the practitioner as a mystical experience within one's own body.[2]
Yab-yum is generally understood to represent the primordial (or mystical) union of wisdom and compassion.[3] In Buddhism the masculine form is active, representing the compassion and skillful means (upaya [4]) that have to be developed in order to reach enlightenment. The feminine form is passive and represents wisdom (prajna), which is also necessary to enlightenment. United, the figures symbolize the union necessary to overcome the veils of Maya, the false duality of object and subject.
Yab-yum may also be represented through the aniconic signification of yantra and mandala.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the same ideas are to be found concerning the bell and the dorje, which, like the yab-yum, symbolize the dualism that must be exceeded. The sacred Tantric practice leads to rapid development of mind by using the experience of bliss, non-duality, and ecstasy while in communion with one's consort.

In Hinduism the yab-yum has a slightly different meaning. There, the embraced posture represents the divine strength of creation. The Hindu concept is the one of a passive masculine deity embracing his spouse called shakti, which represents his activity or power.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Nappy Dharma

Nappy  Dhamma
An exploration of Parenthood and the Path.
By Selina and  Russell


Karaniya Metta Sutta: Good Will
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
This is to be done by one skilled in aims who wants to break through to the state of peace:
Be capable, upright, & straightforward, easy to instruct, gentle, & not conceited, content & easy to support, with few duties, living lightly, with peaceful faculties, masterful, modest, & no greed for supporters.
 Do not do the slightest thing that the wise would later censure. Think: Happy, at rest, may all beings be happy at heart.
 Whatever beings there may be, weak or strong, without exception, long, large, middling, short, subtle, blatant, seen & unseen, near & far, born & seeking birth: May all beings be happy at heart.
 Let no one deceive another or despise anyone anywhere, or through anger or irritation wish for another to suffer. As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. With good will for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart:
 Above, below, & all around, unobstructed, without enmity or hate. Whether standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, as long as one is alert, one should be resolved on this mindfulness.
 This is called a sublime abiding here & now. Not taken with views, but virtuous & consummate in vision, having subdued desire for sensual pleasures, one never again will lie in the womb.

This book isn’t about anything complicated. It is about simply loving and loving simply.
Whilst the subject matter of this book is at first glance a serious one, our tone is not, it’s about babies,  not curing cancer or finding world peace. It is a book by and for parents. We have found an endless source of joy in being pregnant and in being parents, it is immense fun and the joy can and does begin the moment you know a baby is or is going to be a part of your life. It is also one of the most challenging things that we will ever do, and this is precisely what makes it the perfect place to practice Dhamma.
Parenthood is, we feel, a frequently overlooked and undervalued aspect of the Path.    In  being someone’s Mum or Dad that there is a path that enables us to abide in utterly selfless acts of giving, loving, compassion, sympathetic joy and ultimately equanimity. Because almost everyone becomes a parent and very, very few of us actually are unable to become parents, we undervalue the potential for Dhamma in parenting. Yet if you want something that will take you to the edge of what you had thought of as your comfort zone and beyond, parenthood is it, it is profoundly challenging. Being a parent obliges us to take the meditations on Generosity, Peace, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity off our cushions and into our lives. We are compelled to be generous with our time and our love. To be proper parents, we are put in the position of having to practice what we have read about for so long. With the challenges come moments of pure joy and rewards that those of us who choose not to become parents can only guess at. Russell has had a marriage where he wasn’t a parent and one where he is....he prefers being a parent.
We wrote this book having sampled what was already on offer in the way of books dealing with parenting and meditation and simply finding them by and large inaccessible. Often the approach of the author excluded  Russell  because they made pregnancy and childbirth an exclusively feminine event. Others were barely Buddhist despite being labelled as such in the promotional blurbs. Some were to be polite, complete nonsense.
Nappy Dhamma is a journey. We begin, oddly enough, at the beginning.  We discuss preparations for conception and then explore pregnancy and childbirth and end with caring for your new person. So we took an every day event and combined it with every day meditations. The results were anything but every day.
We include in Nappy Dhamma basic instructions for meditation. In fact we include them a couple of times. You may or may not be, experienced meditators. So we explore the meditations in a limited way in the first third of Nappy Dhamma and then go into much deeper explorations in the last two thirds in the section “Meditations”. We chose to include an extensive list of material from the Pali Canon. There are two reasons for this, the first is to connect what we are offering into the Buddha’s teachings, the second is to provide a source of information on the meditations themselves. It always helps to have a different point of view and if our explanation or approach doesn’t work for you, hopefully one of the others will.
As our gift to friends as yet unmet, we give you Nappy Dhamma

Meditation: What is it and what does it do?
Meditation is an interesting word. It comes from the Latin “meditatum”: to ponder. Wikipedia has the following as its introduction to meditation:
It is difficult to trace the history of meditation without considering the religious context within which it was practiced. Data suggest that even at prehistoric times older civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the final phases of human biological evolution. Some of the earliest written records of meditation date to 1500BC in Hindu Vedantism. Around 500-600BC Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop meditative practices.
The Pāli Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other oriental countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Japan,. Returning from China around 1227, Dōgen wrote the instructions for Zazen.
The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God in the Qur'an since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this cannot be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.
Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine monks called Lectio Divina, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila in the 16th century.
Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self improvement. Both spiritual and secular forms of meditation have been subjects of scientific analyses. However, after 60 years of scientific study, the exact mechanism at work in meditation remains unclear.

