The innocence of being, childlike yet wise, living through a lens not filtered by limiting patterns, conditioning, beliefs or concepts; an open meeting and invitation for the gifts of the moment to present. Curiosity, play and discovery with fullness of wonder, engagement and attention; an immersion of presence and senses; a lightness, ease and joy.
I don’t believe in coincidences. I sit here at Starbucks writing about innocence as a bright-eyed little girl scurries by, wisps of blond curls bobbing. She darts along, something catches her eye, ahh, balloons hanging off the display of coffee. Balloons, a symbol of play and celebration. How fun! She heads straight for them.
The wonder in her eyes and face, the dance in her step, the simple joy of discovery, a freedom as she runs on her own, to her dad’s surprise when he looks up and sees how far she has gone. “Wow, that was fast!” he says as the girl traverses the whole length of Starbucks in the short time it took for him to prep his coffee.
She looks like someone just learning to fly, a new found freedom she’s taking for a ride. I could tell she’s still learning to walk, finding her legs, her balance, arms akimbo, dangling at her sides, her new wings. She enjoys her new form of transport, way faster than all that crawling or being carried around!
I appreciate how her Dad lets her wander. He sits on the leather chair in the corner reading his paper and occasionally looks up to see where she is. She explores. Wow! Chairs, tables, shelves, windows, people, so much to see and touch! Smiles appear on customers faces as they see her.
Occasionally she stops by near me, looks over, pausing for a few moments. She returns several times, each time getting closer. By the last time she gets as close as she can, bumping up against my chair, looking up at me, a sweet gaze, no need or want, just simple wonder.
What have I just learned from my little teacher today?
Innocence is simple, a pure act, openness of heart, mind and body, a willingness and freedom to sense, listen, engage, respond, express. Movement and the senses are important. She’s curious, explores, discovers.
Touching, seeing, listening, all senses working together are essential. Children’s brains and senses are still developing. Their brain waves at different states too, more receptive, slowed down, quiet.
As our sensing capacity develops, active engagement with others and the environment around us is key to developing intelligence and integral to keen perception and interpretation of what’s being received by the senses.
Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory speak to our Social Engagement System and how we determine the sense of risk and safety in our environment. He shows how social engagement and play is vital to how our nervous systems develop and is essential for good mental and physical well-being.
Upon reflection I see I witnessed the young girl’s social engagement system at work. As she stops by, her system evaluates things such as facial expressions, gestures/movement, prosody (intonation, tone, stress, rhythm of the voice). Porges talks about the importance of the face-heart circuit, regulation of heart and breath, and facial muscles around the eyes, lips, neck.
See more on Polyvagal Theory.
I am sure all this and more was at play. I was aware of my heart when speaking with her, a smile and lightness in my facial expressions, a softness around my eyes and in my vocal tone, my gestures/movement minimal, non-threatening. Overall, she must have felt a sense of safety for her to come closer upon each visit.
A Return to Innocence
“Purify your eyes, and see the pure world.
Your life will fill with radiant forms.”
As we grow older, take on responsibilities, become immersed in the day-to-day, we can often forget the simple truth of innocence ~ curiosity, desire to learn, see, explore and discover.
When we meet the moment with innocence, we see a more pure world full of potential, possibility and discovery with perception not clouded by preconceived ideas, judgments, limiting patterns or beliefs.
Just think/say the words play, joy, explore, discover. What do you feel? Lightness, expansiveness, possibility, a smile, sense of freedom, a spark of joy in your heart, excitement in your belly, fear, trepidation, intrigue of the mystery, the unknown?
I remember as a child going out for hours, sometimes the whole day, just playing, exploring the woods, an empty house, a shopping mall. We were never bored, the newness, freshness, the simplicity of play and being, seeing what we discover in the streams, trees, dirt or elsewhere.
Innocence as an adult requires more conscious awareness and attention. We have a lot more years of conditioning, limiting patterns and beliefs.
All we’ve acquired over our lifetime may have served a purpose at certain points in time, creating more safety, security, efficiency and effectiveness in life; yet may also have dampened the explorer spirit in us, the joy of discovery, childlike wonder, inspired play.
