The following is an excerpt from Kitchen Table Wisdom, by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:
Just before she meets with Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Alice enters the wood-of-no-names and encounters a fawn. Neither the fawn nor Alice can remember their names. No matter. They walk a ways together, ‘Alice, with her arms clasped lovingly around the soft neck of the Fawn,’ until they come to the edge of the wood. Once there, the fawn suddenly remembers its name and looks at Alice with horror. ‘I’m a Fawn!’ it cries out, ‘and, dear me! you’re a human child!’ Terrified, it runs away.
As a child I spent many summers alone on a deserted beach on Long Island, gathering shells, digging for little clams, leading a far different life than the city life I led the rest of the year. Day after day, I watched everything, developing an eye for change in all its subtlety. The rest of the year in New York City, I did not look directly at anyone I did not know and did not talk to strangers.
There was great peace in those summers and a new ability to be without people and yet not alone. I have many good memories of that time. Every morning the sea would wash up new treasures–pieces of wood from sunken boats, bits of glass worn smooth as silk, the occasional jellyfish. Once I even found a pair of glasses with only one lens left in them. Some of the most vivid of these memories concerned the beautiful white birds that flew constantly overhead. I remember how their wings would become transparent when they passed between me and the sun. Angel wings. I remember how my heart followed them and how much I too wanted wings to fly.
Many years later I had the opportunity to walk this same beach. It was a great disappointment. Bits of seaweed and garbage littered the shoreline, and there were sea gulls everywhere, screaming raucously, fighting over the garbage and the occasional dead creature the sea had given up.
Disheartened, I drove home and was halfway there before I realized that the gulls were the white birds of my childhood. The beach had not changed. The sacred lives beyond labels and judgment, in the wood-of-no-names.
What has happened to our childhood eyes? Why do so many of us lose the ability to see the magic inherent in the world around us? Without starting an argument on exactly what makes most adults so jaded and cynical, I think we can all acknowledge that the problem exists, and for that matter, that it IS a problem.
So, what do we do about it?
One suggested activity is to pick out something we’ve never done because of the sole fact that it terrifies us, and not in a Stephen King/Tim Curry clown kind sense of terror. No, pick an activity that you are scared to do because you worry about what others will think of you, and then do it.
Do it with reckless abandon, throwing your cares to the wind. Sing karaoke. Roll down a grassy hill. Cross the monkey bars. Play freeze tag—with other adults! Run through the rain, jumping in puddles along the way and soaking yourself to the bone. Slide down the escalator handrail. Do it, and laugh hysterically while you do, and then, do it all over again.
Rediscover the magic of the world. It never left. Your eyes are what changed.
Recently, as I was working on my book, I wrote about the importance of these activities, and how to approach them. Here’s a sneak peek:
The key to success in these activities is to approach each one of them with what I call the Three C’s: courage, creativity, and curiosity. Each of these characteristics is intricately tied and interwoven within the others. To be courageous requires a sense of curiosity, as well as creative approaches to older problems. To be creative, one needs to use courage to try new approaches, as well as curiosity to explore alternatives. Finally, to be curious means that one has the courage to ignore that small voice inside our heads, telling us to “be careful,” and to use whatever we find in the most creative ways possible. In other words, the Three C’s teach us how to look at the world through our childhood eyes. Though it may seem, as adults, that we have lost those eyes long ago, in most, if not all, cases, they are simply dormant and need a reawakening, which we will accomplish through the exploration of mindfulness.