In the Buddhist context “meditation” is an, at times, poorly fitting word that is used in place of the Pali/Sanskrit word “bhavana”, bhavana means to become or to cultivate. So we don’t simply aim to practice Loving-kindness, we aim to become Loving-kindness. There is another word that gets used a lot in Buddhist meditative circles a lot and that is sati. Sati is often used as “mindfulness”, as in Mindfulness of Breathing. If you take a look at the Suttas, you can see by the changes in context in which sati is used that it can also mean “recollection”, “remembering” and even “awareness”.
Traditionally there are four postures for meditation: sitting, walking, standing and laying down. Most meditators use a combination of sitting and walking if they are meditating for long periods. Sit in meditation for too long and things begin to either hurt or not work as they should, knees and bowels being the usual culprits. Meditating whilst laying down, especially if you are sleep deprived will almost certainly result in a very sound and much needed sleep.
As far as the postures are used, be realistic. A heavily pregnant woman with “cankles” (combination of her calves and ankles)” isn’t going to either stand or walk for long periods. She will, most likely, find a chair the most comfortable place to meditate. Otherwise meditate at times and in places that work for you.
So set aside a specific place either at home or somewhere you know you won’t get disturbed. Russell used to meditate in a cemetery. Most of us aren’t into meditating in cemeteries due to a fear of ghosts and the like, but they can be very peaceful places and often have wonderful facilities for the meditator in the form of shady trees, pergolas and toilets and water taps. Temples are more often used for this purpose if a space isn’t possible at home.
If you have the space at home, make it a special place, make it significant to you and make it the space where you only meditate. So a cushion(s) or a chair (depending on the state of your knees and or pregnancy), a mat to put the cushion on, something recognisable as an altar with the statues, paintings, photo’s on it (for us, our altar is truly a personal thing), a place for incense and or candle(s). Fill the space with what is sacred to you.
Make it a place that isn’t too hot in Summer nor too cold in Winter or overly exposed to the weather. You have to be comfortable when you meditate. You may end up spending a fair bit of time here. This is the physical Sacred Space.
You can make your meditative space your daily walk. So if you walk for exercise, meditate as you walk. It is possible and it does make walking a very pleasant experience.
 The meditative space between your ears is the more important space. The meditative space between your ears is your attitude towards meditation. Ajahn Brahmavamso of Bodhinyana Forest Monastery outside Perth, Western Australia, teaches, as indeed does the Buddha himself, that meditation can and should be, for want of a better word, fun. We are all, it seems, at heart party animals. We like to have fun. Meditation should be no different. The mind will return with surprising enthusiasm to something that it enjoys. People who say that they “can’t meditate” almost invariably end up describing a mind that has gotten bored. So if you approach meditation with the attitude that it will be, and is enjoyable, then you are already better than half way to getting what it is that you want from the meditation, which is peace, bliss and wisdom. At the end of the meditation no matter how small the peace or the enjoyment, take the time to exclaim mentally or verbally or both just how much you enjoyed the meditation. This way the next time you sit or walk to meditate the mind knows that it had a party the last time you meditated and will be more willing to return to the meditative space.
Also know why you are meditating. The mind likes to know what it is doing. Given the theme of this book, you are meditating with the objective of achieving deep states of bliss and concentration. Remember this, keep it in mind when you sit or walk. You are in your Sacred Space with the intention of leaving happier than when you arrived.

So you want a baby. First things first.
Wonderful decision. Having done it ourselves, we  thoroughly recommend it.
 It may take weeks or months before conception happens. For some, like us, it happens almost straight away. At any rate the odds are against the chance that you will conceive today, if that is what you are trying to do. You might, but biology is against you.
 In the midst of buying or being given the enormous amount of stuff that babies require and the other one million and six things that you need to do, we would recommend that you set some time aside to seriously contemplate what it is that you are wanting to do. And the immediate and obvious response to this question is ”Have a child”. This, is the immediate and obvious answer to the question, but for us there was much, much more happening here than simple procreation.  We take the view that in deciding to start a family that we are inviting someone to take rebirth with us.  Even simply engaging in unprotected sex is offering an invitation for someone to take rebirth. Which will hopefully give you cause  for pause the next time you are either too busy or can’t be bothered to use a contraceptive. There is also the fact that if you take the time to read the fine print on the box, that even the Pill has a failure rate, it is about 1:1000. Which means that if you are like many newlywed couples, that there is still a chance that you will become pregnant, not a terribly large one, but people have been known to show up at their doctors very surprised that they are experiencing all the signs of being pregnant when they didn’t expect it. The only effective contraception is celibacy, and we don’t know of too many couples who are even remotely keen on that idea...we obviously were not.
We will operate on the assumption that the pregnancy is either a planned one or even if it isn’t, that the child that either has or will result is wanted and needed and that there are people present who function as parents. That the family will be of the type where there is a mother and a father. The simple fact is that children need parents, and after that the structure of the family is essentially irrelevant. There is growing evidence that non-traditional and non-nuclear  families work perfectly well. The essential ingredients are love and respect.

There is, at the time of writing, a social experiment happening in the West that is redefining the definition of what a family is. There is the emergence of same gender couples being parents, there are single parent families and even families with multiple mothers and or fathers. If you identify yourself as a parent, then that is what you are. Being parent is an emotional event  and not necessarily a biological one. Even in traditional cultures there are multiples wives and people remarrying after either the death or divorce of a spouse. So people will enter a baby/child’s life at various points and be parents, their exact biological relationship to the child, if any, is irrelevant. Russell’s ex-wife functions perfectly well as a grandmother to Ariel. Unusual but a relationship that is, judging by the signs of mutual adoration, mutual and working.
 There are things that need to be done on a Dhammic level. What type of person is it that you want as your child? Odd question isn’t it? You are generally asked whether you want a boy or a girl, but we’re asking what type of person do you want. Most of us want children that turn out to be honest, gentle, loving, get good grades at school and generally behave in nice ways to the world around them. We would offer that there aren’t too many of us wanting serial killers. Take some time to think this over. There are ways in which you can influence what type of person you end up having as your child.
        It  is completely obvious that  we should take all possible care in our behaviour and the lives we live in the lead up to and following conception. If  we want happy, well adjusted children then we should at the very least be happy, well adjusted people ourselves. Remember above all else, that you are inviting someone into your lives. Someone who won’t just visit, but someone who will be with you for the rest of this lifetime. So, with this in mind great care should be taken in the preparations you make.
We are not for a moment suggesting that both the decision to have a family and the follow on from that should be anything other than completely joyous, but you can trust us on this don’t want someone like Russell's brother in your family. The man grew up to be one dependent on a number of substances, most of them legal, one was not. He ended up losing his family as a result of his actions, he had seven children.  At the time of writing his whereabouts are unknown, and no one in  Russell's family is all that interested in finding out.
There are a number of things you can do to in preparation that will directly increase your chances of getting the type of person you want to attract/invite as your child.

