One of my shaman teachers from the Amazon, Roman Hanis, has a saying that goes like this,“The goal is to become more child-like, and less child-ish.” As often happens with spiritual mentors, they say something that makes total sense in the moment, but the full lesson doesn’t reveal itself to you until days or weeks later.
When I first heard the Child-like VS. Child-ish teaching, I immediately started to see the things I liked about myself as being more child-like and my bad behavior that often got me into trouble as being child-ish. Fair enough, but which of these two tendencies came along first?
The following day I approached Roman with this question and he responded, “When we are born, we are all child-like. Somehow, as we grow older we tend to take on certain child-ish behaviors.”
Just enough information to set my mind reeling yet again. I decided to sketch out the two terms and list the attributes that I associated with each.
A short look at that hastily assembled 2 column sketch and it occurred to me that the first few years of my life were definitely child-like. Upon further reflection, I became keenly aware of when I encountered my first child-ish category emotion. This happened when I was 4 years old and it was time to leave the safety of my home and venture across town to nursery school.
Everything had been so gentle and forgiving until that age but nursery school and onward was a rude awakening for me (and probably for most). Looking back on it, early schooling was a “conditional” love situation. There were strange rules we were given and those of us who could follow them correctly were treated more kindly than those who couldn’t. This made me feel the following feelings from the child-ish column above: a) stressed b) jealous and c) suspicious.
After that initial dose of “you’re not special” at age 4, I began expressing many of the other child-ish terms above. This all culminated in me being crushed years later by the final item I jotted in that column – “shame”.
A dark mental drill I know, but sometimes exploring our murky depths (while in the right state of mind) can bring much benefit. I now realize that every wellness practice I engage in, whether it’s fasting, yoga, meditation, sacred ceremony, or long barefooty treks through the forest, stimulates and awakens the inherent child-like aspects of who I am.
Furthermore, I now realize that child-like is who we really are at our essence, and child-ish is the illusion that we sometimes trap ourselves in.
A parting question for you: What do YOU do to engage your child-like qualities? Do you do these things often enough?
Until next time,