What my one year old taught me about being mindful

Last week, I was sitting outside on a beautiful D.C. day, blowing bubbles with my wide-eyed, one year old, little girl, Zoe. I was telling myself how well I was doing regarding being mindfully in the moment, just as I have taught so many of my clients to do during therapy sessions. I took the time to notice the sensation of blowing the bubbles, the smell of floating soap, and the feel of the breeze on my skin. Suddenly, a very large buzzing bee approached, and as I internally panicked, Zoe began to enthusiastically chase the bee, as if it was a harmless butterfly. Her eyes were full of excitement, joy, and boundless curiosity that is rarely seen in the eyes of adults. Alarmed, I swatted the bee away and wondered why she wasn’t scared. I instantly realized that the main difference between my fear and her curiosity, was the story I told myself about the bee. My story went something like this, “That bee is dangerous. It could sting Zoe. I’ve heard of people dying from bee stings!” Zoe’s story though, was nonexistent; she was in the moment, viewing the bee as a fun, flying insect, to be played with and enjoyed.

One of the main goals of mindfulness is being non-judgmental, and experiencing the moment without thinking about the past, or the future. I realized how many stories I had instantly told myself about the bee, and how those stories had sparked my fear. Zoe’s one year-old self, did not have any stories to spark her fear. How often do we allow our stories to interfere with our experiences of being in the moment? How often do we allow our stories to block our desire to achieve something? For most of us, the stories in our heads are daily occurrences that impede our ability to enjoy life to the fullest. Although fear can be a very important emotion that can keep us alive, it is most useful when it is the product of our intuition vs. the product of our stories. Stories originate from past experiences, and are gifted to us both verbally and nonverbally. The ones that stick in our minds, are those that we choose to accept. So often, my clients describe their beliefs as facts. The most common story I hear is, “I’m not good enough.” I have observed clients tear up countless times as they attempt to challenge that story by struggling to say, “I am good enough!” If we can remember to forget our stories, and be in the moment, just as Zoe was on that cloudless summer day, we can all intuitively move into our most mindful and authentic selves.