1.   The very first thing you should do is meditate. If you haven’t before, then now is the perfect time to begin. Meditators, are as a group, wholesome people.  Meditation doesn’t lend itself to substance addiction. Russell   tried and failed in his early years as a Buddhist  to meditate whilst variously drunk, stoned and hung over. It doesn’t work. Conversely, he hasn’t come across all that many heroin or amphetamine users over the years who meditate. Lots of ex drug users who do meditate, but a vanishingly small number of users who do actually meditate. The types of people who engage in unwholesomeness as a rule, don’t meditate. If you accept the logic that the person  who will become your child has had past lives as a person, then the criminally inclined, or unwholesome aren’t interested either in meditation or having meditators as friends or parents for that matter.  If anything they tend to be attracted towards their own type of people. The old saying “Birds of a feather flock together”, is quite simply true. We’ve all, hopefully, spent time near someone with deep Metta, we know how beautiful Metta feels.  Abiding in Metta will attract the sort of person you want as a child.

2.   Keep good Sila (Habits). “Sila” is often translated as “virtue”, in fact it means “habits”. If you keep good habits...the habits of being moral, generous, kind and patient, then you are by definition someone who keeps Sila.  Honest, moral people attract the honest and moral. This has to be almost the ultimate “no brainer”. There is a noticeable difference in the atmosphere, the vibe, in houses and places where Sila is respected and where it isn’t. This is why temples as a whole are such peaceful places to be in and near. Russell once had a garden maintenance business, and  cleaned up the garden of a house being sold under the proceeds from crime legislation (basically in Victoria the government sells your property if they think you got it as a result of criminal activity. In this case the sale of marijuana), he tells of wanting to be away from the house as quickly as possible. The atmosphere was simply appalling. If you keep good Sila, then you will automatically attract nice beings. There is the story of a man who could see  angels and demons. He noticed that all the pubs, drug dens etc., had angels outside them, he also noticed a surprising number of demons outside temples, churches etc. This struck him as wrong. So he asked his Dhamma teacher about this.
The reply was to the effect that the wholesome beings couldn’t go inside the unwholesome/unclean places and vice versa. So if you want a nice person as your know what to do.

3.   Get involved in charities. Help out at your Dhamma centre, if you attend one. Buddhist Societies/Groups/Temples in Asia tend to be much more socially involved than their counterparts in the West. So there should be more of a chance to be involved with social work or other ways of giving. Otherwise, volunteering at a registered charity  is a wonderful way to begin preparing for your baby, and they are remarkably easy to find. In the West the major websites that carry positions vacant also carry chances to volunteer. Volunteering is Skilful Action.  You are creating wholesome kamma. At the very least you are being  nice people. Do not under estimate the power of helping in attracting someone nice to be your child. In the West today there are almost endless opportunities to volunteer.  A curious thing to note, is that in Australia, people on the lookout for a husband or wife are actually using volunteering as a way of meeting potential spouses. It turns out that volunteering attracts a certain type of personality, and if you are of a volunteering nature, that’s where you’ll most likely meet someone of the same nature. If the logic works for the love of the lifetime, then it works for attracting the being who will become your child.

