My husband and I raised our now 7 year old granddaughter for much of her earlier life, most recently from the ages of 2 to 5 1/2. When she was a toddler, she was constantly running into things, falling down, scraping her arms and legs, and bumping her head. As I followed her down the stairs I would notice she was looking behind at me, or at the doll she was carrying instead of looking where she was going.
I know this isn’t unusual for a toddler. They get distracted by everything and for them, the world is an unlimited repository of excitement and things to explore. But it’s also not unusual for those of us who are a little older than 3 or 4.
We tend to move through life on autopilot, thinking about where we need to be in the next hour, or what’s next on our list to accomplish. And often we’re lost in the past, ruminating over the hurt of an old pain or even wondering, “why me?” as we revisit some perceived wrong by a friend or co-worker just yesterday. When we live this way, we invariably receive wake-up calls in the way of a crisis that we aren’t prepared to handle.
It’s kind of like when we’re driving. Have you ever been driving down a street with someone following you too closely? Once I was involved in an accident because the car behind me was following very close as we both entered the highway in rush hour traffic. I found myself watching that car in the rear view mirror because it was so close I was afraid it would hit me or an oncoming vehicle if the driver tried to pull into the lane of traffic too quickly. Eventually, the car behind me did swerve into the traffic, and as I turned to look to the front again, I had to slam on the brakes and smacked into the car in front of me because that car had slowed down!
I learned from this experience and spend a little less time looking in the rear view mirror in such incidents and try to stay more aware of both perspectives. We can all heed this advice in life also. When I encourage my clients to be more “conscious”, what I mean is to stay in the moment, spend more time enjoying what is all around – here and now. And to stay OUT of their heads!
If we glide through life being distracted by routine tasks, staying compulsively busy to avoid something we might be trying not to feel, or focusing on what happened in our past – we’re missing that wonderful, exciting world our toddlers are enjoying. The one that’s right here around us now. There will still be crises, but if we’re living with more consciousness, those obstacles in front of us will probably give us a sign they are about to come; and even if they don’t, we’ll at least proceed with a little more awareness – and when the inevitable crises arise, we can respond, rather than react.
My head is like a bad neighborhood, and I shouldn’t stay in there alone!