Lessons From Children


When my daughter was young, I often told her I was surprised that I’d lived so many years without her advice. I really did know how to cook, drive, plant a garden, or whatever I was doing that she would offer her instructions on how to do it better or, at least, right.

I recently spent several days with my grandchildren exploring, storytelling, walking in the woods, playing, and watching their favorite movies. Every activity was laced with their advice direction, and instructions just as my daughter did when she was their age. This time I watched, listened, learned and was reminded of the poignant beauty of innocent childhood. 

My first career was teaching preschool children. I have fond memories of what I learned from them. My daughter years later, reminded me of how to be in the world. This week, at the perfect time, I was reminded yet again of how to truly be in the world. I witnessed the way they approach life, build courage, and express their natural resourcefulness. 

Now back home, I am filled with their fresh innocence as they learn to face life head on with fierce and fearless determination. I reflect on my time with them with a smile on my face and in my heart. I also ponder a question, when and why do we (as adults) lose the presence and fearlessness in life?

Here is some of what I learned and was reminded of:

  1. Word Quotas: I am certain we wake each day with a word quota that must be used by the time we tuck into bed. Children use up their word quota through storytelling, lengthy strings of thought, words, and fragments of thoughts whether or not they make sense. Brother and sister would walk along both talking (at the same time) without interruption in order to use up their work quota for the day.

2.   Food is Life: Ok, most kids have strong opinions about what they will or won’t eat,      what color plate is needed for any particular meal, and a clear opinion about how the food must be arranged on said plate. Snacks are an ongoing part of the day. In fact, any time of the day is perfect for a snack. 6 am? perfect! After a meal? of course! After a walk? Definitely! Just because? What a great time for a snack! They snacked on fruit, rice cakes, chips, or whatever is within reach on their snack shelf. They are always hungry. Food is life, isn’t it?

3. Life is play: Laughter, tears, a variety of voices & names, and an abundance of stuffed animals, action figures, cars, paper, and even the dogs are essential props in creative play. I witnessed hours of role playing. They were acting out different scenarios and responses they’d experienced in real life interactions. I was listening to them replay events with different responses and solutions to ‘real’ situations. I believe all this role playing was a way to integrate their experiences and practice possible resolutions and responses for next time.

4. Letting Go & Moving On: Pitch a disproportionate fit to a situation. Every so often a burst ofI screaming, crying, throwing, kicking, or flinging themselves to the floor emerged. When this happened, I learned it best to let it go and run its course unless there was injury. Within minutes, the drama would end and he/she would return to play as if nothing had just happened. The dramatic tantrum and the reason they were acting out allowed them to let it go and move on. Brilliant!

5. The Outdoors is an Important Classroom: We went out for a walk in a snow storm and another walk the next day, mostly in mud. We went to experience the wildlife and be out in the delight of fresh snow. Walking with children is a slow wandering as I follow their lead. They look for birds, squirrels, fox, and deer. During the storm, we saw ducks, geese, and a fox. We also noticed animal tracks in the snow before us. My heart swells watching them love the outdoors. On our next walk, we saw a bald eagle, a hawk, geese, and the eagle’s nest. 

6. How to be Out in Nature: I love Forest Therapy (Shinrin Yoku) and I have learned much from my grandchildren beyond the slow wandering. Walking through the mud is an exercise in balance and much more fun than walking around the mud. Jumping in puddles creates an exciting splash. What fun is missed by keeping your shoes dry and walking around the puddle? As you walk, look down, look up, and look in wonder at what nature has to offer. Nature is truly an abundant learning environment.

7. Curiosity, A Growth Necessity: Nearly everything children do is approached with curiosity. Through their curious wanderings outside, their curious explorations in play, and even with how to eat a meal, curiosity is a foundation for childhood. It is how we learn about what we like and don’t like. It is also how we learn about who we are in every situation. Curiosity maintains a sense of wonder in any activity.

8. Be Fearless: Climb trees, jump off the top step, play in every patch of snow or dirt, make fishing rods and bows out of branches and string. When you fall down, get back up with determination and try again. We learned to walk, run, and ride a bike by being fearless. Safety is for the adults in attendance, however, don’t hover.

9. Yes, I Hear You But…: Listening is selective. Yes, I hear you telling me to slow down or be careful or lower the volume, kind of… I realized that it wasn’t that they didn’t hear, it was that their forward energy was already in motion. Sometimes we keep going when there is wisdom in slowing down or stopping. We’re already in motion in thought. I watched, in real time, how every creation and action begins with a thought.

I am already planning my next visit for what I might learn! Life is our classroom and children show us what we, as adults, have forgotten. Being with children, I experience life with more presence, fun, engagement, and curiosity. They are wonderful teachers & guides for living with humor, courage, and noticing.

It’s Meditation Monday

Version 2

Welcome! It’s Meditation Monday and I am so glad you are joining me.

This weeks meditation is focused on Mindful Awareness. As with all meditation, the breath is always a way to return focus to the present moment. Mindful awareness is a practice of noticing what you feel; what sensation, emotion, or thought captures your attention; or how your body is positioned in space. Mindful awareness also means simply noticing without needing to do anything about what we are aware of in any moment. Mindfulness invites you to actively notice without judgement, no action, and no response beyond noticing.