So you’ve just learnt that you are pregnant or have just found or been given this book. Our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations.  The journey began without anything to catch your attention, there were no angels singing or earthquakes to mark it as what it is, which is something deeply special and certainly unique. If you are like the vast majority of us who become parents, you are now a month or more along the path.  An everyday miracle has happened and it happened with you. Something utterly unique and wonderful should have had more fanfare attached to it and it didn’t...until now. Rejoice, tell the world...whether it wants to know or not.
We found pregnancy to be utterly fascinating. We, quite literally wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was almost nine months of the most incredible journey of our lives. We read the pregnancy books together and found an amazing amount of complete and utter nonsense, and some true gems of wisdom. Went  to antenatal  classes and found that midwives were a singularly “chill” group of people. Went  to baby clothing stores and markets.  Talked  at length to almost everyone with children who would engage us and as a result were given the single piece of genuine unalloyed wisdom, we were told that in the opinion of one couple that you have eighteen years to raise your child, what they were like as adults was functionally beyond your control, also you can’t make an untrustworthy child trustworthy or vice-versa, that children, as people are simply what they are.  Did  an astonishing amount of observing parents and children in action, saw some horrors and as a result and we found that from the very beginning our baby was giving to us.
Our baby gave us the sense of purpose, we were going to be pregnant. It wouldn’t just be Selina who was pregnant, it was going to be US. Pregnancy is a wonderful time in which to deepen and strengthen a relationship. You can only ever be pregnant the first time once. That first hint, then the confirmation that you are pregnant is unforgettable. Give each other the time to simply marvel, wonder and be utterly gobsmacked at being pregnant. We took lots of long walks holding hands and glowing at each other. Knowing that we were pregnant was completely wonderful. It was the fulfilment of a long held wish.   
You are now on the journey of a lifetime. An utterly wonderful, mysterious, deeply mystical, frightening and demanding journey.  Parenthood will bring out the absolute best and worst in you. You will do things you never thought you either could or would. If you are like us, parenthood will also bring a deep peace and sense of completion.
 There is also the well known phenomena of sympathetic pregnancy, which is where the husband actually experiences the all signs of pregnancy, including morning sickness and contractions when the wife goes into labour.. We’ve forgotten where, but we do know of events where the wife has had an almost pain free labour and it’s been the husband    screaming for painkillers as he has been the one with the full experience of labour. There is actually a name for this, it’s called Couvade Syndrome and the entry in Wikipedia makes for very interesting reading(  We can’t see where too many bosses would accept morning sickness from a man as a reason for a day of they would most likely accuse him of being hung over...but it does happen.        
Pregnancy will also bring a number of chances to practice Dhamma. Until now Dhamma has most likely been associated with solitary or group meditations, Dhamma Halls and talks, Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni, helping out at the temple, offering dana and at Kathina the offering of Requisites. Things, our friends are about to change...permanently! Now Dhamma will be associated with the utterly magical moment when you first see your child’s heartbeat on the first ultrasound, the first identifiable movements of your baby in the womb (for Selina they felt like little butterfly wings tickling her on the inside),  early morning  feeds, the offering of a clean, dry nappy, the blessed silence when your baby is sound asleep, when they crawl for the first time, the first words, the entire joyous experience of being a parent.
Babies announce themselves in many ways. For some it is morning sickness, the successive mornings of feeling absolutely vile. For others it is the physical changes of breasts suddenly being sensitive and growing larger. For some it is the recognition that you haven’t had your cycle in quite a while and a trip to your General Practitioner, who will, most likely take a urine sample and then give you congratulations. No matter how your baby announces themselves in your life, it will be an unforgettable moment. For us it was  mild morning sickness and an inability to eat party food. We had had a miscarriage about six weeks previously, so the recognition that Selina was pregnant again came as something of a surprise.
All the advice that things would take time to heal and sort themselves out, just didn’t happen. We ended up sending an e-mail to our GP listing ten reasons why Selina was pregnant, had the reply that a urine test was still needed, doing one of them at home and then e-mailing the photo to the GP...he still did his own, but this time there was no chance that Selina was anything other than pregnant.
For some, the chance to practice Dhamma begins with morning sickness. Morning sickness doesn’t visit every women or every pregnancy. Some women, like Selina experience it as a mild nausea that comes and goes for the first trimester, for others, it’s projectile vomiting for the entire pregnancy and nothing you do either stops it or alters the fact that the only foods that don’t cause it are cheese on toast or oranges and watermelons. For others there is a sudden intolerance to foods or smells that used to either not bother you or you actually enjoyed.
It may seem like pious nonsense, but, if you change the way you perceive it, morning sickness can be a source of much joy. Morning sickness is one of the unmistakeable signs that you are pregnant, that you have succeeded in your ambition. In between bouts of throwing up and when you are in a marginally more comfortable posture than on your knees in front of your toilet, bath, shower or kitchen sink, you should both  take the time to welcome the person you have invited into your life and this rebirth.
Hello my baby.  We are so glad to have you in our lives. Stay and grow strong. 
When or if you choose to find out the gender of your baby, you can change the recitation.
Hello my son/daughter. We are so glad to have you in our lives. Stay and grow strong. 
Or words to that effect that have meaning for you.
Morning sickness is taken as a sign that the pregnancy is  healthy.  We are not sure if the logic extends to where projectile vomiting means you’ve got a marathon runner inside you or that nine months of being ill means that your baby will live a century or more, but there is the wisdom that a strong baby will make you ill. And “morning sickness” is a will puke at any time of the day or night.
“My/Our baby is strong. How wonderful!”
Once again make the words meaningful to you.
Given that mercifully few couples actually endure almost permanent morning sickness throughout the pregnancy, there will be time and space in which to simply sit both together and alone and welcome this being who, out of the millions of couples in the world who conceived on the day you did, chose you to be his or her parents.
When your wife is heartily throwing up her last meal, cup of tea etc., is the perfect time to practice Compassion. If she’s anything like Selina , this will be a smart move. As you hold her hand, wipe her mouth and or clean up any mess that may have resulted

“My wife may you be free from this suffering”.

Pregnancy is a time rich in chances to practice Generosity. At first so many of the things you will do or are doing during the course of the pregnancy seem so mundane and even boring. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can give being up at what seems an ungodly hour and dealing with an event that has very few pleasant aspects.
In the time between deciding to have a family and actually becoming pregnant there are many gifts you can give to the baby that will come and to each other. If you smoke, make giving up a gift. If you are obese, then make the transition to a healthy weight a gift. The simple act of eating properly can be made into a gift. When we decided to start trying, the very first thing we did was to change our “lifestyle”.  We began taking long walks together and virtually gave up junk food. With the loss of Ariel 1 we went for a walk and found an outdoor gym in a nearby park that was free. In fact, it was after a long walk in the Yarra Valley that Ariel 2 was conceived.  Everyone knows that the fitter you are, the easier it is to get pregnant.  So give yourself and your baby-to-be the gift of gym membership and or regular exercise. And take the time to see the joy in this. There are quite literally no negatives in being fit. Being fit and wanting to make a baby is a bonus.
The simple biology should convince you: fit men have higher sperm counts, fit women ovulate more regularly and the eggs released are more viable, a women who is fit is much, much more likely to have the fertilised egg implant itself. If you are serious about making a baby then the giving starts quite literally at the beginning. Being fit and healthy is stacking the odds of becoming pregnant in your favour. Choosing an unhealthy lifestyle is stacking the odds against yourself.
 As  a meditation reflect, contemplate and take joy in the fact that today, for the last week, month and hopefully not, year, that you have been giving yourself the absolute best chance that you can in conceiving. In giving yourself health, you are making it possible for someone else to come into existence. And giving up addictions is hard.
As a responsible couple you will be eating properly. Think about this. You are eating the best foods you can buy.  At the beginning before you conceive, you are giving yourselves the gift of health. Improved nutrition improves your chances of becoming pregnant. Later once you are pregnant, you are giving your baby the absolute best material with which to grow. All the protein from the fish and soy products, the calcium from the milk, the carbohydrates from the bread, rice and noodles, the folate from the leafy green vegetables, the iron from the meat and legumes you eat, these are all gifts to your baby, and all of them are serious gifts. Without folate, your baby’s central nervous system won’t develop, their spinal cord will not close. Without protein and calcium, no bones or muscles. Without carbohydrates, no energy to make the baby. 
Exercise is a gift during pregnancy. Regular exercise mitigates any number of the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy. For a start women who are fit have labours that are much less painful and on average shorter, they also on average require much less intervention from the midwives and doctors. We knew that would get your attention. Regular exercise helps in regulating gestational diabetes by using up any excess  sugar in the mothers blood. It also helps settle the baby during the final weeks of the pregnancy...basically the exercise of the abdominal muscles helps push the baby down into the pelvic girdle and helps him or her assume the best position for birth.
We must not forget that meditation can be given to your baby. We came across a great deal of at first anecdotal evidence and then our own experience showed  that meditation helps with pregnancy, labour and child raising. When you love this growing baby during pregnancy, endorphins are released. You have, in a way, a natural high. These endorphins cross the placental blood barrier and become part of your baby. You are calm and happy and so is your baby.  For Dad, the meditation has the effect of bonding you with the baby. The happier you both are to be pregnant, the happier the baby will be. The gift of meditation continues well after your baby is born. No great mental leaps are needed to see that parents who are, by nature, calm and constant make better decisions in parenting. A solid meditation practice is, aside from the physical gifts of food, clothes and shelter, the greatest gift you can give your child.

