My daughter, Kyna, arrived in the world, filled with natural joyful enthusiasm, when I was still a young person in my teens. Even though we shared many wonderful moments while she was growing up, I often worked multiple jobs to make ends meet (as many single parents do) and felt a sharp pang of regret every time I missed an important event or milestone in her childhood. Fast forward thirty-plus years, Kyna has grown up to be an independent woman, creating a life of her own. She and her husband are now proud parents, raising their first daughter, sharing the depth of love and happiness that comes along with the tremendous responsibilities of parenthood. Witnessing the miracle of this beautiful new life in our family, it is a profound blessing to experience the world with a childlike heart and beginner’s mind once again.
Each day with my granddaughter, Frances, reawakens precious memories of Kyna’s early childhood, and I am reminded to return to the innocence of the childlike heart that is the birthright of each and every one of us. Holding Frances’ tiny, fragile body and gazing into her eyes, I can literally see and feel the power of her pure beingness and pure expression arising, moving through her senses, and then passing away. She has not yet formed an identity or personality patterns that inhibit the healthy expression of what she is experiencing in the moment, whether it is the discomfort of a stomach ache, the sublime contentedness of being rocked to sleep in her parents’ arms, giggles of delight when her chubby arms and legs are tickled, or the combination of confusion and curiosity when she is learning something new. It is almost as if she is made of indestructible wonder! As I sat and meditated on what fuels this ardor, it occurred to me that the sense of wonder is a divine synthesis of openness, curiosity, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions, which are all elements of “Shoshin”, the beginner’s mind.
Children are in a constant state of beginner’s mind; they have very few expectations, preconceived ideas, or opinions about the world around them and as a result, they usually respond with laughter or amazement when something unexpected happens. With a childlike heart and beginner’s mind, imagination and creativity are uninhibited. Children make improbable connections, based on what they see and experience in the world, just as it is, while adults tend to label and interpret the world through the filters of the mind and past experiences. As we age, routines and habits allow us to be more efficient in our daily life, but also limits our perception of the infinite possibilities available to us, which produces a sense of lassitude or ennui. The friction generated by our expectations and assumptions bumping up against reality engenders feelings of disappointment and frustration that diminish the simple joys and pleasures that abound in life. Children notice minute details that are easily overlooked, as their natural sense of curiosity and interest are aroused by the way a branch sways in the breeze, how it feels to run through sprinklers or swing on a playground, the mystery of watching birds fly high above their heads, marveling at the fragrance of a blooming flower, or tasting the sweet smooth coldness of ice cream as it melts and drips down the cone on a hot day. Children seem to innately understand that every moment and sensation is temporary and fleeting, which makes it all the more precious.
Here are a few simple ways to get back in touch with a childlike heart and beginner’s mind:
Children are naturally spontaneous, flexible, and resilient. They bring their full presence and wholeness into everything they do. As true creators of their reality, children simultaneously invent and discover their world moment-to-moment and they know how to make anything fun!
May we all return to the freshness and lightness of a childlike heart and beginner’s mind.
Walk in Beauty,