This past year had us finding new ways to connect to others, mostly digitally, and finding ourselves suddenly with loads of time without being overscheduled.
Most of us have heard of it, but what is it? How is it helpful to us as individuals and as a culture? Where do we learn to become mindful and suddenly have all the answers to a life well-lived?
Kids have been shown to be the only humans who actually know how to walk properly, since they haven’t yet developed any modern back and knee issues. They are the experts at nonverbal language since they need it to communicate with their parents before they learn to speak.
So it makes sense that they, unencumbered by stresses of daily life, would have the key to mindful living.
When children wake, they are not hit with the idea of an email response, a grocery list, an ailing family member. They are awoken with the prospect of another day in the world. Learning, realizing themselves, and finding their place in their families and social circles all await them.
They enter the day not with trepidation toward these ideas; there is no anxiety surrounding it. Little ones awaken with the prospect of a day of fun unfolding before them with new discoveries and worlds to be found, even when it’s within the confines of their hastily prepared COVID-era playrooms.
My three-year-old mentioned to me the other day that he had not yet ever lived this day and that this day was fun. Imagine if a 36-year-old tired, Costco shopping, suburban mom was able to harness that idea—living a day not yet lived and imagining the possibilities to be found within it. This, my friends, is why children are living mindfully.
So how do we harness some of this mindful living for ourselves?
Starting Over Each Day
Children begin each day anew and we can do the same. Let’s not dive right into the news, social media, and work emails. If even for just a few minutes, imagine that we don’t have yesterday’s responses in our phones. Pretend that we don’t have the latest news cycle churning in our minds. It’s a new day; it could even be one we have not yet lived.
This is, to me at least, how we can start to avoid the monotony that mid-age brings us. Think how this day can be a little different than the last. I know we all have to attend to work and family matters soon after waking but maybe during the first few minutes of the day we can find that bliss of the newness of the day.
Be Right Here
My son hated baths when he was two and it was nothing short of warfare trying to get a newborn and him both bathed. One day, I made a big deal about how much fun the bath would be that night. So when it was finally time to get in, he was quite excited. He looked right at me and said, “It’s happening; the bath is happening right now!”
Most people would see this as a statement from a two-year-old who finally decided that baths were fun. But I chose and still choose to see it as a tiny human who realized his place in the world and that events happen as they are happening. He was in the here and now. I still think of that moment daily when I am struggling to find mindfulness.
Care For Others
A woman near me dropped her mask in the grocery store parking lot last week. Dare I pick up the mask? One cannot touch others’ belongings in this strange era we call the present. I stuttered a second and hesitated. Then I just stood there yelling to get her attention and pointing at it on the ground as if it were a venomous creature.
Currently, kids are pretty unaware of the germ phobia surrounding them. My kids would have scooped up that mask and raced to give it to her, germs and all. Then we would have washed hands and have helped out a stranger with no issues.
Kids have a remarkable ability to know to do right by others before society makes them rethink their actions.
We tend to go inward and wonder if we are overstepping by assisting someone. Will we insult someone if they appear to need assistance? Will it injure someone’s ego to offer kind words?
Being kind and helping out a stranger or loved one is intuitive and should continue to be as we grow and become adults. Let’s take a cue from the little ones and help people out; most of the time, it will be appreciated and if it’s not, at least we tried.
We have no way of telling what the future may bring with social norms, new work spaces, and the erosion of work/life separation. But even in this era, living a mindful life can be accomplished.
Let’s take a good look at our children and maybe find a few more lessons learned from them.
In the meantime, I have some emails to ignore.