“Today I gave my best the best nutrition/exercise/love that I could. How wonderful that I can do this. In a world full of unskilful choices today I made skilful choices.”

Pregnancy is also obviously a wonderful time to love your baby. A search of places like Wikipedia, Google Images and pregnancy websites will show you that at first there isn’t all that much to love, and what there is, doesn’t look all that much like a person. Still what is there, is yours.
Quite literally the moment you know that you are pregnant...and this includes Dad as the time to start having Metta towards your baby. It will be hard to have Metta towards someone of whom there is no obvious outward sign of their existence...unless morning sickness can be included...but not everyone we have Metta for is physically in the room with us when we meditate. So it is with your baby. Just give the baby a name, it doesn’t matter whether the name is male or female or even whether you give a name or not, “my baby” will do.
“......may you be strong, happy and at peace.”

If something goes wrong. (Miscarriage)
Sometimes, for no reason really known or explainable, babies die. It is the elephant in the room so to speak with every pregnancy.  The one thing we don’t want to acknowledge. We found numbers as high as 1:3 pregnancies fail. We also found evidence that the people compiling those numbers included in the term “miscarriage” everything from fertilised eggs failing to implant to foetuses dying quite late in the pregnancy. Note that after 20 weeks gestation you will have no longer miscarried, you will have had a stillbirth. The difference is technical, because if this happens to you, all you will know is that your baby has died,  no matter how far into the pregnancy you are. No couple is ever pregnant with an embryo or a foetus, we are all pregnant with a baby.
Our first pregnancy struggled from the very beginning. It took two blood tests to confirm that Selina was pregnant. The usual urine tests, all four of them, had returned negative results. It was only that  Selina’s cycle was not in evidence and she had been quite literally as regular as clockwork that convinced us at all that she was pregnant
We decided that Ariel 1 was a boy (Ariel 2 is our son, who is very much alive and kicking. We like the name and the associated symbolism. Ariel is the archangel of Healing and New Beginnings. Basically, second marriage, first child, Ariel is Russell’s new beginning ). We lost our son at five weeks gestation. At five weeks  he wasn’t all that big....about as big as one of the letters on this page, but he meant the world to us.  His loss was the hardest thing that either of us has ever had happen to us. Someone asked Russell what was it like, he replied that it was like being beaten around the head with a blunt object whilst being desperately nauseous and very, very tired.
Believe it or not, but we found Dhamma in the death of our son. It brought so much into a razor sharp focus. Death had entered our lives in an extremely intimate manner. This wasn’t an outsider, this was someone we had both looked forward to having for most of our lives, we had joyously announced the pregnancy in e-mails, phone calls and on Facebook.  In the week afterwards, a friend remarked that the house was a mess. She had assumed that Russell was in the hospital waiting room. He wasn’t. We were together throughout the miscarriage. It was only when Russell broke down weeping and shouting that the state of the house didn’t matter because he had seen his son die in the last week that she realised where he had been.
Ariel 1 gave us priceless gifts. He gave us the knowledge that we did have a strong relationship that did have a future, that we had a marriage. He gave us the knowledge that we could get pregnant. Russell has no children from previous relationships. He gave us a very clear glimpse of what we could be and now are.
It was for these reasons that although we took our time in saying good bye to our son, we were not consumed with grief. Much to our surprise we didn’t grieve for very long at all. No doubt Selina becoming pregnant  immediately after the loss of Ariel 1 helped. But we saw and counted our blessings. We were better people for having had our son in our lives, no matter how briefly.
We did not grieve for very long, but our own experience and in talking to others has shown, the grief fades, the hurt stays. When babies come into your life, they never really leave. Ariel 1 still lives in our hearts, and this is someone who never got to see the light of day, draw breath or laugh. We never got to hold him or really say “Hello” before he left.
Take time to say goodbye to your baby. The insensitive will tell you there is nothing to grieve about...resist the urge to either scream at them or to physically harm them, or to do both.

“Goodbye my baby/my son/my daughter. It was wonderful to have had you in our lives.”

