October 1, 2010

My 3-Year-Old Son Shows You How to Stop the World.

My son, his tricycle, and an explosion of consciousness

You want to focus on the journey, not the end, right?

My wife and I love to take walks with our kids.  If I were to describe our walks to you, I’d say that they are lovely, meandering strolls through the neighborhood and parks of our town – all the while simply enjoying each other’s company.

However, if our children were to describe the walks, they might paint a different picture.  Sure, they love it when we head out and about as a family.  But they might also point out that we parents are mighty focused on the “walking” part of it, and that there’s one item we adults frequently bring with us, wherever we go – our agenda.

“Come on – we need to get to the park and back before dinner!”

“Only a little bit further to the café…”

Et cetera.

So the other day we were heading out for one of our walks, and our son, Dash, was insisting that he should be able to ride his tricycle.  I’m very supportive of his learning how to provide for his own transportation – but up until that point Dash had only ridden his tricycle for short walks around the block.  And even then, there are all the stops at the imaginary toy stores along the way.  And to put out the fires (also imaginary) that we encounter.   And to hatch the dinosaur eggs that happen to be lying there on the sidewalk.  Those are real.

My wife and I looked at each other, realizing that this was not going to be the long walk into town that we were planning.  We almost said no.  And then something within us relented, and we decided to let him ride.  Agenda be damned.

We were moving along at a fairly brisk pace, with my son pedaling faster than I’d ever seen him pedal before.  He was in the lead, I was behind him, and my wife, pulling the wagon with our daughter Zella inside, was bringing up the rear.

All of a sudden, Dash slowed down to…an…almost…standstill.  He was still pedaling the tricycle, but if he had been pedaling any more slowly he would have been going in reverse.  And for some reason, instead of asking him to speed up, we all slowed right down along with him.

It started out as a joke, I suppose – but as we took each measured step we quieted down and, well, just experienced the world around us in a way that was startlingly present.  In an instant, with his tricycle, Dash had shown us how to stop the world.

Try it for yourself.  It really works.

Go out for a walk, and when the moment strikes you, slow…way…down.  Make each movement of your body with deliberation – so you’re not simply taking time between steps, but each step itself is drawn out into slow motion.  In fact that’s a good way to think about it – as if your entire walk was being played back in slow-mo.  Try to stay fluid at the same time, so your movement is as smooth as it is slow.  Keep moving, but go as slowly as you possibly can.  Breathe.  And now look around you as you walk.  Notice anything?

Pets and little children.  The gifts that keep on giving.  And they also keep on demanding, to be sure.  But giving just the same.

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