The child’s mind; some thoughts on the past

Childhood_Reflection_by_pinkparis1233

My mind to mind, heart to heart, soul to soul conversation with my brother last night brought my firm beliefs about childhood experiences and the past into clear focus. A good friend of mine, who has been a counsellor for many years, often states ‘children are great recorders of information but not good interpreters’. I agree with this wholeheartedly (although, I will note that there are exceptional children that do seem to be great interpreters). While I do not believe in excessive reminiscing of past experiences, particularly in the form of rehashing the past over and over and awakening all the emotion that was felt at that time, I do believe that sometimes we need to assist our ‘childish’ memories to be rewritten with our adult consciousness.

I see life as being like a great tree:

  • The roots being our core beliefs and where we come from
  • The trunk being our growth, time in the world, memories and experiences
  • The branches and leaves our potential future path

We can rewrite what has been carved into our trunk, redirect the sap of memories that flow within us and, if so desired, change the core beliefs that our life is built upon. The past is not static. With a bit of mindfulness we can change our view of past experiences, even great tracts of time, so that we can respond to our present in a more balanced way and flourish.

Can you call to mind moments or situations in your life where you habitually respond with overly strong emotion, almost like a default setting? Or is there a pattern in your relationships that seems to be stuck on repeat? Have you ever wondered why certain words or phrases set you off and later you wonder why that situation blew out of proportion? It is highly likely that you may have an ingrained response linked to childhood experience/s that haven’t been contextualized into an adult perspective. It’s like a trigger that when pressed by particular pattern or similar situation to the past experience we are suddenly, emotionally, 6 years old again, or 12 or 15. Our adult mind, heart, body and soul is hijacked by this youthful version of ourselves. If we can identify the sensation and catch ourselves behaving in this way we can begin to recognise the pattern and instigate change.

As I mentioned I don’t believe that change requires an in-depth revising of the past (this is almost like rehearsing and reinforcing the behaviour). Just noticing what happens at these times is a powerful catalyst. What thought is prevalent? Is it actually relevant in this situation right now? Why do I think/feel/believe this? Try to catch the moment and slow it down, breathe and look at the thoughts that appear foremost in your mind before you say them out loud. Press pause while you breathe and assess the thoughts and emotions arising. If you can, take time out from the situation, write down what you have observed but keep it simple. When we challenge behaviour, or alter a pattern slightly, different neurons spark in the brain, beginning new pathways within our mind and igniting the process of change.

Sometimes we may have a distinct memory that arises in relation to the patterned response but a specific memory is not essential for this simple process to create successful change. The point is to break an association that is no longer serving us. As children we put in place coping mechanisms to deal with that which we do not, or cannot understand at that time. These mechanisms probably served us well when we developed them but as we outgrow them they begin to hinder us without conscious realisation that a patterned response exists.

Take your inner child’s hand and lead them through these situations with calm, care, love and attention. It takes a little time but it is not painful and leads to deeper understanding of the self, greater compassion and empathy as well as richer relationships. I am not saying banish the inner child, the innocence, imagination and wonder of the child-mind is a blessing. I am merely suggesting that there are parts of our mind that could do with a spring clean and a new perspective to improve our lives.

Change is easier than you believe.

 

Image from pinkparis1233 on deviantART

Absolute

Grass Field

When I was a very small child I remember roaming through fields with my brothers and our neighbours. I have strong associations with those times as being part of a unified family group, a feeling of intense and absolute belonging, with no query. The fields we wandered, full of long grass & wild flowers were fenced in by immense oak trees, which seemed to me as large as gods. I remember horses whispering warm breath on my small cold hands, climbing lichen & moss covered fences and gates crossing seemingly endless vistas of grass.

In a new home many year’s later these childhood meanderings developed into solitary excursions.  Rather than safe explorations buoyed by my extended family, they became a search for haven, escapism from the mundane repetition of everyday routines and a longing to recapture the state of being previously taken for ‘absolute’, the search for a sense of belonging. Our family had fractured and dispersed, each alone beneath the same roof. Seeking hope and a place to belong I ran through the long grasses and delved into observing the neighbouring fields and the lives played out in them. Countless hours I spent lying perfectly still on my back watching the grasses sway around me, the insects, the birds, absorbing the sounds around me, watching clouds skid across the sky, drinking in the smallness and the bigness and seeking answers to the question I had: were others feeling this same sense of aloneness? It took an entire field to hold my aloneness yet I felt my wholeness, with nothing to impede it, could fill the sky.

I wrote something at this time, something I stumbled across today. Young as I was I was trying to explain where I danced from:

‘If I dream myself alive, I will awaken, I will live. I evolve alone, alone but whole. At peace, I seek depth.  Touching the real, really living – can you see that I am alive? This is where I find the dance’ – twelve year old me.

Words by errant satiety image from Stefan Olivier

A reinvented childhood

Sometimes I wish I had grown up in a house of scholars, raised on diet of philosophers, mystics and historians. Given Latin, Hebrew, German, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin to cut my teeth on so that my tongue would be at home anywhere in the world. That I had been bathed in the works of the greatest artists and composers throughout our short human experience. That Shakespeare, Homer and Voltaire were my bedtime stories and Einstein, Galileo & Kepler whispered to me in my slumber. But if I had grown up immersed in a classical education I would not have become who I am today. I was born with a craving beyond understanding of those who raised me. I was Isolated in poverty, violence, ignorance and my own strangeness yet I triumph in understanding and engaging with the rich beauty of this world.