We had, and strongly recommend, a funeral. This can be as public or as private an event as you need it to be. Ours was a private event. Funerals, to use a Politically Correct term “give closure”. They give you a space in which to grieve and say goodbye. It matters not one bit that the rest of the world does not or cannot understand why you are grieving the way you are.  We took the time to say goodbye to our son. We were able to take his remains home after explaining to the hospital that we are Buddhist and wanted to say goodbye to our son. We, for want of a better word, cremated him and his amniotic sac in our backyard, collected the ashes and put in a vase that had a mother and baby painted on the outside. We bought a ceramic pot with a lid. We sealed the vase with candle wax put it in the pot and then over the following two months filled the pot with incense ash. We wrote letters to our son saying how happy we had been to have been his parents and how sad we were that he had had to leave so soon. We put in Buddha images, Kwan Yin, a St Christopher’s medal  (Selina had been Christian before she met Russell)  When the pot was full, we sealed it and buried it in a very special place.
  We would have taken much longer with saying goodbye, but as we’ve written above, Ariel 2 was beginning to make it very obvious that he was in existence. It had taken us precisely two weeks from the ending of miscarriage for  Selina to become pregnant. And there is no need to feel bad about this. It is very, very common for couples to fall pregnant immediately after a miscarriage. We researched and found overwhelming evidence that a very high percentage of couples who had had a miscarriage conceived either immediately afterwards or in the next month or two. We found that the odds of having two miscarriages in a row were about the same as winning the Lotto. The body acquires a momentum of pregnancy. Our lives had acquired the same momentum, everything was orientated towards being pregnant. Falling pregnant again so quickly was normal and natural. Admittedly, we weren’t shouting the news from the rooftops this time, and we almost literally held our breath until the end of the first trimester which is when the chance of miscarriage falls dramatically.
 Ariel 2 was a manifestly stronger pregnancy. This time the home test kit showed the result in a matter of seconds with  very strong blue lines.  Not long afterwards morning sickness put in its first appearance and   Selina broke the news at a party of all places. She had been feeling “odd” for the previous week and the usual fare at Australian parties was making her feel queasy, when previously she’d been able to eat it almost with a shovel.
Knowing and accepting that a miscarriage is the hardest thing you will ever do, you must be gentle with yourselves and each other. Especially in the First Trimester, there was almost nothing that you did that caused the loss of your baby. Babies die in the First Trimester because of genetic mistakes that are so large that they would never have lived had they made it to the end of the pregnancy. We know of someone who’s son lived a week.  We know that having made it to the end of a pregnancy, gone through labour and then have our son die would have most likely killed us.
Babies die, we must also say that the overwhelming number of pregnancies do make it to a perfectly healthy baby...the results are all around you.

Anything can be done, it just depends on how willing you are to do it.

If this is your first pregnancy, then you have quite literally have experienced nothing like it. Every pregnancy and birth is unique. It’s like the children involved, the outcome of a pregnancy is a unique person, and every pregnancy and the subsequent birth is a once off. You may well have or have had a blissfully pain free happens. On the other hand, you may have endured 36 of the most incredibly painful hours of your entire life.  We will not suggest that you have to use the Recollection of Generosity  during contractions. There may be simply no way that you will be able to do anything other than concentrate on the pain, present moment awareness certainly, because intense pain does bring you very firmly into the present moment. There  are very good reasons why painkillers are offered during labour and it isn’t because women are a pack of wimps with low pain tolerances.     
Having said this, the labour pains are not continuous. There are very clear beginnings and ending to them. It is in the space between contractions that you can, if you want to and can, take the time to recollect that you are actively  giving birth to someone . Your child has completed the truly extraordinary journey from zygote to baby and you are now giving birth to someone. The next stage in the baby’s life is beginning.  You are now giving that in the best possible manner you can. Our experience of the public hospital system in Australia was a very positive one. We found that the midwives were very caring and supportive.  So having given life and the best possible chances for your baby to grow in your womb, you are now giving your baby the best possible chance to grow into a beautifully natured child and adult. If this isn’t worth a moment or two of WOW!, then we struggle to find an event that is.
The best possible time to do this recollection in anything remotely resembling a formal manner would be in the time, assuming there actually is a gap, between your waters breaking and or the first unambiguous signs that labour has commenced and the time when your midwives or doctor have advised you to actually go to hospital, which in Victoria is when the contractions are three minutes apart.  You will know that you are in labour, but the contractions won’t be so close together that you will be occupied only with them. Having written this, Selina had no pre-labour. She woke to a wet bed when the amniotic fluid began leaking, then had back pains that came and went, we spoke to a midwife on the phone, then decided to go to the hospital  and actually had her waters break in the hospital car park, she quite literally, stepped out of the car, and remarked “I need another set of knickers because my waters just broke ”.
Even in the likely event that you find you are unable to recollect in this manner at all during labour, you should take the time afterwards to recollect and take joy in the extraordinary act of generosity that was the act of giving birth.
  For the father there is a wonderful chance to give during labour. The mother is actively birthing the baby. The father should also be involved. The support, encouragement and love that the father gives during labour are serious acts of generosity. There is nothing minor about helping and supporting your wife as she gives birth to your child. Once again, given, the intense nature of the event, you are unlikely to be able to actually find either the time or the energy during labour to sit quietly and formally recollect the true depth and ramifications of your act(s) of generosity at this time, but rest assured there will be a time when you will be able to. Even if you feel utterly helpless during labour, your mere presence is a gift. We have heard of men dumping their wives at the hospital and then going off to get drunk with their friends.    
           So rest assured, as ill equipped as you may feel yourself to be, you are helping. There should also be a recognition of the fact that people often rise to a challenge. You may feel that you or your husband may be utterly useless during labour only to find that you or he were essential to the event. We just don’t know until labour happens. Often it is the least likely people who achieve the  most. Russell was raised on stories of big, tough men fainting at the sight of blood during labour, and in the generation since, it has become expected of fathers to be present throughout labour and beyond. Fainting, considered rather poor form in the 1970’s, is now an occasion for embarrassment.
We developed, a mantra. After every contraction it was “”Kurang satu” or “One Less” in either English or Indonesian and frequently both languages.  Russell’s main role was as coach. He simply helped in pain relief and held Selina as she went through contractions. He rates labour as one of his finest moments.

