Life Through The Eyes Of A 4 Year-Old
I always learn so much when I spend time in the presence of children. Their free-spirited nature, their capacity for far-reaching imagination, and, most of all, their purity, sweetness, and innocence always give me a direct experience of what our true nature is. I have no doubt that our children are among our greatest teachers and are a treasure to be cared for, nurtured, protected, and loved unconditionally. I have the privilege of being an uncle to two amazing kids who are a great source of joy in my life and who always provide me with new insights and perspectives whenever we hang out. I was recently spending some quality time with family, and at my four-year-old nephew’s request, I got my guitar out and played some music for everyone. Of course and much to his delight, I played a song he knew so he could sing along and get involved. He was totally into it: singing, smiling, and as his excitement mounted, he busted out into a little dance. The sight warmed my heart and made me laugh, and before long, my entire family tuned into the moves that were on display and began smiling, laughing, and encouraging more.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason and without warning, my nephew’s joy turned to sadness, and he began crying uncontrollably. The dance was over; the song was put on pause, and the mood changed completely. It turns out that he had perceived everyone’s enthusiasm as mocking, and his playful, expressive state quickly gave way to self-consciousness, embarrassment, and worry.
What can we learn from my nephew’s experience?
There is a child within each of us that is pure, innocent, free, playful, joyful, loving, imaginative, creative, and expressive. When we allow the child within to be honored and acknowledged, we’re able to experience life as it is meant to be: simply and with wonder and excitement for all that it has to offer. With our childlike innocence and purity come a certain vulnerability and sensitivity. In the absence of unconditional love and encouragement, the child within us will often retreat in fear, become inhibited, and believe that it is not enough or not worthy of what it desires. The resulting experience is one of being limited in our willingness to be ourselves, to express freely, and to live fully.
What struck me most about my nephew’s initially inexplicable 180-degree turn is that his interpretation of what was happening was a complete figment of his imagination. His family’s love, excitement, and encouragement were perceived as teasing and making fun, quickly turning play, joy, dancing, and laughter into sadness, fear, shame, and tears. Fortunately, we were aware of his experience and able to address his concern and illuminate what had really happened. But imagine what a lifetime of believing the story he created would have looked like for the little guy? Think of all the singing, dancing, fun, and self-expression he would never want to partake in for fear of being laughed at.
This is how powerful we are, and the impact the stories we tell ourselves can have. Like my nephew, we’ve ALL had many experiences where we perceived reality a certain way, giving what happened a disempowering meaning and making a decision, albeit unconsciously, as a result. “I will never sing again. I will never dance again. I will never play again. I will never take a chance again. I will never love again.”
In some cases, the events are actually what we perceive them to be and this only strengthens our resolve to live accordingly going forward. In this case, the resulting story from that ONE experience becomes our frame of reference for life and every experience thereafter.
Being the powerful creators that we are, we get what we believe in, proving our story to ourselves over and over again.
In either case, the ultimate outcome is the loss of our innocence, our sense of play and wonder, our free spirit, our self-expression, and our childlike nature. The child within is an important part of ourselves that many of us have denied for some time, and this can be the source of a huge loss of enjoyment in our lives and a feeling of being disconnected from whom we truly are.
The solution is simple: unconditional love and nurture. Slowly, gently, tenderly, we can reconnect with our inner child and let it know that it is safe to come out and play, to be whom it really is and wants to be: a rock star, a firefighter, an Olympic athlete, a chef, a painter, a lawyer (Some kids are crazy like that. Lol!), boisterous, rambunctious, fun loving, adventurous, muddy, and audacious. As we tend to the child within and reconnect with this divine aspect of our nature, a world that can sometimes seem scary, heavy, and limiting comes to life, lightens up, and lights up with possibility.
When was the last time you connected with the child in you?
Perhaps today is the day that you can set free your inner child and begin to tell a new story. Go ahead, play in the rain, splash in a puddle, get dirty, get chocolate all over your face, jump on the bed, hang out in your underwear, have a pillow fight, break something. I double dare you!
Written for Positively Positive (Aug 15th, 2012)