The other night I had a visit from a lovely friend (social distancing, of course. We sat outside in my studio, drinking pink gin, painting and chatting). My friend has an amazing 10 year old son, Elijah, who has autism. He is incredibly creative and gifted artistically. She describes how he can just sit and watch bugs or nature in general for hours. He draws all the time- anything and everything that captures his attention. They are in exquisite detail and in a unique style that he has already developed. Whatever he does is with wholehearted interest, whether it be science fiction or fossils. It’s like the world is teeming with fascinating treasures waiting to be discovered. Because of this, our busy and noisy world is often overwhelming for him, causing him to shut down and not be able to contain his feelings or reactions. He is a person who sees things in way that is full of intense curiosity and joy.
Our conversation caused me to think about what it means to be really present in the here and now. It’s a state of being we all long for, I think, because most of us, even after difficult childhoods, have memories of being there- lost in awe and wonder, lost in the present moment. Times where, like Elijah, we reached that wonderful ‘flow’ state during our playtime. We were un-selfconscious, completely unaware of ourselves and how we were being perceived by others. We were absorbed to the point where the outcome of our play, whether it be a cubby house, tower of blocks, mud cakes or car tracks, was completely irrelevant; so focused were we on the present moment. Our imaginations were untethered. Magic and other realms existed, stories were not just tales, but four dimensional worlds. We would forget to eat, and have that sinking feeling of disappointment when it was time to leave or go inside. Eckhart Tolle describes this state as an inner spaciousness, where we are truly alive or awake, living from our ‘larger self’ which is connected with God or Source.
It must be said, to have a wounded inner child, or a childhood robbed completely is a deep tragedy that requires all the more courage and self-compassion to be able to embrace the present moment. But I want to focus on another aspect here. During this time of isolation, it’s easy to see how cluttered our lives, and consequently or minds, have become. As I said in a previous blog post, I have taken up the practise of Contemplative Prayer. It is a simple practise where the instructions are to take a comfortable seat, be still and silent thereby ‘consenting to God’s action and presence within’. When engaged with thoughts (or feelings or sensations), gently bring your awareness back with a sacred word of choice. The prescribed time is 20 minutes. I’m a novice at this. However, not only have I become excruciatingly aware of how much my thoughts repeat like a mouse on a wheel; but I have also noticed how seldom I really am present in the moment.
My son and I had a little chat about what he discovered on YouTube about dopamine. As a society, We have (unsurprisingly) become addicted to high levels of dopamine due to our fast-paced culture. The things that cause a rush in dopamine uptake are the things we do that offer instant gratification. This particular YouTube channel suggested a ‘dopamine detox’ day- days where you basically do nothing. You simplify, maybe read a book or write in a journal, but really make the effort to slow down the mind and activities. It reminds me of the Sabbath day in Christian and Jewish traditions where everybody rested from their labour one day a week. For many, the C-19 pandemic has been a forced Sabbath. An opportunity to reset and simplify.
Life truly is in the Now. The more we set our intentions to slow down, quiet out minds and ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ the more we can become aware of the presence of God (or Source) in our lives. I’m telling myself this all the time, because I have found it to be very slow progress! But whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we all are amazingly connected both to each other and to Spirit. There is a universal heartbeat in everything. The “I am” of God is reflected in all that is around us and also within us. We see practical demonstrations of this connectivity all the time- when you have been thinking about your mother and she calls you; when the dog becomes restless just before a family member arrives home. When you walk in the forest and sense the energy of the air, the insects, birds and trees.
It’s my sincere hope, that whatever circumstances you find yourself in at this time, your life will unfold into something deeper and more free. We are a collective in an energetic sense, yet at the same time are are all on our unique journey. Nobody knows your own life as well as you do. But I also want to offer hope and comfort in the sense that you and I are held and not alone in a universe that is both loving and benevolent. May you discover the treasures of awareness that your own inner child knows and remembers well. Like Elijah, make friends with curiosities that come across your path, no matter how commonplace they may seem to your adult mind. It is my prayer that we all find space for that joyful little kid that lives inside of us all to lead us on wondrous trails and unknown destinations.