What just happened? I was thinking about something else….

I was listening to Eckhart Tolle last night. When I can’t sleep, I listen to books on my iPod … but, inevitably, I end up falling asleep and have missed five or six chapters of the book. Ugh. So, since I love him and have listened to his book countless times, I figured maybe his message would slip under the door of my consciousness even if I was actually in Snoozeville.

He was talking about present moment living…such a simple concept in theory and yet so very elusive in application. The idea is that there is only now, this very moment…even a memory of the past is occurring now and what you are remembering is gone. Same for the future…impossible to grasp, a mere idea or worry or hope for a better now, later. Wow.

Suddenly, I was aware that I had started taking an informal inventory of the many ways I had become consumed with past or future concerns in just that one day when another thought raised it’s hand and wanted to talk. Hey, OK, thanks for raising your hand, what’s your idea?

The idea was as simple as a refrigerator magnet. Live your life like a four year old. Full of wonder, full of possibility and completely present.

It’s true, they sometimes do eight or nine things before lunch. It is also true that sometimes focus is ephemoral, but whether a child spends three minutes or thirty disassembling small appliances or creating elaborate block cities for plastic sea creatures or stacking rocks …. it is unthinkable that they would be simultaneously fretting about whether they’ll get into a good Kindergarten. It is quite awesome to observe and contemplate how children experience the world they inhabit. There is a constantly evolving and expanding complexity of ideas and a constant construction of personal knowledge. Stunned amazement one moment and the satisfaction of success and mastery the next. But each of these moments is complete, self-contained…..sacred.

We can learn to regard our own relationship with Now by practicing in our interactions with children. I observed a great teacher in his classroom a few weeks ago and the one thing that stood out above all else was his faithful and earnest willingness and commitment to honoring each child’s experience. Completely. Once I noticed this, I started looking for the corner cutting – you know, something along the lines of: “Oh that came off the stove, OK, well, I can fix that after lunch.” UMM. NO!! In fact, it was more like …”Oh, that came off the stove? Well, what have you tried? Didn’t work, huh? OK then, what tools do you think we’ll need to put it back?”  And then, yes, they fixed the stove, together. Right then and there. I know it doesn’t sound like that big a deal, but it is. It’s huge. It is, as Eckhart Tolle advised, being only in this moment, the only one we have and making it matter. 
What could have been more important or valuable, in that particular moment than to join that child in satisfying a question or a need? The children are so completely and comfortably in this relationship with time — and once you notice and adjust, the meaningful experiences emerge from the most ordinary of occurrences.

Try it. Start by practicing with a kid, they’ll help guide you until you can do it on your own.

About Kris Taylor

I am the very fortunate director of two small, mixed-age preschools that are finding their unique paths by interpreting and incorporating the best of the progressive, constructivist early childhood philosophies. I never forget that the community of teachers, families and children are what makes it the amazing place that it is. Each day is another precious opportunity to practice and perfect valuing, respecting and loving one another; creating and exploring community; and having immeasurable fun in the process.
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