Last fall, I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend in New Zealand. We talked about all the new things and the old things that were happening in our lives – all the joys and the sorrows, the ups and the downs. The conversation carried itself, as both of us were experiencing life-changing events, and thus, were so eager to discuss what the future may hold. As we spoke, I heard an unmistakable squeal in the background… no, it wasn’t a piglet, but my friend’s baby – cooing joyously as she hopped around in the background. And it was this brief interruption that may have actually changed my life.
Per my usual, I took the conversation on several tangents describing how babies have it so great! Mind you, I have no children. I do not know if I ever will. They cry a lot. They poop on themselves. And they want to eat everyone else’s food. Nevertheless, they are adorable to me… probably because I don’t have to deal with all of the above every day.
But watching Gaia from afar, I paused to express how much of a miracle she was. “You made that!” I exclaimed to my friend, in awe of little Gaia’s ever-so-cuteness. I noticed how she explored the world around her, as if experiencing everything for the first time. I saw the wonder in her eyes – the innocent curiosity of a child, the ear-to-ear smile through which she expressed her constant love and gratitude.
And it was at that moment, I asked myself why I’m not like this anymore. Why, when we become adults, do we stop looking at the world with wonder? When did we stop being so intentional with our gratitude? When did we stop showing our feelings so clearly? How does this happen? And why don’t we just turn it all back on? What’s holding us back?
It was then that I set myself on a journey to answer these questions first-hand. I wanted to train my mind to stop seeing things for what they appear to be, and experience life as if it was brand new. I would allow myself to be like a baby. Maybe that’s where it all starts. So, in the true spirit of a child, I began by asking “why?” to everything I could.
I passed by a flower, to literally stop and smell the roses. I paid mind to all of the factors that contribute to its blossom, its survival, and its fragrance. I looked in the mirror and realized my body is a highly complex organism that performs an insane number of background tasks to keep itself operational. I paid mind to all of the factors that contribute to its longevity, its survival, and its substance.
I looked at the sky… I looked at the ocean… I looked at flora, fauna, language, art… you name it… I began witnessing everything familiar, from the lens of unfamiliarity. It’s not that I wasn’t logically aware how any of these things worked before, but that I never actually took time to slow down and allow myself to be awed by the intricacy. Perhaps what was more eye-opening than the captivating nature of it all, was the realization that I had been going about my days as if this – all of these miracles; this infinite complexity we call life – was to be taken for granted… as if my mere acknowledgement was enough.
I realize, to everyday readers, this may come as overly Zen, and perhaps even crazy. How can any rational person spend their time diving into these philosophies when the hardships of daily life surround us? Trust me, I understand. Like you, I’m no stranger to hardship. Reason has ruled my life. But that doesn’t preclude me from deciding to experience life with fascination.
We are busy. We have to make a living. And sometimes in the process of making that living, or of dealing with our circumstances, we forget to actually experience the wonder of life. It was when I consciously recognized the beauty of everything – when I realized there are Universes of knowledge & inspiration within every object of my perception… that’s when I took a life-changing lesson from Gaia’s exploration of the world around her.
When we live as though everything is amazing, life becomes amazing.
Though she could not speak in words that we could understand, her laughter expressed more than words ever could: a sense of gratitude toward the “little things,” as we would call them. Every time the wind would hit her face, she would giggle as if it whispered some funny secret only she could understand. I often wondered what that secret might be – inspired even by the pure joy when she splashed into a puddle of water, whereas we would find it to be only an inconvenience.
My adult brain, tainted with all the responsibilities that come with adulthood, frequently tries to arrest me into the idea that the most wondrous parts of life are background noise, and that our manufactured cycle of activities are what’s most important. I’ve decided that this isn’t the way I want to live my life. I would rather live in that background noise, where inspiration surrounds my soul, where I offer gratitude not just toward victories in the course of business, but also toward the unnoticed contributors of my contentment. With this new perspective, I finally learned to meditate… to silence the matter between my ears, and listen to that faint whisper in the wind that reminds us everything is amazing. Maybe that was the secret Gaia knew all along.