Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Kids Are Smarter Than Grown-Ups

“Joy is a divine quality of our true self, which is inherently lighthearted, playful and free. You can see the full expression of this joy in young children, who haven’t learned to worry or take themselves too seriously. They play and laugh freely, finding wonder in the smallest things. They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions. They are in touch with their intuition, which is a form of intelligence that goes beyond the rational mind.” – Deepak Chopra

If you take a few minutes to observe young children just doing their thing, you’ll likely learn a thing or two. I’d actually go as far as to wager that kids are the keepers of life’s best secrets. If you watch them long enough, you'll begin to pick up on the intrinsic wisdom that only a child can bring to the table. The truth is that this wisdom exists in all of us, but it emanates most freely in our little guys.

For one thing, they’re completely uninhibited, at least my kids are. When I quietly watch my 3- and 4-year-old girls interacting with one another, the creative ideas run wild. “Let’s pretend to be kittens. No, wait – let’s be lost kittens that are looking for a family to adopt them. No, no, no – let’s be snow kittens!”

It’s like signing up for a Brainstorming 101 workshop. Or watching a brilliant improv artist who’s found their flow, that creative sweet spot where the ideas just come without any real effort. In simpler terms, they haven’t yet been taught to censor their thinking – to slap down out-of-the-box ideas that might be a little on the weird side. In fact, they love the weird side. They thrive on it, even. If my girls had it their way, they’d leave the house everyday in princess dresses and mismatched shoes. They don’t care, all they know is that they love how these things make them feel.

Unlike us grown-ups, they aren’t afraid to sound stupid, or let it be known that they need help or don’t understand something. They ask questions constantly, hundreds and hundreds of questions – How does the garbage disposal work? How far away is the moon? What happens to a bug when it dies? (Some questions are trickier to answer than others.) But the point here is that they let their curiosity guide them, a habit that many adults have long abandoned. I know that the majority of the questions I ask are preceded by an apology. 

I think that children simply find happiness more easily than the rest of us. They take great pleasure in the little things, enjoying them for what they are. (“Look, rain puddles – let’s jump in them!”) The more I sit back and watch my kids as a quiet observer, the more I can’t help but feel that this is the way we’re all meant to experience life. Untethered, in the present, with joy and ease. Many adults turn to therapy, drugs, meditation or destructive relationships in search of what our children seem to already have – happiness, which I believe is our natural state of being.

So what happens? As we grow older, how/why do we lose this? Few could argue that this doesn’t happen. The whole idea behind spiritual enlightenment is a return to this state, a return to wholeness. To find happiness within, to disidentify with the mind. To radiate love and light on this natural frequency.

Kids just seem to get this, and with no effort whatsoever. Little zen masters, they are. Maybe the rest of us are just overthinking it. Maybe if I can foster this as long as I can in my own children, they can stay in this state of static joy forever. Maybe they’ll hold onto it, instead of letting it wither and die in the act of “growing up.”

Ask any adult what they want out of life. Chances are, they’ll say to be happy. Ask one of my kids, and their answer will be more along the lines of ice cream. This is because, unlike adults, they are very much living in the now. Right now, ice cream sounds delicious. The problem with us grown-ups is that we often look to the future for salvation, for happiness. (“I’ll be happy when…”) Kids are smarter than this. They know that joy can be found right now, in this moment. Ice cream is just a yummy bonus – but their overall happiness is certainly not dependent on it. This is up there as one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from motherhood. I definitely haven’t mastered it. But thanks to my girls, I’m working on it.