Britta Gustafson: A cue from the child’s-eye view: Value the little things
Every so often we are confronted, accosted even, by a series of reminders that life is short, fragile and unpredictable.
Each week during the summer camp program at the Farm Collaborative where I work, the young Earth Keeper campers gather for a gratitude circle, where every child is given the opportunity to reflect upon and share something for which they are grateful.
Some express gratitude for big picture concepts like food and nature, Mother Earth or the sky. Others hold dear family and friends. But many simply reflect on what is immediately at hand; so present in their moment-to-moment interactions as yet still young observers of their ever-expanding worlds. They might express gratitude for soft feathers on the baby chick they just held, the rooster’s crowing in the background, the smell of the hibiscus flower they just noticed, the radish they ate snack or perhaps just holding the hand of a new friend they are sitting with.
Most often, in those moments I find myself slowing down, grateful for their glowing smiles, their genuine sense of gratitude and for their innocent simplicity.
As of late in my own sphere it feels that the delicate nature of human mortality is ever present. And trying to seek gratitude when life seems to be constantly throwing challenges at you in endless waves, not allowing a breath between strikes, is overwhelming — or maybe it’s just that adulting is hard.
I realize I’m not alone. I’ve become acutely aware of how many people, even within my own close connects, struggle every day. Each time when there seems to be a moment of reprieve, I’ve begun to notice how important it is to seek out the simple pleasures, to indulge in the sensory experience that is to be human and trying to live a little more like a child, slowing down to really observe, listen, smell, taste and feel this wondrous world.
A wise friend recently suggested spending some time each day simply trying to listen to the sound that is farthest away. It’s hard to believe how much there is to hear in even the most remote spots within Snowmass Village. The trees are saturated with song birds; their depth seems endless if you really listen.
Of course the distant sounds of humanity are hard to escape, but they are easily overpowered by the sounds of our environment. What a simple blessing.
Or just try to allow a scent to guide you. Follow that lovely smell when you notice it, or track something unusual to its source allowing yourself to be led only by olfactory experiences. Smell the rain, it’s beautiful. Take note of what a rich setting this is for our sense of smell.
If you try to become a keen observer, practice by noticing something as elementary as the many shades of green we have in the grassy fields, or pick one color, purple perhaps, upon which to focus, and it becomes apparent as to just how vibrant this canvas is. Suddenly you will be seeing a rainbow everywhere you look.
When tasting food, try closing your eyes and exploring all the flavors as they are being activated. It’s a great way to appreciate a meal without overindulging, and it encourages us to seek out even more variety. Kids really know how to explore their food; just watch how they eat.
But of all the sensory experiences we can reflect upon throughout the course of a casual day, perhaps the most obvious and yet neglected is our sense of touch. Feel more than just the wind, sun or rain on your face; reach out and explore the world with your finger tips. Far to often we carry so much in our hands, weighted down by our busy lives, and our hands are taken for granted as tools becoming under appreciated despite being our most direct connection to the outer world. Kids can’t resist the urge to feel the world around them, and we seem to outgrow that in an unfortunate way.
Just being here in these mountains should ignite gratitude. Certainly many places, probably most, have an abundance of sensory experiences, but here in Snowmass we are blessed with unlimited opportunities to experience the simple things if we stop a moment to take it all in.
But with so many distractions, stressors and big-picture pressures, it’s easy to get lost in our own thoughts. Taking a cue from the child’s-eye view can be very grounding and refresh the senses, reminding us that each breath is a gift.
Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at email@example.com.
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