A few months ago, I had the good fortune of spending some time with my then 10-month old godson. It was close to dinner time and he was starting to get fussy indoors so to give his parents and older sister a little breathing room, I picked him up and carried him outside. It was a beautiful spring day and he immediately quieted and became very alert. Then something interesting happened that I cannot really explain but I’ll call ‘merging consciousness’. This happened to me only once before some years ago when I lay down to take a nap and my cat decided to join me. Even though I was tired my mind was racing, continuously thinking about the past and worrying about the future, keeping me from being able to rest. My cat didn’t seem to have any trouble settling down at all and after a few minutes of purring, fell fast asleep. I was pondering, not without some jealousy about how cats are able to shift gears so effortlessly when suddenly it was as if I merged with my cat and got to experience ‘cat-ness’. There was no past, no future, only the moment. And that moment was nap! Every part of his being was 100% invested with total ease, in napping. It was glorious! It allowed me to finally settle down and go to sleep. Again, I don’t really know what happened or how and believe me I’ve tried to replicate that event many times since to no avail.
The experience was similar with my godson. I could feel him tune into the sounds of the birds chirping, the wind blowing the leaves in the trees and the sunlight making shadows on the ground before us. That same feeling of ‘merging’ happened and it was as if I got to experience these things as a new being having no context for what my senses were taking in. He didn’t know what birds were or what chirping was. He didn’t know the name for trees or wind or sunlight. There was no frame of reference for what he was experiencing. It was just pure sensation. What I felt in those moments of experiencing the world through the eyes of a baby was an indescribable joy. The birds sounded like music. The trees looked like strange creatures moving of their own accord. The wind and sunlight on my face felt utterly delightful. Every nameless thing was a source of wonder and beauty.
Reflecting upon this experience later made me realize that when we label something and file it away in our brain it is always recalled to our experience with our projected understanding of what we know it to be. A tree is a tree. Chirping is chirping. Wind is wind. How much does our recollection of a particular object or experience limit the possibilities of experiencing those things in a new light? We do this with people and situations as well. What if we could bring back that quality of newness to our experiences and perceptions?
I invite you to play a little game. Tomorrow morning when you first open your eyes, imagine that you are seeing, hearing and smelling everything for the first time. Look at your hand pretending that you’ve never seen a hand before and don’t know what it’s called. Observe the light and play of shadow not knowing what it is or how it works. Eat your breakfast as though it’s the first time you’ve ever had food. You don’t even know the name of what you’re eating! How does it taste? Can you bring this fresh sense to the people in your life? How does it feel to hug a loved one when you don’t know the name for hug?
Even trying this for a few moments in a day has helped me to get out of the habitual, knowing mind and drop more deeply into the present moment. Now is where the joy is. Now is where there is peace. Hopefully, this game can be a tool to help you to find and delight in the now.