Much of how we perceive and interpret the flow of the senses is unconscious and automatic. An immense amount of information exchange and activities take place on so many levels within our being in a moment of time. Our system is processing a phenomenal amount of input from many sources, analyzing, comparing, accessing memory stores with ongoing communication throughout our being.
How we perceive and interpret continues to evolve throughout our lifetime as we learn from our experiences, expanding our awareness and refining our presence. A simple shift in our attention and perception can be a doorway to innocence returning.
How we inhabit our headspace and body is essential to so much in life and is not something we are usually aware of or ever taught.
At times when discomfort of some kind arises, from subtle agitation to stronger feelings of frustration, anger or fear; too much attention/energy may be in the head and upper body along with tensions or constrictions elsewhere in the body.
The body is an amazing story-teller and revealer of what may be arising. The clench of a jaw, the tightness in the back, neck or shoulders, the holding of breath, constriction in the gut or pelvis. Momentary patterns, indicators of something old, something new, a reaction possibly triggered by a pattern originating in early life, or later.
As a former engineer I was in my head a lot in school, work and life. As I began to explore meditation, movement and the arts, I discovered much about how I live in my body.
In moments where I feel discomfort or lack of flow/peace, I notice how I may be too forward-focused in my system; like when striving, pushing, over-thinking, trying too hard to figure things out, or drawn in by a computer or other technology.
One of the biggest indicators when I feel out of flow is the degree of tension/energy I feel in my head, especially around the eyes and forehead, a clenching of my jaw and/or holding of my breath. I learn to give myself a pause in those moments to allow for my system to settle and rest in a welcoming space of acceptance, non-judgment and gentle tending; inviting the possibility for inspiration and flow to return.
A pause can be simply noticing the environment around you, your eyes, face, breath, your support, seat, feet. Here’s an example of a pause:
Give yourself a pause, time to arrive, wherever you are, gather your attention, feel the support of the chair, bed, or whatever you are on, rest, settle. Notice, appreciate the space around you, see something of interest, listen to the space, notice how you feel, notice the quality of your breath, natural, easy, letting go on an exhale or two. Let go of any demands on the moment. Just be without any expectations, agenda, attachments, judgments and welcome the moment’s unfolding.
Science new (neuroscience, psychoneuroimmunology, quantum biology ) and old (Ayurveda, Traditional Oriental Medicine) provide insights into how the connections between brain, face, heart, gut, pelvis and the rest of our system play together.
The posts and quotes below speak to how we are in our heads and the affect on our overall well-being and responsiveness in life.
A master never has a furrowed brow.
Excerpt from Lesson 155
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) Workbook
There is a way of living in the world
that is not here, although it seems to be.
You do not change appearance,
though you smile more frequently.
Your forehead is serene; your eyes are quiet.
Below are a few explorations to play with the idea of innocence. During the explorations, let your attention be soft, light, a caress of attention. Approach with child-like curiosity, discovery, gentleness and ease. You can drop in the qualities of delight and play; not an overly-focused observer trying to figure things out or do things the right way.
I have heard tension/holding of the eyes contributes to much of the muscle tension in the body. I have noticed in my own experience a correlation between how I am around my eyes and the affect on the rest of my body.
A simple allowing of the eyes to disengage from any active holding has an immediate affect. A softening, a gentleness, an ease in the face rippling through the rest of me. My breath often releases with a natural deeper exhale just happening on its own. The posts mentioned above ( Calm Your Face, Calm Your Mind & Smile: A Powerful Tool) speak to some of the science behind this.
I remember a teacher making a distinction between falling out of our eyes into the world where the energy and attention is more externalized (like staring at something) and a receiving of the world with a more neutral, light, expansive and inclusive gaze having more receptive and inwards qualities of attention and energy (like taking in a glorious sunset or view).
At times we can be overly observant with too much mental energy. Notice the difference when hyper-focused, scrunching up the forehead, trying really hard to figure something out compared with the lightness, ease, gentleness of light eyes, attention easeful, resting, settling into the moment.