You’ve just brought home someone who essentially sleeps, eats, and excretes (amazingly enough babies can take milk in the top end whilst filling their nappies), and vomits...and that’s it. This someone is also your daughter or son. We all know that the human baby is the most helpless new born in the entire animal kingdom. Due to simply physiology we have to give birth about six months before the baby is really ready to face the world. Human babies can’t even control their own body temperatures, that is how helpless they are.
The helplessness of your child at this point in their life is a wonderful chance to practice Dhamma. Here is someone who is dependent on you in a way that no one else ever has been before. New born babies need everything. They are quite literally at the most they can do when they eat, sleep and put frightening things into their nappies. For the first couple of weeks, that’s it, that is the absolute limit of what they can do. When a baby is awake, they will engage you emotionally with eye contact and the grasping of fingers and noses and being impossibly cute, but physically they are limited in the extreme.
No one will pretend that nappies are places where you always exclaim with joy when they’re full of poo..well not with a straight face. We were asked what it is we wanted when Ariel was born, and replied “Gas Masks! If he’s anything like his father, we’ll need them!” And when you are burping a baby after a feed, occasionally you end up wearing some, if not all, of the meal. We read in one of the many, many magazines available on pregnancy and early childhood, of where the new family was having a day out. Mum gives the two month old daughter a feed in the car. Dad is wearing a very nice new shirt and when the top up is finished puts his daughter into a sling. Things are going glowingly well until Mum hears the baby burp....loudly. Turns around to see Dad covered in vomit from his daughter to his hair line.
The crying at 2 a.m. will be a challenge...because at that hour of the day you will have to play a guessing game. You check the list of things that may be the cause of the crying: so nappy full or empty, stomach full or empty, warm or cold? If you end up with the nappy empty, the stomach full and the baby nice and warm, you are left with the fact that Bub might just want to be held. There  will be times when all you can do is simply hold and love them.
Babies require precious few things to be happy. They need to be fed, they need to be comfortable, they need to be loved. They don’t need to be “entertained”, so there is no need to rush out and buy the latest plasma TV or Play Station, you’ll have to find another excuse . Skin to skin touch is needed by babies to grow properly. What a wonderful time to practice Metta? 

“(insert name) may you be happy and content.”

We will not lie to you. Babies are hard work. You will at first have every resemblance to normal thrown out the window. There will be sleep deprivation, and the pile of revolting... nappies will never seem to get any smaller. You will, at some point, feel totally overwhelmed and completely inadequate for the job you have given yourself...and this is just the first week.
But step back a moment.
Up until now, your life has been about you. Now is a chance to love and give with no reservation. Look at how you feel about your baby. There is a love there that is without precondition. Our approach was to go with this. That love is the basis of the Dhamma practice.  Your baby is the centre of your universe. Go and read the Metta Sutta at the beginning of this book and see if the meaning hasn’t changed for you.  Babies “do” Metta. They haven’t remembered hate and they really aren’t into anger. That look of love that your baby gives you is Metta. So is that look of pure love that you give them.
As we’ve written above, nappies are, perhaps, one of the most challenging parts of being a new parent. The baby has a milk based diet and you will be amazed at the sheer awfulness of the smells and the sheer quantity of what comes out the back end of your baby. How can someone so small fit so much of something that sticks like glue and smells eye wateringly bad?
This is the basis of the Recollection of Generosity. Take the time to recollect that today you gave your baby the milk, the clean nappy, the bath, the love. You can give being awake at a time you were used to going to bed. You can make folding the nappies, eating properly, cleaning the mess off your baby and or yourself, and the floor, walls etc, into gifts. Even on days when you think that you are an utter failure as a parent, you can give your best at being a parent. Perfect parents are always other people. No matter who you are, the other person is the Perfect Parent. The other people who apparently are effortlessly raising the Perfect Child, whilst yours is about got you convinced that she or he is the Spawn of Satan, are the delusion born of most likely lack of sleep.
You give your best.
“Today I gave my best as a parent”.
“Today I gave (insert gift)” 

Having successfully swapped an ordered existence for one that has chaos as its main characteristic, you have to give yourself space. Taking your baby out for a long walk so that your husband or wife can have time to meditate is a gift.
Make the simple, every day acts of being a parent into gifts and you are changing the mundane into the profound. If  it can be done or thought, then it can be gifted, and it is the giving that matters.
Compassion makes its entrance into the world of babies in those moments where he or she is suffering. When a baby has wind, it hurts! So rather than either being annoyed or distressed by your babies obvious pain when it comes to burping up wind, use it as a chance to practice Compassion. Actually there is a way of giving that will substantially reduce your  baby having problems with wind. When they say “breast is best”, they mean that babies who breastfeed end up with less wind problems. Bottles contain air, mammary glands don’t and what isn’t present can’t end up in your baby.

