Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable, but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry when pets and people pass away.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
by William Martin
Blessed be our little ones.
They come into this world with big eyes, purity and innocence of heart, completely vulnerable and dependent on us. They look towards us for safety, love, comfort and understanding. They need us to show them how to walk, how to speak and how to behave. In truth, children learn by our actions, behaviours and how we treat ourselves; by our showing, not teaching.
In this world that we live in, there is constant pressure for the ever more, the ever bigger. But this would never be fulfilling. And if we encourage them to lead lives where appreciation comes from achieving, rather than cherishing and creating, then they’ll grow up believing that this is the only way they would be loved – not for who they truly are, but for what they achieved.
Children have their own unique paths and should be supported for their true selves, unconditionally. We carry the responsibility that we will be paving the roads they’ll walk on – not by our teaching, rules and words, as they will follow our actions. Showing them rather than teaching them is what matters.
So what is magic anyway? It is making the ordinary extraordinary. It is the ability to enrich our inner lives, within the boundaries and limits, so that we begin to expand our consciousness, perception and experience of life. It is instilling a sense of purposefulness in every little thing, a touch of a hand, the taste of grapes, feeding squirrels, the scent of flowers and the magic of finding a snowdrop.
It is instilling the unspoken values of our world like the law of reciprocity, respect and privacy, and the law of love. It is instilling that our self-worth is not dependent on our grades, careers or status – but rather on our virtues; that some things in life may be fated, but it is our character that creates our destiny and will walk us to where we desire to go – because there is nothing more powerful than the human will; it is that failure is only our courage to allow ourselves to try, and those who never fail are just those that never tried anything new; it is that everything in life carries its vibration including the words we speak, and so every day we make a change by the choice of words we use – for kind or harm, for encouragement or criticism.
To show them how to make the ordinary come alive and create a life of purpose, self-fulfillment and virtue – we ourselves need to lead that kind of mindful life. We’ll have to constantly contend with the pressure of the ever more and the ever bigger, that our culture seeks to impose on all of us. We’ll have to sometimes take the rough unpaved roads, because we don’t want to suffice for the mainstream if it means to go against our values. This all takes courage, self-knowledge, discipline and perseverance – to walk slowly, live simply, feel deeply and see clearly. It takes courage to see the extraordinary wonder of a daisy. It takes courage to see clearly beyond those that paint the sparkling pictures. It takes courage to see the world as it really is, yet have the audacity to imagine how it could otherwise be.
Children are already magical. They already know how to make the ordinary come alive. They see the world through wonder and curiosity, finding pleasure in the little things. In fact, it is they who remind us of magic. All we have to do is continue to encourage that within them.
Children have a natural connection to the wild, to animals and to nature. They also give names to their toys and all else around them. In many Indigenous cultures, Name Giving is an important tradition. It is the reminder that spirit is imbued in everything; that it flows through everything. And this creates deeper connection as well as inspires respect, caring and paying attention to all around us. It is essentially a dialogue with what negates the rational, a dialogue with the mysterious, a language of the sacred. Children do this automatically because they are more connected to their psychic senses and the otherworld, thereby understanding the natural connection. We should encourage treating nature and wildlife with respect as this carries significant lessons and bonds they’ll hold forever in their lives – and in their adulthood, they’ll extend these deep respectful bonds towards their relationships and how they treat other people, and their own self, also.
When we spend time with them doing the ordinary things in life, we inspire in them finding pleasure in the small things and teach them many virtues. Their focus shifts towards kindness, compassion, friendship, caring, appreciation and gratitude.
When they misbehave, may we give them kindness, love and listening. When they betray trust, love them. When they act out, love them. When they fail, love them. When they are confused, clarify and simply and be consistent in affection.
Love nurtures everything it touches, without asking for anything in return, like the rivers and waters of life.
Trust and show humble kind respect in the faces of disrespect and doubt – they will watch you do that and this will teach them all the virtues they’ll ever need in life.
We must also encourage their natural desires. We all have desires – this is not a bad thing, not a needy thing. We all share the desire for connection, appreciation, friendship, belonging. And we also have other natural desires such as food and water. We need to show them that there is a natural unfolding of things – that if we allow it, and open to it in feeling, the world will offer itself to our heart and imagination, and we’ll find ourselves in the family of things.
There are also empty desires, such as fame, wealth, power, control and lust. We must show them that focusing on these will never be fulfilling, though they shouldn’t feel ashamed if they have these. We show them by our example: by how much immense happiness can be found in loving, dancing, creating and caring for our rose garden. We show them by our own ability to lead a life of mindfulness.
Learning the cycles of the land is also important. Everything in life has its cycle of growth and there is also a gestation period. Every creation takes time, as snowdrops grow in shade from beneath the ground. They must not feel discouraged if something is not “showing” yet and must embrace the waving faces of life. Sometimes there will be tears and we’ll embrace them ackowledging their sadness, acknowledging the sacredness of heart’s tears. Sometimes they will fail or be faced with the mysterious hands of “No” and we’ll still be there to hold them showing them that it is okay.
Because we love them as they are. Because we accept ourselves as we are. And they too, because of us, will accept themselves as they are.
We’ll show them the magical potential of doors; of the unknown and mysterious, so that they continue to embrace curiosity. We’ll show them how beautiful it is to love and care for their stuffed toy, rather than buy a whole bunch of toys that they wouldn’t pay attention to anyway. We’ll show them the beautiful inner lives that they have because we love and accept the beautiful inner lives that they have.
We’ll remind them that worrying is natural but when the night comes, it is time to close their eyes and calm their mind, because the morning is always wiser and when the sun shines again then, we’ll figure it all out together, hand in hand.
We’ll remind them to take solace in the quiet corner of their heart, to lay their head on their soft pillow and sleep calmly. Calmly child, calmly. Lightly child, lightly. I am here.
We’ll share family stories and fairy tales, because they hold many wisdoms. Because life’s roads are never straight nor direct, they are full of twists and turns, but hope and love are the through-line narrative. We’ll remind them to believe in themselves just as we always continued to believe and trust them, in all their changing faces and phases.
May we remember.
Childhood is not all sweetness and fantasy. Real childhood is full of its own intensities, worries, and adversaries. Our little ones are faced with their grander-than-life dreams which crash down. They are faced with the mysterious hands of “No” for reasons they are incapable of understanding yet. Who knows why their parent was stressed and acted out? Who knows why they can’t have another candy and watch TV all night? In their beautiful minds, their only possible explanation is that they are not loved or that they’ve done something wrong. It’s a mystery. And it has deep impacts. So may we remember. May we remember to try to understand their worlds and the eyes through which they perceive and experience life. They are not drama queens/kings when they throw tantrums – they just have needs that need to be met.
In their worlds, they are heroes and wizards making magic and sometimes failing miserably when no one sees their magic. And then, they try to make sense of everyone and everything around them. No matter how much we try to shield them or protect them, we won’t be able to.
So the best thing we can do is pay attention to them. To support them, cherish them, offer them our help when we can, and never hide from the hard, uncomfortable or unpleasant. To inspire in them the kind of consistency and safety into which they will fall with peace and comfort, knowing we will love them no matter what.
All they ever need is our engagement with them.
When we engage with them in the simplest of ways, without making demands or expectations, we show them the importance of what truly matters in addition to consistency of support, attention and affection. And if we show them the importance of making the ordinary come alive, then they too will know, somewhere in their hearts, that no matter what they achieve or don’t achieve, do or don’t do, no matter how small or insignificant, it is enough and they are loved.
And there is nothing ordinary about that. Because paying attention is what gives rise to the most extraordinary of moments: connection.
Much Love & Peace
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