When attention is light and no force or push present, there’s more space and quiet for inspired ideas to arrive, be heard, seen, received, perceived. Even though attention is soft and light, you are engaged, focused and present behind your eyes. You are not spacing out, drifting or unaware. You are conscious of the moment, participating, present, fully alert and engaged. Your immersion in the moment is alive, radiant, full.
The senses are wonderful portals to presence to cultivate an inclusive consciousness where the world is perceived and felt more directly at the sensory level, not just at the mental levels of interpretations, concepts or beliefs.
Here are a few plays to explore the senses. Before you begin a Play, here’s one way to begin. With this and all the Plays offered, make them your own, use what supports and inspires you, let go of the rest.
~ give yourself time to arrive, wherever you are, gather your attention, feel the support of the chair, bed, or whatever you are on, notice your eyes, faces, back, seat, legs, feet, rest, settle.
~Notice, appreciate the space around you, see something of interest, listen to the space, notice how you feel, notice the quality of your breath, natural, easy, letting go on an exhale or two.
~Choose an intention if you like for the exploration — maybe there’s something specific related to the time and space you’re in. Keep the intention simple, clear, open to possibilities, an invitation.
~ Tune into one of your senses and open to receive, just resting in your own beingness without judgment, goals, agendas, attachments, expectations, analyzing, over-thinking, and instead just a simple being with what is at a sensory and feeling level. Like perceiving the soundscape around you like hearing for the first time. Or similarly taking in the visual world around you with that childlike innocence and wonder, vacation eyes.
~ In this play or when inspired, open to all your senses, feeling the spaces and places inside, outside, in.
~ Play again with one sense. Notice the flow of the sensory input, the transitions, the arising into and dropping away of, the variations of rhythms, tones, movement. I remember being on the subway late at night and listening to the orchestral play of all the sounds around me and how a kind of music can happen. Similarly sitting in a park or shopping mall and taking in the symphony of sounds all about.
~ Play with sound, notice the arising of the sound from silence, or the fading away of sound into silence. Or with seeing, light fading into shadow or movement to stillness.
~ Sense the arising from and falling into the stillness, the silence, the vastness, the quiet space. Notice how the different sounds, images and their distinct qualities affect you, your whole being on a feeling level.
~ In this play or when inspired, open to all your senses, feeling the spaces and places inside, outside, in.
Heart & Innocence
When we are in our hearts, we are open, receptive with a willingness for inspiration to arrive.
For me, the inclusion of the heart is required for innocence to be present. As children, the brain is still developing and the personality, ego structures, sense of self are still in their early stages. There is still a sense of openness, possibility, and a permeability and malleability in who and what we are.
As we age a solidification and contraction of self can happen over time where we impose limitations on ourselves, often unknowingly (conditioning/patterns), stifling our expression and suppressing our natural innocence and openness to possibility, potential, creativity and flow.
A return to innocence would not be complete without including a return to the heart. Here are a few simple ways to begin to access your heart center.
~ Lying on your back, feel the welcoming support below you and space around you, the back of your head resting, relaxed eyes and face, placing a hand on chest and hand on belly.
~ Feel the quality of your touch, hand receiving body, body receiving hand.
~ Feel breath and the movement of the hands on chest and belly as you breathe.
~ Feel your back below where your hands are. Top and back, feeling the space between and movement of body as you breathe.
~ A simple ahhhhh breath. Inhaling through the nose, exhaling out the mouth with a soft audible exhale at times. Let other exhales be through the nose.
~ Begin very soft and quietly at first and increase volume if you’re inspired to.
~ Let your breath be natural, not imposing a rhythm or count of any kind, not directing or “doing” the breath, just your breath, body and being breathing you.
~ A simple inhale arrives as the breath naturally arises and occasional audible exhales when inspired. Resting in the pause in between if there is one.
~ With eyes open, connect with something outside you as you rest in your own being after doing one of the above as preparation.
~ The first two Plays are explorations to connect with self. This one is for staying connected with self and including other.
~ Choose an object of interest to connect with, can be anything such as a plant, tree, an individual, a scene like while sitting in a park/cafe/train station, or looking in the mirror at yourself.
