Do you remember what it was like being a small child, three or four years old? You may not have very clear memories of this time in your life, but perhaps you can at least recall the sense of carefree wonder you had as you went through your day.
Everything was new and every moment was an opportunity for adventure, fun, and play. Time seemed to move much slower then because you were truly in every moment, experiencing everything in the raw, without expectations or preconceived biases.
Of course, we all grow up and the weight of the adult world comes to us. But that does not mean that the child in us goes away. People often speak of the “inner child” remaining within the adult, often in a wounded state, who is still carrying the painful experiences of growing up. For the sake of our healing, it is important to care for the inner child since he or she is the foundation of one’s wholeness as an adult.
Besides this, our inner child represents the part of us that is able to see clearly with a “beginner’s mind.” The inner child is the secret to our ability to recreate ourselves and to start again, no matter how old we get. Here are some simple tips for getting back in touch with your inner child:
- See the world through a child’s eyes.
As we grow older, we start to see the entire world through a foggy screen of information that we have received before. Interactions with people are tainted by reputations and memories of past interactions, and our ability to understand different perspectives is thwarted by what we have already decided is true according to our worldview. Instead of being in the moment, we are always analyzing and critiquing. Of course, we cannot entirely eliminate this tendency since it is simply how the human mind works, but we can take a break from it by silencing our busy minds.
Try doing this first out in nature, perhaps during a walk in the park or while out for a hike. Instead of thinking, “Oh, the weather is nice” or “I wonder what kind of tree that is,” just allow yourself to experience nature directly, without the need to process what you are seeing. Yes, those thoughts will come, but allow them to pass by quickly, bringing yourself back to the unadulterated experience of just being in nature.
- Use all of your senses.
Have you ever noticed that a small child is never satisfied to just look at something? They usually want to touch everything and maybe even put it in their mouth. In our adult world, we rely a lot more on our eyeballs. Most of the sensory input we take in is through the eyes as we peer out through the windshield of our cars our stare at our smartphone screens. Images come at us from everywhere in our urban and suburban lives.
Yes, we use ours ears a lot, too, but it is too much—too much traffic noise, too much media, too much chitter chatter. Overall, our senses, including taste, touch, and smell, become blunted by information overload. The key to overcoming this is simply a matter of slowing down.
Everyday, try to take time to really experience what you are sensing. When you take a walk, try to notice every sense in the smallest detail, such as the feeling of a slight breeze across you skin or the smell of the freshly mowed grass. When you eat, chew slowly and notice all the different flavors that make up any food.
An apple, for example, is a lot more than just sweet; if you taste carefully, you will notice herbal and peppery flavors, as well. Take the time to do this for all kinds of experiences, and you’ll rediscover the world you’re missing.
- Move your body more.
If you watch a small child, you’ll notice that they are moving all the time. It’s almost painful for them if they are asked to sit still. We adults, on the other hand, have been socialized to sit still. We work hard, but too often that means sitting or standing in one place all day. Or, if we do have some physical job, the physical work is too repetitive, one kind of movement over and over.
Consequently, our adult bodies become imbalance and stiff. Energy can not flow smoothly as a result, so we feel listless and unmotivated. That’s why you must find time to move, and not just three times a week for thirty minutes. At least once an hour, take time to stretch and move around. Also, like a child, seek out new ways to use your body (i.e., to play), rather than just repeating the same exercise routine.
When I wrote my new book Connect, I realized that so many of us are disconnected from our bodies and that this is the root cause of many problems we face every day. By connecting to our bodies, not only we can feel like a child again, but we also take an important step toward spiritual growth.
If we cannot connect to ourselves and our bodies, we cannot start our spiritual journey in the right way, and we are doomed to failure. It’s difficult to complete our journey with a weak body, and we cannot complete it with an inner child who is caged up and crying, so, please make a playdate with your inner child right away.