My kids will try anything. I want to be more like that. Why are children so fearless?
Please don’t want to be like that because then that’s what you’ll be being —someone wanting to be fearless rather than being someone who is fearless. And really meditate on that difference, because there’s gold in there.
Wanting is a verb. If you’re verbing that, you can’t be verbing being fearless. We’re always being something, so we all need to get conscious about the choices we’re making through the narratives we tell ourselves via our thinking.
The advantage your kids have is they’re not grown up enough to have many judgmental thoughts about the world so they’re in the world rather than thinking about the world.
When I was in Irian Jaya deep in the mountainous jungle I saw very little children doing amazing things. I asked a very wise anthropologist if she’d ever seen any of the kids fall when they would traverse great heights by walking across narrow trees, she said in 23 years she’d never heard of a child falling.
What impressed me so much about her was her wisdom: she had used that experience to realize that she had accidentally and inadvertently taught her children to be afraid.
We would all feel comfortable crossing a few meters walking on a relatively narrow line on the pavement. But make that line a tree across a deep rocky gorge and does our body change? No, our thoughts change.
We start thinking about falling. Because either we’ve fallen or our parents or others have told us about other people falling. So the term is perfect —we literally psych ourselves out of action.
In the end it doesn’t matter if we’re crossing a gorge on a tree trunk or if we’re trying to decide if we’re going to date again. If we’re anxious that’s because we want (there’s that word again) to avoid the pain we’ve experienced before.
If we do that, that means our mind won’t be focused on building or creating something beautiful, it’s focused on on avoiding something ugly. We don’t move forward by looking backward.
The fact that human beings are naturally buoyant proves that anyone can swim. What the people who ‘can’t swim’ prove, is that we can really hold ourselves down with worried, fearful thinking.
Your kids don’t have enough history to do what you’re doing. And their friends aren’t constantly giving them advice on how to avoid pain they’ve experienced. They’re friends are telling them to do crazy things.
As an adult we try to avoid painful past experiences, and the advice our friends give will be designed to help us avoid the pain or realize the benefit they previously did. But in many cases this information is only valuable in the original context and it would only apply if we had their personality and their reaction to things.
The most valuable thing anyone can do to be both happy and adventurous is to place more energy on what we want to happen rather than on what we do not want to happen.
You’ll likely find more peace and greater courage by simply stopping the act of living in your head. Stop using your imagination to calculate the downsides of every choice you make. Make them boldly and don’t try to define yourself with them, just use them as a springboard for your next set of choices.
Don’t get so busy avoiding the past that you forget to live out the gift of the present moment. Because whatever mistakes you made in the past, they won’t be as damaging to your life as they will be if you use them as an excuse to throw away your future.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.