I am glad you have joined Meditation Monday. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned meditator being guided in meditation creates a ripple of many meditating together.

Have a mindful week!

Living in Strength


Mountain Goat Utah

“Curious people pursue experiential novelty, variety, and challenge.”

I thought I would be writing about mindfulness in this post. However, what I am full with this morning are my strengths — love of learning and curiosity. So I am going with the flow and will write about mindfulness at another time.

I have spent too much time in my life in judgement and self-criticism around what I thought were my faults. I have worked hard to try to fix them with all the New Age approaches and therapies I could use — affirmations, visualizations, energy healing, journaling, and reading every self-help book I could lay my hands on. I also spent years in therapy through my 20’s and 30’s trying to understand and looking at my past as the focus of blame and trying to repair my faults. All of my efforts provided few lasting results. I still struggle with forgiveness and teamwork. Sound familiar?

Then, several years ago I found the Certificate in Positive Psychology course through The Whole Being Institute and offered at Kripalu. I became immersed in Positive Psychology which is grounded in the science of what is good and what is working in life. Rather than looking only at what needs fixing, Positive Psychology looks at successful, happy people and looks at what they do that makes a difference regardless of their past (or present circumstances). What a game changer this has been for me!

Note: if you want to shed light on your life and begin living from what is working, go to Whole Being Institute (www.wholebeinginstitute.com) and consider investing positively in yourself.

One area of Positive Psychology that has had a tremendous impact on my day-to-day life has been the study of strengths and learning to live more from my character strengths while nurturing some of the strengths that are not at the top of my being in the world.

Learning about virtues and strengths that are universal opened my eyes to a whole new world and a positive focus in my life as well as those I work with. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson (two top psychologists in Positive Psychology research) wanted to know about the strengths that are inherent in people worldwide. Through their research and work, they found there were six virtues — wisdom, temperance, transcendence, courage, justice, and humanity — that are commonly valued across cultures. Within those six virtues are twenty-four strengths that are also commonly valued worldwide. They are: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality, love, kindness, social intelligence, teamwork, fairness, leadership, forgiveness, humility, prudence, self-regulation, appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality. These strengths exist in everyone to varying degrees. Seligman and Peterson found that everyone has strengths that are used more than others and that through questioning we can learn what strengths make up who we are as individuals (a personal blueprint of strengths) in our lives. Our top five to seven strengths are used most and are referred to as our character strengths or those that make up who we are in our day-to-day.

Note: Go to http://www.viacharacter.org to learn your personal ranking of the 24 strengths. There are, also, other organizations that offer strengths questionnaires for you to learn yours. A simple Google search will lead you to several.

When I took the VIA (Virtues in Action) questionnaire I saw my personal blueprint showing my ranking of the twenty four universal strengths. I had an ‘aha!’ moment! I was pleased and sat with a clearer understanding of who I am in my life to myself and others.Though my most used strengths were no surprise, they were a relief to know, and my understanding of myself expanded.

My character strengths (or my top 5 – 7) shed light on how I think, act, and present myself in my daily life. What was even more enlightening were the strengths, though present, that are not my most used. The two at the bottom of my list of twenty-four are the ones I’ve judged (and been judged for) myself for not expressing easily. I felt ‘off the hook’ for my life-long struggles to be different than I am and more like others.

Fun for me has been identifying when I am using my strengths, being mindful of using them in new ways (there, I am writing about mindfulness), and when I am spotting strengths in others. I am also learning to use my top strengths to nurture those strengths I use less, yet would like to use more.

“Teamwork is a strong sense of duty, works for the good of the group rather than for personal gain…”

Teamwork is not a top strength for me which explains why I work so much better being self-employed and in a solo healthcare practice. Now, I’ve been on many teams in my life (as an athlete in my youth, teamwork was important), however, teamwork isn’t something I often seek out now that I am older.

Last fall I was accepted to work as part of a team of teaching assistants for the current year-long course in Positive Psychology. I realized it as an opportunity to use the year to strengthen my skills of teamwork. I thought it would, at times, be a challenge to be communicating, working with and sharing responsibilities to guide a group of new students into and through a year of Positive Psychology study.

I must admit that there have been times in my adult life where I would not have even begun such a journey. There have also been times when I would excuse myself (yes, quit) to return to my solitary and comfortable way of being.

This time, however, my commitment is to continue and learn all I can while immersing myself fully in a team. My two top strengths — love of learning and curiosity — I am using to bolster teamwork in myself. I like to look at it as tethering my top strengths to one that I want to develop and master more. I am using my love of learning (learning all I can about myself and the team I am part of) and curiosity (my natural tendency to explore) to become a better team player.

What fun I am having!! I love the journey and am making new life-long friends in the process. I am even more passionate about Positive Psychology and working with others to extend the outreach of happiness in the world. I am appreciating my team and grateful for this opportunity (two of my other character strengths). I know I will continue to look for more teamwork possibilities in my life and will do it again and again!

I highly recommend you find out what your top/character strengths are and find ways to consciously live from them. I know you will be happier, healthier, and experience a more fulfilling life. For yours, go to http://www.viastrengths.org.