Investing in a Zen Children’s Program
Ten years ago we started a Children’s Program at the Zen Center. We’ve done all kinds of fun things over that decade – lots of stories, so many games, community service, overnights at the center, family retreats, and more. For me it’s always been a bright and colorful spot at the center. I believe we’re in a very good place in the life of the program – a good curriculum, wonderful teachers, and new energy.
It has of course taken time and resources to build. Here’s why I think it’s worth investing in:
Finding a quiet and calm place within herself will help a child her whole life through.
A Buddhist framework is a good one to help understand the world. In the Children’s Program we work on a three year cycle – we concentrate on wisdom one year; on values the next; and on compassion in the third year. Within that structure, we use stories from many different traditions to help kids appreciate values such as generosity, courage, and clarity.
It’s helpful for children to have a social group that is outside the regular hurly burly of school. One where deeper questions can be posed without fear. One where values like empathy and openness are valued and modeled.
It helps a family to have a common language and practice, so that kids understand what their parents are doing when they come to the Zen Center–it’s not that mom or dad just disappears and then comes back! Over time the center becomes a spiritual home for the family, a community through fun and difficult times.
Having kids and families involved helps everyone at the center. We learn from each other and help each other at all ages. One of our older children is helping take care of the toddlers. One of our youngest members recently took calligraphy lessons from one of our eldest.
If you’re interested in helping out with our children’s program, we’re always looking for volunteers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected with our children’s program leaders.
-Koshin Chris Cain is Abbot of the Puget Sound Zen Center