~ Play with receiving and perceiving the object like encountering for the first time with that welcoming heart and gentle presence.
Flow, Perception & Time
I saw an old episode of the Twilight Zone last night called “Kick the Can”. An old man in a home for the aging has a revelation about the importance of play and the magic of youth. He tries to convince an old childhood friend who is stuck in his ways unwilling to change.
At one point he says, “Did you ever stop to think of it, all kids play these games. And the moment they stop they begin to grow old. It’s almost as if playing kick the can keeps them young.” He goes on to gather the other residents as they go on a journey into the Twilight Zone (hear theme music below, as I did in my head as I wrote this : ).
How does our perception affect our experience of time? Our experiencing of a moment in time depends on where our attention/presence is. And depending on the quality of attention, we experience life in a certain way.
How would you age with no preconceptions around time, without the collective beliefs around aging, and instead believe anything is possible.
There is a shift in perception of time when one is trying too hard, over-doing, pushing, striving, forcing compared with timelessness in states of being and flow. With innocence, wonder, there’s no concept of time. When playing, the last thing we’re thinking about is time.
How do you feel if you remove the time factor from what you’re doing or how you’re being? Relief, ease, expansion, less pressure, more flow. Hurry/worry is lack, a contraction of the flow field, an underlying fear, and may provide some push yet usually not the most efficient way or best results. Can we meet the contraction, feel into and allow a shift of flow?
Being & Innocence
There is a joyful innocence to life when we are not limited by patterns, are not resisting or putting demands on the moment, nor ignoring, suppressing (consciously), repressing (unconsciously) what’s arising in each moment.
With conscious attention to what is and welcoming, engaging, inhabiting the moment, a deeper immersion into the flow of life occurs. No longer driven by limiting patterns, conditioning and beliefs; we express, allow, move from an inspired and creative place instead of a reactive, confined, limited one.
There is an ease and lightness in the breath, fuller, restful. We are in our body and being more, with a greater ease and fluidity, sensing inclusively, feeling fully; attention is clear, light, gentle, engaged with coherence and clarity. Receptive, listening, transparent, translucent, radiant, alive, scintillating, effervescent.
The foundation of one’s life is essence, soulfulness. How many are aware of their own essence, a recognition, a knowing of who they really are. We go through so much of our lives focused on the external day-to-day life outside of ourselves.
In moments when we pause and reflect, we are touched by something beautiful, poignant, stirring the emotions, the feeling body being. We have glimpses of our connection with the deeper flows of life.
Much of our daily activities can be managed pretty well by the observer or doer. For heart connection and soul expression more is required of us: a richer deeper facet revealing a being and expressing of what it is to truly be human.
If we get caught up for too long without soulful connection and expression, the deeper one calls out, longing for more, a cry to live fuller, to look, feel beyond the senses to what is really being asked to be revealed, shared and expressed.
The simple longing to connect can be a call to connect deeper with ourselves and all of life, to acknowledge, remember, realize our essence.
What begins as glimpses within moments of beauty, love, profound peace and calm, reveal a peaceful and powerful presence, our natural state, always here, a place to return to when longing calls.
INNOCENCE & WONDER
I leave you with the January text from my Threads of Love Calendar:
INNOCENCE & WONDER ~ Experience the senses like in the world for the first time with child-like innocence, curiosity & wonder. Perceive directly without “thinking” about what’s sensed; without comparing, judging, analyzing. Feel what happens in your body-mind when you sense; a world of feelings, sensations, subtle stirrings & impulses. Wonder is playful, joyful, filled with welcoming, willingness, openness, appreciation, curiosity, discovery. Bring these qualities to the senses.
DAY PLAY: Give yourself WONDER TIME, to experience the magic of life, to sense & feel what is here now with pure & simple perception. Bring this INNOCENCE to specific senses or more global. Sense input from the outside world (listen, see, smell, touch) and/or from within your body-mind (feelings, sensations). Feel, experience with soft eyes, gentle smile, easeful breath. Play, Explore, Discover!
Let peace, joy, awe & wonder be your guide!