Be More Childish - Lessons In Mindfulness

There are two things I have seen on social media recently that really stuck with me. The first was a video where an adult behaves like a toddler. No I don’t mean making a mess and throwing a tantrum or anything like that, instead the guy is running around full of joy and curiosity. He touches and explores everything he sees, very much in the moment. 

The second post said: "your tongue knows what everything you look at would feel like". Go on try it now.  Look around the room at different textures and imagine what they feel like if you licked them. It’s pretty clever how you know right?  

A toddler eating a red velvet cake and fully focussing on it
Focusing on enjoying the cake and nothing else

As an adult we know so much; it allows us to make decisions quickly and to focus. Being able to categorise the world and make assumptions is a really useful skill, but I wonder if I have gone too far. Somewhere along the way I have stopped investigating, touching and discovering about the world around me. I have become so focused on avoiding risk, consequences and getting things done that I have stopped appreciating the here and now. I guess that’s what mindfulness is about; slowing down and smelling the roses.  

Getting Lessons In Appreciating Life From My Children

I am constantly surprised how much mess my son can make with a chocolate biscuit. My reaction tends to be to sigh and reach for a cloth to clean him up, to be concerned about any soft furnishings nearby and to wish he would eat more neatly. All that mess is a waste isn’t it? Maybe not, because my son really loves eating chocolate biscuits. When he eats he is fully focused on enjoying that biscuit. No part of him is thinking about the crumbs on the floor or the need to clean his hands afterwards. Not until I ruin it with nagging anyway. When was the last time I focused on enjoying what I was eating and nothing else?

It’s not just my youngest that gives me lessons in focussing on the present. Last time I went for a run with my eldest her pace was very different to mine. She would go all out and zoom ahead. When I eventually caught her up going at my steady, but significantly slower, pace it was because she had stopped to recover. She can zoom along, have a break and then 5 minutes later zoom again. If I run all out, I need longer to recover. But is that because my older body can’t recover as fast, or because I have stopped giving it the opportunity to try? By constantly pacing myself am I limiting what I can achieve?

As parents we have all experienced our children complain they are too tired to continue walking or to tidy up or whatever it is they don’t want to do. They claim exhaustion but then something catches their attention: a playground, a bug, their sibling winding them up. Suddenly they are off and running. Tiredness long forgotten. Is it because they were never that tired in the first place? Did they recover quickly? Or is a change as good as a rest?  I don’t know the answers, but it made me think.

How often do our experiences, our routines, our assumptions hold us back? As adults we plan ahead. We avoid risk. We rush. How much more appreciation would we have for our lives if we lived more like our children?

3 Ways To Make You See The World Differently

Ask more questions

The other day my daughter asked me why a chickpea was called a chickpea. We googled it and found out. Children are naturally curious about the world and ask a lot of questions. I have the internet in my hands most of the day courtesy of my phone so why don’t I think to ask more questions? Don't just accept things are the way they are, ask why.

Touch everything

Our hands are constantly touching things, but how often do we think about how things feel? How often do we touch things we don’t need to touch?  Touching and focusing on the feel of the world around us is one of the quickest ways to ground us and bring us to focusing on the present.

Take a different path

Whether we are going to the shops or walking the dog we tend to go down the same roads each time and see the same things. So much so that we stop looking. By taking a slightly different route we are more likely to look around us and see what’s there, getting us out of our heads. Even going to a different branch of your normal supermarket can be enough to shake things up and make you see products you never saw before. Apply the same strategy to your day and see how much more you notice when you do things slightly differently.

What’s the worse that can happen?

Hands can be washed, scratches heal, most things that break can be fixed. Are you worried about what others might think? When I see someone happy and enjoying life it makes me smile,  but in reality most people are too focused on their own lives to pay attention to what you are doing. And if they do notice and judge you, who cares? That’s a problem for them, not for you. 

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