Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Inner Child

The other day I did a guided meditation focused on finding your inner child.  I do 15 minutes of guided meditation daily and while all of them help me relax and center myself, this one reached me in a way that most of the others have not. 

I have a vivid imagination, which actually helps when doing these meditations it is relatively easy for me to transport myself into the images and nuances described by the guide.  However, I also have a wandering mind that can go off on a tangent at a moments notice, and have to keep bringing myself back to the meditation. So when instructed to close my eyes, let my inner child surface and allow myself to feel the emotions of that child, I was pretty astounded when my body and mind underwent a noticeable change almost immediately.  I could feel the excitement and energy in my heart, my mind relaxed and I actually felt a smile come across my face. Now, I know that traditionally the objective of meditation is to remain rather still with a calm mind and heart, but this was about finding the child within you, and what child remains still with a calm mind?  So I just let my mind and body react as they did without questioning it.  The simple act of “allowing” the child in me to come out brought about this rapid change in me physically and mentally. Pretty incredible.

I was a baby Mozart! Not really, but I had fun.

I actually tend to see glimpses my inner child quite a bit. I love to do cheesy and clich√© things like splash in puddles and dance around my kitchen singing while cooking dinner. I thrive on new adventures and excitement.  I’m a fan of pillow fights and food fights (though not necessarily simultaneously), laughing until I’m crying, and tickling wars. Unfortunately, these don’t comprise much of my daily, or even weekly, routine. I’m a travel planner for a living so, needless to say, a lot of my life involves pre-planning. It’s tough to be spontaneous and silly while booking airfare. The airlines don’t appreciate that too much, and probably neither will my clients. When your job revolves around planning, you tend to be someone who plans when not on the job as well  (or vice versa, you go into planning as a career because you excel in it in everyday life). Either way, it’s unlikely to be a highly spontaneous person who plans for a living. Not impossible, but unlikely. For those who are successful at this, I’d truly love to hear your strategies.  For me, despite the obvious divide between “living in the moment” and planning for a living, I miss my inner child and I wish I could hold on to her longer and more frequently.

The meditation got me thinking about my favorite aspects of my younger self. What did I used to do and be that I feel I’ve lost? What do I wish I could learn from the child version of me?  As the meditation guided me through these questions, a few key characteristics continued to surface.

·      Fearlessness: I think virtually anyone would say they were less afraid of things as a child that they are now. Closed in spaces? Great hiding spot. Snakes? Make great pets. Standing on top of a very high mountain and looking down? Exciting, not terrifying. Fears seem to develop when we begin thinking more in depth about a situation – what could go wrong, should I do this or not, what are the long-term ramifications, etc? Children, for the most part, don’t question life in this way very often. Adults probably question things too much, hence the fear development.

Enjoying my bike
·      Confidence: My biggest fear (other than bees, because I’m allergic) is probably public speaking, or really anything that involves being up in front of people. I don’t like the sole attention being me, and I don’t like feeling like I’m being judged or watched. Yet in third grade I tried out for, and got, the lead in the class play. Through middle school I was a soloist in chorus every year (fun fact: I used to have quite a good singing voice). Yet now, giving a 10-minute presentation in front of a few colleagues requires me picturing everyone in their underwear and I’m pretty petrified of karaoke. It's a fear I make myself work through, and I'm getting more comfortable with it, but I still don't love it. 

·      Freedom: It may seem that I have more freedom now since I own my own business and make my own hours instead of my day being dictated by homework and bedtimes, but we have a lot more worries as adults and put more pressure on ourselves. We often think ten steps ahead (or behind, if we feel we’ve made a mistake) instead of enjoying the moment. While this is helpful in paying our bills and keeping our jobs, it takes away from the day-to-day enjoyment in life.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could truly just enjoy the good parts of our day without having deadlines, rent payments and other must dos in the back of our minds the whole time?

·      Spontaneity: This is a big one for me. I have two sides that often seem to be at odds. As I've mentioned, there’s the part of me that loves planning and organization, but there’s the part of me that wants to do things on a whim, that likes to just jump in the car on a nice day and drive to an un-determined destination, who loves to sing and dance walking down the street until I realize I’m doing it out loud and in public and people are staring at me.  I think of everything, this ability to be spontaneous without worrying about being judged by others is what I miss the most. When a little kid breaks out in song in an inappropriate place, it’s funny at best and slightly embarrassing at the worst. When you do it as an adult you can get kicked out or arrested for disturbing the peace, or at best have the people around you thinking our a bit off your rocker. Doesn’t quite seem fair.

Me and my brother, playing in the Georgia mud

If you haven’t taken a look at your inner child lately, I highly encourage it. It might be in the form of a guided meditation, or it might be doing something you haven’t done in a long time that brings back good childhood memories.  I’ve recently connected with some old friends (i.e. from childhood, not elderly), and it’s helped me a lot. Not only do we reminisce about the old times, but I realize that the same reasons we were close then are the reasons we’re reconnecting now, and it brings out some of the spontaneity, freedom and confidence that I had when we were younger. I’d love to hear others’ techniques for bringing out their inner child. It’s a step that I think is so important for anyone trying to re-discover themselves and rebuild, and I’d love to make it more a part of my weekly, or even daily, routine.  


  1. Nice piece of writing Maya. I love the pictures and there is a lot of truth in what you say about the emotional connections we have to childhood. If it was a good one, it can be a real source of positive feeling about yourself. Unfortunately, there is also what I call the Shangri-La tendency which is romanticize the way things used to be in ways that they never quite really were. That's one reason that I like keeping a journal. It won't reach back as far as childhood, but it does keep me honest (to a certain extent) about how things really were - both good and not so good.

  2. You are very right - it's definitely easy to "romanticize" about how things used to be - a bit of the opposite of a "grass is always greener' syndrome I guess. It's like when you have a job that you leave because you don't enjoy it, and then looking back you often think "oh, this wasn't so bad, I kind of miss that." You are also correct that for some people, their childhood was the toughest part of their life and therefore connecting with their childhood isn't a positive experience. I think the balance, in general, is not necessarily to be specific about your childhood (ie I wish I could wake up on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons like I used to) but more so trying to rid ourselves of some of the constraints we put on ourselves as adults. As adults, I think we "psych ourselves out" about a lot of things and make rules for ourselves that we didn't as children and I think that's when it's nice to try to remember a bit of the confidence and lightheartedness that we had as children. And yes, a journal is an excellent way to keep a track of your thoughts and feelings as you move through life - I did a specific blog just on journaling a while back because I feel it's truly really important.