Where I live, there is a walking path that goes by a stream of water. Beside the water is a particularly nice area that has several trees and some beautiful lush grass, and the sun hits the sloping hill just right.
When I am really struggling with a question, need to connect with nature or my spirituality, or want a quiet place to read, I go to this area. The only thing is that on the other side of the stream is a preschool.
I was sitting there the other day, crying, looking at the sky, trying to release my grip on certain areas of my life, and praying for a direction or sign. Other than a few tears, I was holding onto my composure pretty well when, all of a sudden, I became acutely aware of the screaming and laughing of the children at the preschool across the way.
Honestly, at first I was annoyed because I was deeply entrenched in my ego, and they were distracting me from my own thoughts.
Then it hit me—I want to be like those toddlers.
(Yes, it would be amazing to have juice and snack time followed by a lovely nap each day, but that is not what I am talking about.)
I sat there and thought about how authentic they were being. Some kids were running around with wild abandon. Other kids were crying because another person had hurt their feelings. And then there were those children who were caught in the joyous laughter of their play.
As adults, we lose this authenticity about our emotions. We hide our tears because of a fear of vulnerability, and we stifle the laughter for fear of being judged. We lose that connection with our “bigness” as a spiritual being the more we grow and, instead, end up in a state of “littleness” as adults. We lose authenticity.
It’s funny how as we grow physically, we shrink in so many other ways.
This bunch of preschoolers reminded me how good toddlers are at practicing Tantra.
Tantra is the practice of weaving and integrating all the pieces of ourselves together and being authentic, not only with others, but also within our own being. In Tantra, we allow and experience our emotions, our sexuality, our spirituality, and simply anything the universe wants to put in our paths.
Toddlers are a perfect example of this true integration and lack of holding back. If you have ever seen children this age with their favorite food, then you have watched a true Tantric moment as they taste every little morsel. They have it on their little hands and faces and are experiencing the feeling of the food, not only their mouths, but likely all over their bodies. They are usually so engulfed in the feeling and moment that they could care less if they look a mess or if anyone is watching.
They are in a true state of being and bliss. They are in complete “turn-on” with the food.
If I turn my thoughts to the toddlers in my life, they live fully and are in awe of life. They find joy in the tiniest moment. The sad thing is that we lose this integration rather quickly, so once we realize our separation from these aspects of ourselves, it usually takes much unlearning to rediscover these parts.
I have a nephew who is six years old, and it saddens me that I can already see the distancing from his natural Tantric lifestyle. The other day, his mother told him to give a family friend a hug, and I could tell he didn’t want to but had already been conditioned to not listen to his own body or desires and instead to follow the “rules.” He wasn’t giving a hug out of love and a passion for sharing this love. No—he knew what he “should do” or risk being scolded.
However, in that same instance, my two-year-old niece was told to do the same thing, and she crossed her little arms, stated she didn’t want to, and stomped away. True, authentic, and living from her desire! (She was eventually dragged back to be a “good girl” and give hugs, which is a topic for a whole different article.)
Sitting there on the grass and watching those kids, my thoughts turned to the way toddlers love. They have an immediate, intuitive sense of whose energy works for them and who they want to stay far, far, away from. However, when a very young child loves you, she loves you completely. She will hug you with all of her being, and although her kisses aren’t contracts, she shows pure, unconditional love in the moment.
A toddler who loves doesn’t wonder if the person she loves is going to hurt her in a year and, therefore hold back, she doesn’t worry that her form of love isn’t good enough, and she sure as hell doesn’t wonder if she is worthy enough to receive love.
No, she loves because that’s what her precious little heart does, and she is still so connected to the spiritual world that she has this pure understanding of what love truly is—even if she can’t express it in words.
The other thing is that although toddlers love, they also know how to take care of themselves. Toddlers know how to fill themselves up first and then take the extra and share. Try giving a toddler a cookie and then asking for it back. Most likely, she will refuse (and throw a fit) because her desire is for that cookie, and she is being authentic in this desire.
Now give a toddler two cookies and ask for one. The chances are much higher that sharing will occur because she is satisfying herself and has enough to go around. As adults, we are often shamed out of taking care of ourselves and, thus, feel that we are metaphorically pouring from an empty cup. We try to share our one cookie when we really don’t want to share!
Along with being authentic and showing love for others, toddlers also show love for themselves. Ask any toddler if she likes herself, and she will tell you how amazing she is and want to show you all the things she can do, most likely with a “watch this!”
Toddlers not only love themselves in that way but they adore their bodies and take the time to discover them. They explore all the different feelings and sensations, including those attached to their genitals, and until they are told that it is wrong, they feel no shame. They aren’t headed toward an orgasmic goal. No, they are exploring their sexuality because it simply feels good. How amazingly Tantric! Wouldn’t it be amazing if, as adults, we had this same focus to just experience and notice our sexuality instead of labeling it, overthinking it, feeling an obligation, focusing on outcomes, or trying to hide this glorious energy out of fear?
Since beginning my Tantric journey years ago, I find that each year of Tantric practice brings me closer and closer to my “toddler self” and the little girl who was so full of love and light and connected to spirit.
So I ask you, are you moving toward or away from this more authentic self?
Are you throwing yourself into every moment of life or holding back?
I challenge you to find a picture of yourself as a very young child. Look in the eyes of that beautiful little person and ask him/her for advice on how to move into more love, laughter, and joy. Meditate with that child and see where the healing is and where life change might need to happen. I promise you that your younger self is quite wise if you simply allow.
Author: Addison Bell
Image: Igor Menezes Fotógrafo/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina