In the process of interacting with our environment, we form impressions via our senses. Our impressions are influenced by our beliefs, which act as a filter to our experience. Thoughts automatically come as we process our impressions and form ideas and opinions about them. So we begin with a set of beliefs, interact with our world and form opinions based on our initial impressions. Take the belief about beauty regarding gardens, for example. Most people identify beauty with cultivated flowers and the weeds are an eye sore. But if you let a garden go ‘to the weeds’, then take the time to look at it from a neutral point of view, it will show you a different kind of beauty. One that grew without deliberate design, but naturally, filled with life, color, texture, and contrast. You can re-define your idea about a beautiful garden by letting go of the initial belief and just observing what’s there, keeping yourself completely open to observing something new. Looking at things in a neutral way by suspending current beliefs about them allows you to see them in a new and maybe surprising way.
I apply this idea to my kids frequently by trying to suspend my pre-conceived notions about how I think they will behave and just watching what they do. For instance, instead of defining for them how their summer day might go, I let them define it themselves with complete acess to video games, tv, etc. With this freedom and the possibility of unlimited acess to those activities that are usually looked down upon, they actually choose a variety of activities on their own, which includes time playing outside, crafts, visiting the neighbor, choosing when to eat, watching very little tv and making up games to play. It’s a great way to truly see them for who they are as they express themselves naturally once given the freedom to follow their own choices. And they do surprise. One example is their own motivated cultivation of a potted plant garden consisting of the plants in the plants vs zombies video game. Who knew? It’s some thing I would never have seen in them if I banned them from playing video games because they integrate all of their activities into their life, so that a video game, for instance, leads to gardening.
It’s a challenging, but great way to practice mindful raising of kids and allowance of things that may challenge existing beliefs.