The Meditations
In relation to becoming a parent, generosity isn’t something that completely involves your wallet. In fact, the people who’ve had parents who have functioned as ATM’s...i.e. the super rich, are the ones known to complain the loudest that what they didn’t want or need was their parents money, it was the love and caring that should have come for free that they wanted, needed and missed the most.
So throughout the time when you are trying for, are pregnant and have a baby take the time to simply be with your spouse and your baby. The simple fact that you are there is a wonderful gift.
Once your baby is born the opportunities to give are almost quite literally endless. Absolutely everything can be given. You may think that changing a nappy or burping or settling or loving your child is a pretty ordinary event, but without a clean, dry nappy or a wind free stomach, things in your house will get very noisy, very quickly. A crying or whinging baby was rated as the most annoying sound in the world. We are genetically programmed to be unable to ignore it. It is also something that if it is happening in the same room you will find it impossible to sleep with. Ariel cries the loudest when he has a wet nappy, he quite literally turned bright red when he had a belly full of wind after a feed. So giving these things is wonderful. They are important and they make a significant difference to the quality of life in your house.
There is also the simple fact that babies are expensive. You will spend a lot of time reaching for your wallet. Take joy in this as well. There is absolutely no need to swamp your baby’s life with toys and then use the buying spree in your meditation.
There is the story of Athina Onassis, the granddaughter of the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Little Athina wanted a toy in a shop, but as young children are want to do, Athina couldn’t make up her mind as to exactly what toy she wanted, her mother Christina bought the entire shop, turns out all she wanted was time to make her choice.
Remember just how essential it is to your baby that they are fed, that their nappy is changed often, that they are kept either warm or cool. These are absolutely necessary gifts.
In the past you have given food to Sangha, and that has rightly been a praiseworthy thing to do, but there are others who often participate in Dana. With something like breastfeeding, there is no one else who can do this. In Australia at the time of writing there is a strong movement to breastfeed for at least the first week or two after the birth. This is where you quite literally give your baby his or her or their immune system. Think about this, you are giving someone their immune system, a gift that will last a lifetime. How wonderful is that? But if, for some reason, you can’t breastfeed and not all women can, then there is no reason to feel bad about this. You are still feeding your baby, and that is the gift of life.
With feeding your baby comes burping them. Babies cry when they have wind because it hurts. So burping them is giving them freedom from suffering.
With the nappy changing, you are giving someone comfort. Also if a baby spends long enough in a wet or dirty nappy then the moisture begins to affect their skin and nappy rash results. Nappy rash is truly painful, the skin around your baby’s groin will split and begin to peel, this lets in bacteria that will grow in the urine or poo. Infection can result. So that nappy change at 2 a.m is an important gift. Remember that 2 a.m isn’t a terribly social time, often it has been the time that we were going to bed. Now it is the time when we are changing the nappy of a wriggling, crying baby. It is easy to underestimate the importance of this gift, don’t. Rejoice in it, this gift makes everyone in your home happier.
Give your baby endless kisses. There are two aspects to this. By kissing your baby particularly on their face, you are actually giving them the micro-flora and microfauna that they need in their stomach to actually digest food. Babies aren’t born with the bacteria in them, they get it from you. So kissing your baby, apart from being something you want to do, is actually necessary for them to digest their food. The other aspect is that babies who know that they are loved are happier babies for it. There are less problems when it comes to them sleeping and generally being people. In making it so obvious that you adore them you are giving them the security they need to be happy, well adjusted adults with all the positives that this will bring about. Once again, a simple, natural act becomes a gift that will last a lifetime. 
Tell your baby that you love them. Even when they are very young they will respond to the emotion behind the words. Knowing that you are wanted and needed and loved by your parents is the foundation of a happy, well adjusted life. So leaving your baby and child in absolutely no doubt that they are adored is giving yet another deeply important gift.
 So filling your baby’s life with everything that buzzes, whistles and flashes isn’t necessarily the greatest act of generosity. Wonderful childhood memories are created when you give unreservedly of yourself. Give your child  Mum or Dad time, it costs nothing and will give priceless memories, it will also help them when it comes to becoming parents in their turn.
Give your baby rules. Babies need routines. Babies like a life that is boring and predictable, it gives them security. Russell believes that half of his emotional problems as an adult were caused by his father being unpredictable and with the rules never being a constant thing. There was no sense of security with his father. This led to years of struggle with depression and insecurity as an adult. He also rates himself as being quite fortunate in this because other family have struggled with drug use, broken marriages and lives of crime.
And when the baby grows into a child give them discipline. Russell once lived with a woman who had a sister who believed that children naturally would respect other people and their property, she believed that even a mild smack was unnecessary. The problem was that the child very quickly figured out that her mother was nothing more than noise and that when she tore up books or broke things that there would be no grief as a result. A couple of years later when Russell visited in order to find out if any children had resulted from his relationship with this woman’s sister, the sister had learnt that occasionally a smack on the backside would make her daughter a nicer person...and she was.
 There is no suggestion here that the discipline is of the sort that leaves bruising or broken skin, that is abuse. What is being suggested that a smack that is more noise than pain on the nappy cover and as a result gives the child a fright is what is needed. Though personally, if we were given a choice between smacking Ariel quite hard and having him burn himself on the bar-b-que or heater or run out on the road into traffic, we’ll take the smack any day.
So go to your Sacred Space and take joy in what you have given. Marvel at it, exclaim verbally and or mentally just how nice it is being a parent. You are giving something that no one else in the world can. You have made life, you are or have given that life everything it needs to become a person. Take joy in the many, many gifts you give every day to your baby. They are wonderful and you should abide in the wonder that you, an ordinary person, is capable of giving such gifts.

You will have moments of it. There will be the times when everything is still, either the baby in your uterus isn’t kicking or the baby in the cot is full of milk and is asleep. There is also the utter stillness that comes with the joy of being a parent.
Wherever the peace comes from, be with it, sense how beautiful the peace is. Take time to be with this peace, it is a refuge for the times when your baby is making like they are someone else’s child entirely and these moments seem to invariably happen at extremely antisocial times of the early morning or in public.
A mind that is at peace and as a result still is naturally a very happy one. Peace  isn’t dull, quite the opposite in fact, if anything it’s blissful.
You notice the peace and mentally and verbally exclaim just how nice it is. Notice the texture of the peace and take joy in it.


Metta is likely to be one of the very first things that you will experience on the birth of your baby. We have known True Love, and it wasn’t the first time we saw each other. True Love happened at 3.01 p.m on May 17, the moment Ariel was born. We took one look at him and we knew a love that had no boundaries to it and was completely altruistic. So for the first time after more than 20 years of practising Metta meditation and having some very blissful experiences Russell  finally knew Metta.
It is important that you establish yourself in a practice of Metta first, all the other Brahma Vihara flow from Metta. The mind that abides in Metta towards a baby is also a mind that will abide in Karuna, Mudita and Upekkha. At times these other Brahma Vihara will surprise you by their appearance.


 Ariel had an interesting first week of life, he lost 13% of his birth weight due to Selina’s milk not descending quickly enough, as a result he was readmitted to hospital. There was a time when both of us were deeply aware that ourselves weren’t actually on our “care list”, Ariel was the sole focus of our concern and his well being was the centre of our lives. Our access to food and sleep was secondary to knowing that our son was well. The wanting the suffering to end and taking steps to make it end is Compassion.

Mudita comes very early when you notice your joy in seeing your baby growing and developing.

Upekkha puts in an appearance the moment you recognise that this baby actually isn’t yours. Yes, the child is your son or daughter, but they have entered this lifetime with their own Kamma and it will be very obvious very early in their lives....the first week...their own personalities. So you care for and love this baby, but you have to be aware that you invited them into this lifetime, you cannot govern how long they will stay.