I remember being a very aware and joyful child, at two years of age or younger. It’s clear that something happened to me between then and adulthood. How is it that adult life becomes so serious, so burdened, that we constantly look for ways to numb and escape? TV, chocolate, alcohol, work, sex… somehow never recapturing that joyful flow, wisdom, presence and sensitivity of childhood. I like to observe kids, as many adults do. Something in them answers questions in us, even if we don’t know we’re asking. I wonder whether all of the child I was is really lost, or still in there somewhere? I do have a very playful, silly ‘streak’ and don’t mind looking ‘childish’ in public if I’m having harmless fun, like doing slippery-shoe slides along the shopping mall floor, or hanging out of a nice tree.
But I notice with some sadness that what’s classed as ‘fun’ by many adults is harmful of themselves and others. It seems the definition of a good weekend can be: how destroyed by alcohol your brain and body is by Monday morning, or how many videos you watched, or whether you’re in pain from an overstuffed stomach at a smorgasbord, or whether you ‘scored’ in a night club, or how ache-y you are from too much hard work in the gym, house and garden…. To me, none of these feel like the flowing joys of childhood. Why should ‘simple and healthy’ be associated with children, whilst ‘complicated and harmful’ are associated with adulthood?
I’ve been doing some observational experiments to look at these questions: How do children do things, and how much like a kid am I really?
I’ve been observing children and puppies (just 4-legged kids!) in the streets, shopping centres and friends’ homes… not in a passive, purposeless way, but with more focus and conscious attention. What can I learn from children (and dog children) that I seem to have forgotten?
Without writing an in-depth scientific article, here are just some of my science diaries of what this personal experiment is revealing to me.
1. Of Wagging Puppies
I drop off a parcel at a stranger’s front door. On the other side of the screen I suddenly notice a black puppy, almost invisible in the dark interior, and not making a sound. The puppy is wagging his whole body, eyes looking into mine.
It’s the same with puppies being led along the beaches and roads – big, waggy hellos with no fear, no questions, just pure openness, love, acceptance and joy. It is connection with no judgment. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like or what mood you’re in… and it brings an instant glow to the heart of practically everyone around.
That feels like me, the way I am on the inside: I’d rather smile and ‘wag’ at everyone I meet! Then I find I can become inhibited by a person’s facial expression and body language, and the judgments that get in the way of that total loving connection. “Stuff.” Not really me. It seems that somewhere along the way from childhood to adult, I became loaded with stuff that is not natural to me, and transformed into an ‘adult’ that bears not enough resemblance to the loving, accepting, little child I was!
2. The Neighbours Drop In
Neighbourhood children, a brother and sister about 5 and 7 years old, appear on my verandah on the day I move into a new house. They chat with me through the screen door as I unpack – they feel able to be safe with a total stranger, and talk about their joys, fears, loves, and games; they express all of themselves, as they are, with no holding back. I feel I want to be like that. What stops me?
3. Any Excuse, Including Hats
I walk into the local laundromat to pick up my laundry. It’s cold and rainy and I am rugged up. I notice the only other person in the room, a young girl about 11 years old, sitting on a seat waiting for the family laundry. Her unusual, fluffy, knitted beanie is identical to mine, except a slightly lighter colour. I feel no hesitation in smiling and saying playfully: “Hey, your beanie and mine are related!” and she smiles back with equally no hesitation and tells me about her beanie.
There was no attachment or expectation or awkwardness, just a pure, simple, loving, fun exchange between two equal human beings, and then we both went on with our business. If she had been an adult, there is a strong chance that there would have been some trepidation, some judgment, like: “What does she want from me? Why is she approaching me?” and a sense of boundaries being transgressed. Though not always. And I notice that the guarded kind of response from strangers, in general, is decreasing these days… something is happening… I’m changing, other people are changing, opening up somehow. Have you noticed this?
4. Welcome, When You’re Ready
A friend’s 8 year-old daughter, upon seeing me for the first time in half a year, tilts her head so that one eye is peeping out from under her hair, and rocks her shoulders from side to side. I’ve noticed children do this a lot but never thought about it. Now, because I’m in ‘scientist mode’, I suddenly see that this is a sensitive, playful way to get someone’s attention without being imposing or threatening, or ‘in your face’. It is basically saying: “I am really seeing you, but showing you that I am respectfully letting you see that I am inviting you to connect with me when you are ready.” Sensitivity to where others are at, and bringing them out of themselves to connect… gorgeous! How much we adult dudes can learn from this kind of wise, gentle approach to each other!
5. Oops, Not Mum, But It Didn’t Matter A Moment Ago
A busy shopping mall. A child is lost (but doesn’t know it yet) and I feel a small hand slipping into mine. I look down to see the child assuming (without looking up) that I’m his mum. I watch, staying quiet and steady. We walk along, then the child apparently feels my eyes on him and looks up, getting a shock to see that I’m not his mum.
I can see that children naturally trust and feel at home in crowds of strange people and in physical contact with them, but they have been taught not to. He was quite happy until he looked up and realised his ‘mistake’. Don’t we feel, like the child, that we could take anyone’s hand and feel safe in the connection with another human being? And if not, why not? Has that trust been pressured out of us?
6. Mirroring Babies
A young child sits in a high chair in a restaurant with her food in front of her. But instead of eating, she is manipulating her mother emotionally – putting on a cry face and wailing every time her mother turns away from her to the shop assistant. I could feel that she was faking, and that surprised me in one so young. So I sat and silently observed her just as she is, not reacting, not judging, not ‘trying to help’. She became aware of me catching her in her strategy. She could see that I could see what she was doing and there was a part of her that did not like to be exposed. She spun away from my eyes and resumed her behaviour. But she was drawn back several times to the silent reflection I was offering, and became still and silent herself in those moments even though she chose to return to her performance.
