The three Centers that I’ve visited have all shared the same dynamic of being a place for adults. Rules like no physical contact and gender separation make it very difficult for kids to be kids in the Center environment. There are no playgrounds or jungle gyms. The kitchens don’t serve kid friendly foods. I’ve never seen a changing station for a baby. I’ve always had the impression that Centers are simply a place for adults. There is nothing wrong with this, but I wonder if this dynamic make parents feel excluded. I wonder if parents feel like they need to separate their family lives from their Vipassana practice.
I wonder if there is a way to make Centers more family friendly without harming the meditation environment. Goenka often talks about looking at fellow meditators as dhamma brothers and sisters, so who better to model familial love than actual families? Goenka had a household of children himself, so there must be ways for a Center to support dhamma families.
One idea I’ve heard is the idea of having a Children’s House at a Center. This would be a dhamma space for kids to be kids. I’ve even heard the idea of parents taking the same 10-day course while taking turns caring for their child in the Children’s House. Neither parent would be able to get as deep in their personal meditation, but the benefit of including the entire family in the study of dhamma my be more meaningful and practical at that stage of life. It’s hard for me to fully grasp how children of any age could be fully engaged for 10 days in one area of a center, but it seems like an idea worth exploring. It would be wonderful if we could figure out how to support more dhamma families. Time to meditate.