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There is so much we can learn from children. Most of us are disconnected from that childlike quality inside ourselves, that innocent state of joyful wonder that makes love for children so natural. In fact, we can think that that the only way to experience that state is vicariously through our children. We can restrict our boisterous play to only be in the company of children, and make sure we always make â??˜sense’ in the company of adults.
And yet, much of the education of children is really a movement away from wonderful qualities that would greatly serve society. By the time adulthood is reached, through public schools and the gauntlet of teenagedom, there can easily be layers upon layers of defenses, filters, and preconceptions that prevent the wonder of a child and guileless expression. We are taught a learning of accumulation of facts and how to act in such a way that is â??˜normal’. In spite of the tremendous value we know children have, we are in some way denying that value, by trying to exclusively teach them while not learning from them. We don’t see them as equals, as Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, author of “Nonviolent communication”, says in his article on raising children compassionately.
Children, in their simple wisdom of being who they are, have tremendous amounts to teach and remind us. How easy it is to break down in tears when a child touches your cheek after noticing some held back sadness. Being silly and unrestrainedly playful around a child is the most natural thing in the world. They remind us what is truly important in life. And what they teach us, via the characteristics they model, can be applied to all of life, not just our interaction with them.
To help see this, I’ve listed a number of characteristics young children have that we could all learn from. It is these characteristics that epitomize Love.
- Vulnerability. This is not only an absolute open sense of trust and visibility of self, but also the rapidity at which the task at hand takes complete focus. It is when a child (or adult) is most like themselves, without any apology or attempt to be anything else. True vulnerability always results in more openness, more allowing, and therefore, more Love. We feel this around children, and it is this sense that we respond to in children. A baby is completely vulnerable, completely open to the manipulations of life force around it, yet at the same time, is completely trusting that this process will result in continued life, growth, and for all intents and purposes, Love.
- Harmony. Children are not separate from their environment, their parents, or even themselves. If their parents are upset, they will feel it too. There is no intellectualizing the experience, no controlling of their actions. They feel the state of their surroundings, which includes themselves, and at the same time naturally move towards a balance. Because of this, problems do not accumulate. If they are upset, they scream. If they are sad, they cry. The next moment is often something completely different, as any parent knows!
- A sense of perpetual wonder. Simply mouthing the phrase ‘it brought me back to being a child again’ conveys this. Life is vivid, full of vibrancy and new discoveries behind every corner. There’s new ways of seeing and interacting with even familiar objects. Children have that sense of wonder because they’re completely present in the moment, immersed in the explosion of colors around them at every moment in humble appreciation.
- Exploration beyond “right” and “wrong”. As my previous post, The Beauty of Gray mentions, we tend to get locked into black and white thinking. Something is either good for us or bad, and all our interactions with it is based on this label we have. Children interact directly. And because of this, they are in a perpetual state of exploration. There is no “wrong” behavior – they see nothing strange about putting corn chips down your pants if the mood suits it. (I have personal experience with this!).
- Leaning through play. This is the utmost extension of the previous point. With nothing ‘wrong’, every action is playful. Silliness makes more sense than seriousness, because it voices the absurdity of trying to control and label all the experiences occurring. And learning occurs very quickly because of the open state of the child.
- Trust. There are no worries in a child’s mind beyond the immediate moment. There is simply a powerful trust that all they need will be there.
All of these states, of course, are as accessible to adults as they are to children. But for the most part, we have been educated away from such means of interacting with each other, and even with children. But this education can be discarded.
The next time you are with a young child, be a young child yourself. Don’t put on a mask of acting child-like, such as faces and ‘goo-goo’ sounds. Play as if nothing mattered. Relate to them from a place of equality, for they are teaching you as much as you are teaching them. Know that their vulnerability is at the same time incredibly fragile and immensely powerful, and that this dichotomy also resides within you.
‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, â???’
It is of course very humorous that millions of people have quoted the Bible on becoming like a little child without making any movement whatsoever towards that effect themselves. Being childlike is in essence the same as being full of Love. It is a state of playful unity and harmony to the surroundings, appreciating and welcoming the uniqueness of everyone in the world. It is a state of continual transformation with no end in sight. It is a state both of incredible fragility that comes from vulnerability and of incredible power to affect, like what you see in the eyes of a child.
It is you.
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