continued So, what brings the people at the center together?
“A lot of people are looking for something more. Something that teaches values,” Waters said. “My program is very traditional — it goes back 2,500 years. there are a lot of programs out there that are eclectic and bring together yoga and music, and that is fine, but this program is very classically Buddhist. I wanted to develop something very lineage-based. That is what Dharma Kids, and the Zen center does.
A session of the Dharma Kids program begins with talking about participants’ motivation, followed by offerings, prostrations, chanting, meditations and “Kinhin,” or walking meditation. There may also be a time for special prayers for anyone or any being that we know who is in pain or sickness.
In addition, the program has annual themes – such as Tsa-tsa paintings done in December, where Babette Teich-Visco of Manlius leads the children in painting statues, and the celebration of Buddha’s birthday on April 8.
Although the kids enjoy the program, it does have its challenges.
“Sitting still is a very hard thing,” Waters said. “What I do is have them sit for a minute — have them count their breaths, then take a break, or do a visualization to see something in their minds or do a mantra, then take a break. I feel it is better to do one-minute periods with full attention than 30 minutes with the mind wandering.”
Waters is in her third year of heading the Dharma Kids course.
“Before me there was a Zen for kids program that was very different, more of an arts and crafts program, really, and I took it over and formalized it into a much more traditional practice,” she said. “We do arts and crafts but I really want t teach them the teachings of Buddha so they have a foundation so that when they are confronted with something like, ‘I want that pencil but it’s not mine, should I take it?’ they automatically have the answer.”