Adopting a Child's Mindfulness
Moments Are Meaningful
It's strange that as I get older, I feel both more distracted and more centered. Many of the impulses of my youth have been replaced with a steady awareness, thank goodness, but my level-headedness seems to come at a price. I look around myself and see adults paying that price all the time: plowing ahead in their lives as if the objective of life were to plow ahead. Most adults I meet seem to lack the mindfulness that children demonstrate so naturally. They don't appreciate moments in life, aside from how to use them to get to more moments, and many adults even go so far as to adopt a disdain for those who do attempt to live in the here and now. I'm not sure why age seems to settle the mind on the one hand and disengage it on the other. It seems like a cruel trick. Luckily, as parents, we have the opportunity to watch and learn from the masters of mindfulness, our own children.
My older daughter has a brilliant ability to live in the moment. All children do, I suppose, but I notice her mindfulness most of all. Often, I'll hear her chatting to herself in the next room, playing with her toys as if she were the only person in the world. If I listen closely, I can make out words here and there, but I have a difficult time stringing them together with any semblance of meaning. In teenagers and adults, this muttering might be cause for alarm; in an eight-year-girl, it feels magical. My daughter is only aware of what is immediately around her. She is only concerned with the joyful language of now , that cradle of experiencing without analyzing. There is no yesterday or tomorrow to her at those times; there is no sense of consequence or regret. She is my unassuming model for living in the moment.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard my daughter talking to herself in the bathroom. Since the door was open, and I knew she wasn't taking care of her business, I became curious. Glancing in, I saw her pacing the room, circling and angling in all directions. Her feet slid easily across the black and white tiles, and she conversed with an invisible confidant. Since she was unaware of my presence, she continued for a minute and I tried my best to figure out what she was doing, with little luck. Then she paused. She saw me. I felt frustrated with myself for being the end of a little girl's mindfulness; even my daughter seemed aware that living in the moment didn't gel with seeing an adult. Rather than leave her alone, however, I asked what she had been doing. She said, "no matter how I walk or where I step, I'm always lined up with a black square." She swept a finger across the pattern on the floor, which is more complicated than an alternating design. Somehow, at that moment, my daughter had seen the placement of tiles on the bathroom floor as holding some deep secret, and what's more, she had dedicated herself to a series of movements intent on divulging a truth no one else could ever know.
I felt thrust back years. I remembered as a child how many times I had noticed things like the pickets in a fence or a half-dozen crows sitting on a telephone line. When I was little, I used to try to figure out the shape of a streak on the window, and I'd count the number of bumps on my bedroom ceiling. I still see these things, but age has done its best to remove the feeling that meaning could ever be found there. As so many other adults do, I take note of things now, and if what I'm seeing or hearing will not help me accomplish what I'm trying to accomplish, I let the moment pass. Earning a living and making ends meet has reprioritized the meaning of my life, and this is true for too many adults. So few moments are actually productive in most people's minds. Usually, the moments deemed worthy are unimaginative and simply serve as bridges to other, better moments. This is an empty way to live.
I am resolving to learn from my daughter as she learns from me. I am committing to the idea that she has the right idea, and by reflecting her ability to exist comfortably in a moment, I can't help but become a better person and parent. If it's possible to live a productive life while also living a mindful one, I'm going to try. I'm going to stop weighing the value of what's around me by only considering its practical application. I feel driven by the possibility that one day my daughter might notice me sharing her blissful engagement of the moment, and not think anything of it.