A little while ago I received an email from Sumi Loundon Kim, telling me about a new bedtime book for children that she’d just had published. The book is an adaptation of a traditional Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, which helps us to develop warmth and kindness, and to take our own and others’ well-being into account.
Sumi’s family practiced this meditation every night for five years as they snuggled in bed. She went on to teach it to other families. and discovered it was a popular approach that many parents and children ended up doing together.
When my review copy arrived, my heart melted! The warmth and love embodied in the cover image by Laura Watkins is simply stunning. In fact, the illustrations are gorgeous throughout: full of life and love.
Sumi Kim’s text gives a lovely, child-friendly guide to bedtime loving-kindness practice. There are a few pages that describe a series of brief practices that prepare the ground for kindness to arise: arriving by acknowledging that snuggling we’re in bed; grounding ourselves with deep in and out breaths; relaxing (“soft and heavy, melting into our resting spot”); and connecting with kindness by placing our hands on our hearts and picturing a warm glow radiating outward.
Title: “Goodnight Love: A Bedtime Meditation Story”
Author: Sumi Loundon Kim, Laura Watkins (illustrator)
Available from: Shambhala, Indiebound (US), or Bookshop.org (US and UK).
As is traditional, the loving-kindness instructions begin with adopting a kind and loving attitude toward ourselves: “May I be healthy. May I be safe and protected. May I be happy and peaceful.” They then widen into cultivating kindness and love for our families and loved ones, our friends, including friends who are hurting, and then out yet further, into forests, mountains, oceans, and the whole world.
In case you think it’s odd to wish a mountain well, the illustrations make it clear that we’re considering not just a hunk of rock, but all the living creatures that live on and around it. The same is true for forests and oceans.
Finally — and this was a really lovely transition — we come back to the intensely personal, as the adult reader wishes their snuggling child well: “And now, little one, it is my turn to share my love for you: May you be healthy. May you be safe and protected. May you be happy and peaceful, always and forever.”
The return from the universal to the intimate was very effectively done. This must be so pleasing to any child, reminding them that out of all the billions of being in our world they have a very special place in their family.
My children are about the same age as Sumi’s — they’re both teenagers – and beyond the target age for this book. I really wish something like this had been available when they were younger, because I’d love to have had the experience of sharing it with them.
I wholeheartedly recommend Sumi Loundon Kim and Laura Watkin’s book to all parents of young children. Books like this are rare. They are important tools for bringing more love and kindness into the world.