How young to be already in that game! How do we as adults use victim / tragedy / pain / emotion to make others relate to us in the way we think we want? But we do know it’s false and we feel ‘sprung’ when someone sees through it… So why do we keep doing it?
7. Mirroring Part 2
I had a similar experience when ‘mirroring’ every expression (facial, words, cries, tantrum body language) of a 4 year-old boy at a party, who was similarly using emotion and distressing behaviour to force attention from his mother. When he noticed me and saw what I was doing, he became intrigued at the reflection of himself. But he would alternate between watching my reflection of him and avoiding it – part of him did not want the truth, but wanted to keep running his ‘program’. Eventually he was fascinated, seemingly against his own will – a pull to self-reflection which we all have – then came the ‘aha’ moment when he consciously saw how untrue and manipulative his behaviour was. I could see and feel his shock of recognition, and his realisation that he did not like being that way. He abruptly stopped and came back to himself. Then he walked over to his mother and calmly and respectfully asked her for what he wanted. She turned gracefully with the stress gone from her, heard him, connected with him, gave him what he wanted and they were together in harmony thereafter…
I could imagine that child’s life might never be the same after that experience of awareness and choice. The neurobiologists state that even a few seconds of experience can ‘hard-wire’ a child’s brain for life. Could non-judgmental, understanding, un-imposingly offered, truthful reflection, be the greatest gift we could bring to any child? And to any adult?!
8. Flow And Synchrony
I’ve been watching children playing in groups: in their movements, sounds and all expressions, kids flow like flocks of birds, swirling water, the wind in trees… There is a free rhythm that is in stark contrast to the way an adult’s day usually goes with all its constricted structures and time pressures.
Yet watching the kids, I can feel my inner self flowing along with them and it makes more sense. I want to live like that. I don’t mean irresponsible and not carrying out my duties as an adult, but doing ‘adult things’ without the sense of burden, seriousness and mechanical disconnection. Doing things within the flow and connection of the whole. Why not? Suddenly there is fear; that I will be seen as reckless and irresponsible. That I will ‘lose the plot’ and my life become disordered and out of control. That other adults, grudging along with their burdens, will become jealous and start to single me out. That there will be consequences… Oh boy!
I remember learning in the brain anatomy lab that this kind of negative apprehension-fear of consequences thing comes from prior punishments affecting a region of our brain called the orbital cortex, which is heavily involved in our emotional reactions. So once again, it was programming that began who knows how early in childhood, and was constantly topped up by parents, school, society… Gosh – we have a lot of ‘undoing’ to do!
9. Doing vs Being
A 10 year-old child, who is behaving cruelly to others and having difficulties in his relationships, is sitting on the floor in front of me. He has not greeted me, nor met my eyes. But he knows I love him, that I live my love to the best of my ability. I can feel he is using what he is doing – spreading books over the floor on a particular subject and then studying them intently – in hope that ‘what he is doing‘ will draw my attention to him because he is afraid of ‘what he is when he is being‘ himself. He doesn’t yet have the awareness to be his real amazing self and has instead identified with his scary, lashing-out, angry self. His current experience is being accepted and validated by what he does, instead of by who he is – at 10 he already has this burden of adulthood.
However, there’s another side to this situation: by choosing to not dump his anger on me, he is expressing his love for me in his own way. I understand that he finds it easier and safer to be withdrawn so that he doesn’t lash out; that he does not yet have the confidence to connect to the real him. But the mere fact that he restrains his usual anger and chooses his own way to express love, means that he does recognise love, and wants to let me know it. One day it will blossom in him and shine out for all to see, of that I am sure!
10. Silliness And Dignity
I was at a big birthday party for a 5 year-old child. Everyone was outside on an acre of mowed grass with a hired clown. The clown was a young guy and he really knew how to be a kid, with kids’ humour. He had the children riveted, involved, leaping around with him. Most of the humour was not at the level of ‘sophistication’ of adult humour. But watching the adults (lined up side-by-side like an audience at a concert) I could see that they all related to it from their ‘inner child’ and would have joined in, silly as can be, if it were ‘permissible’. But it’s not acceptable to enjoin childish humour directly in public (just too embarrassing, too undignified) so the adults did the usual, indirect, acceptable performance of enjoying the children’s responses!
Kids find humour in the silliest, simplest things, run with it unashamedly, share it with others who also resonate with it, until everyone is in peals of laughter. Then, unattached, they suddenly let go and move on when the feeling has run its course. Like those flocks of birds, they are in synchrony with something invisible flowing through every moment…
I ‘get’ the silliness, but have spent much of my life as an extreme introvert. Now it’s silly scientist come-out time. Now I ‘risk all’ and relate to people, even strangers, in the streets and shops and serious places and on the phone. I love to play silly with people… anyone. A rare few meet me with walls of suspicion and disdain, but most melt immediately and come on board, letting their own inner child out to have some fun!
This is a very haphazard, poorly controlled experiment by ‘scientific standards’, but wow – the useful observations it has provided!
I feel there is a science to observing and tracing the inner and outer incongruities, assisted by watching children (and animals), and relating what is seen to our adult selves. Paying attention and making intentional observations – of anyone (including ourselves) – being true to nature and in the universal flow of life, may be the key to a return to a simpler, fulfilling and loving way of being.
By Dianne Trussell, BSc Hons, Science & Health Writer & Educator
Related Tags: Serge Benhayon Teachings