Allowing a Better World for Our Children
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.” Albert Einstein
I teach Mindfulness to adults. My niece teaches Mindfulness to children. Our experiences are extremely different. While the children love the practices and ask for more, the adults are quick to quit when asked to “find beginner’s mind”. Beginner’s mind is the opposite of expert’s mind. It involves becoming aware of our preconceived stereotypes, prejudices, and opinions.
I understand that as we age, the baggage that we all carry can be difficult to unload. We don’t even notice that we are carrying heavy loads that are weighing us down because that heavy load provides a sense of “normal” for us. And as anyone who has studied Psychology 101 knows, that sense of “normal”, even with all its discomforts, is familiar, and familiar feels “safe”. Change, then, even when it would greatly lighten the load of baggage, feels “unsafe” because it is not familiar.
When I explain to the adults that Mindfulness is about awareness (and that includes awareness of all kinds of feelings), so that it is totally normal to feel some anxiety when acknowledging uncomfortable feelings, but that is part of the process of healing; the majority of adults never return to class.
Some complain that they thought the class was about relieving stress, but the mindful awareness is actually causing stress. When I explain that we cannot change anything unless we first acknowledge it, I often get responses like, “I take a pill when I feel anxiety,” or “you can’t change the world, so why should I stress myself out.”
I believe that kindness matters. I explain that I am not trying to replace a doctor’s advice and I am not asking that anyone stop taking their medication. I also have compassion for those who are so attached to their world view, that even thinking about another point of view is too threatening.
What leaves me saddened, though, is that the same people who refuse to become uncomfortable by the process of becoming aware, are the people who make up the population of voters. They keep voting for the “same old, same old” because it is familiar and thus more “comfortable” for them than change.
This is why we need to teach Mindfulness to children. When children are taught that it is okay to acknowledge all their feelings, that it is safe to have “beginner’s mind” and not accept the status quo, change is possible.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.” Sunryu Suzuki
There is hope. Let’s not be afraid to allow our children to think differently. Let’s encourage Mindfulness in the classroom.