Children naturally embody the magic of wonder and present-centered awareness. I see this everyday in my kids as they demonstrate their fascination with the “ordinary”. Simple things like intensely studying how the cabinet door opens and closes or how the soap makes bubbles on their hands as they wash. My four-year old son easily forgives his friends when they say they are sorry… no grudge. Within seconds, he simply returns to the play they were involved in, happily, with genuine laughter and joy. Wonder and presence mold their early experiences. How do young children achieve this so effortlessly? Where along our own development do we lose this ease?
I consider our own mental chatter. From the moment we awaken each day till we rest our heads against the pillow again at night, our minds fill with layers of dialogue. We think about our plans for the day, conversations we want to have or wish we could change, anticipation of events, actual conversations with others during the day, facebook and other social media, the bombardment of information we receive overtly and covertly… we mentally process information to the nth degree.
This overload of mental activity often keeps us in the future or in the past. None of this chatter focuses us on the present. On this moment. Right here. Right now. Even as I type those words, I feel like I have to peel layers of “stuff” off of me to get to this here-and-now place. The weight of this mental chatter feels like a heavy cloak. I find myself taking a deep breath and releasing.
As we grow, our brain’s learn how to conceptualize time, develop language skills and experience socialization. These all contribute to the growth of mental chatter. So, in some sense, children have an advantage over us. In their less mature states, they do not carry the burden of our adult processing of information. Naturally, without the concept of past or present, without the language to create extensive mental chatter, with limited social experiences, their minds remain open, full of wonder and curiosity… a true freedom.
Now do not misunderstand me. I have moments when I devalue my children’s mindful ways. Why? I have appointments to keep, a schedule that I follow, family obligations, dinner to make and responsibilities that need attention. I do not always have the time to be in the magic and wonder of it all! Then I laugh out loud. My children are wise beyond their years and teach me daily about what matters most. All of those commitments may be true and I can move through them with attention, wonder, presence and ease.
So what does this mean for us as adults? It means that we have to consciously make the effort to return to this open, uncluttered mental space. It does not come naturally anymore. Fortunately, we have the skills to slow down, quiet our minds, let go of the self-talk, consciously breathe, direct our thoughts to the present, release the past, let go of the future, focus and connect to this moment. Right here. Right now.
I’m fully aware of when I resist living my life through a mindful eye. Thankfully, through their natural state, my children remind me of it’s value. We all have the ability to take in our world as richly and as magically as children do. With motivation, consistent practice and discipline, we can savor the ordinary, see through the eyes of wonder and be present to each extraordinary moment. That is life. Miraculous and extraordinary.