I believe that toddlers can be our teachers. If we take the time to watch them explore their world we can gain understanding for ourselves about what it means to be present, to savor the magic found in everyday encounters. My 17 month old granddaughter recently became the image of this personal revelation. She clearly understood when I asked if she’d like to go outside. She nodded her head and toddled straight for the door. She happily let me ease her into her bright blue, fleece snowsuit. She found her black boots and climbed into my lap, where I sat cross-legged. She opened and shut the Velcro strap on her boot several times, delighting in the scritch-scratchy sound, turning to make sure I was appreciating her new sound effect. I grabbed her pink hat off the coat hook and velcroed it under her drooly chin. She grinned as I tugged on my winter gear: snow pants, down jacket, gloves and knit hat. She attempted to pick up one of my oversized Sorel boots. We both laughed. “All set, Anita?” She led me to the door. I carried her off the porch and plunked her on the snow covered driveway. She stood still for several minutes, staring at the snow banks that towered above her, taking in the warm March sun and the blue sky that matched her eyes and snowsuit. She uttered a few sounds and I asked if she’d like to go for a walk. She lifted her arm as if to take my hand, so mitten in mitten we began to walk down the long downhill driveway. Anita giggled and picked up the pace, giving in to the gravitational pull. This is when I began to be awestruck by her mindfulness. She took a few steps in the deeper snow in the middle of the driveway, moved to the tire tracks where the snow was slick and smooth, then edged to the snow banks on either side; all the while her feet explored the varying snow conditions with intention and curiosity. Even for me time seemed suspended. When we got to the bottom of the driveway, the sun was in the processing of transforming our snowy dirt road. Anita discovered slushy parts- where she slid her boots along; then real mud puddles, where she repeatedly lifted her boot and stomped it down, thrilled with her splashing. She found soft snowballs about the size of melons scattered along the edge of the road, again she explored them with her feet.- at first just stepping on them gingerly, then harder, flattening them out. Often she would pause and look up to see that I was having as much fun as she was. Over and over on our walk she would stop and point to the sky, and sure enough a bird or two or three birds would be chirping or squawking as they flew from one tree to another. She babbled something that sounded like “birdy,” pointing excitedly. She heard a pickup truck, before I did. As it rounded the corner, Anita reached up both hands, seeking safe haven until the truck passed. She waved after the truck went by. She got back down and resumed her mindful practice. She noticed pebbles and rocks poking through the snow. She tried to pick them up over and over with her mittens, never succeeding. She was able to lift a large snow clump, which pleased her almost as much as dropping it did. I sat on the top of a snow bank and watched her carry on exploring, every one of her senses totally alert. I breathed deeply and thought, Anita is truly a mindfulness meditation teacher. She is the ultimate master at living in the moment. Her mind is open to the magic of every miracle in her path. How funny, at 57 I am so challenged to practice exactly what 17 month old Anita models with complete ease and grace! We come into the world the epitome of mindfulness and then seem to spend the better part of our lives cluttering up our brains and hearts. At some point many of us adults feel a deep need to reawaken the mindfulness we once practiced so naturally.
Let a toddler show you the way, this I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.