sense and sensibility: reclaiming your creative birthright

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Once upon a time I taught kindergarten and first grade. My favorite thing about interacting with curious minds is always the same: witnessing the flash of a-ha! when a child gets it. Whatever it is. Counting by 5’s, stringing letter sounds together and realizing the letters mean something, understanding the joke in a story. The delightful-catch-breath-smile magic persists whenever I see it happen or experience it myself. It seems the world surrenders a delicious secret and oh, what fun to be in on it!

In case you missed the first post on reclaiming your creative birthright, I’ll summarize:

We’re each born brilliantly curious and full of wonder.

This wonder fuels exploration. Exploration involves making mistakes, messes and mighty fine discoveries.

If you let your child-self wander at will, you end up crazy-dancing and being wonderfully creative.

How do you reconnect with this winsome self? Formal education is about lots of things but not generally about fanning the flames of creativity and spontaneity.  Did you have a teacher who cheered for daydreaming? Gave gold stars for purple trees? Me neither. But sometimes schooling gives us useful frameworks. Like the unit on identifying the five senses.

In first grade I volunteered for a science experiment. I stood in front of the class while Mrs. Lundsford tied a soft bandana over my eyes. As I pinched my nose she she gave me a tiny taste of…something. Sort of salty. Kind of sour. I couldn’t guess what it was. On cue, my classmates shouted, “It’s a dill pickle!” Oh. Next came something very sour. No idea. “It’s a lemon!” the disembodied voices giggled. Before taking off my blindfold my teacher popped a treat into my mouth. Chocolate. Ugh! I don’t like chocolate. Removing the blindfold I rushed to the sink and rinsed out my mouth.

The memory of such sensory experiences remain vivid in spite of the passage of time. As the neurobiologist Candice Pert notes the brain may be located in the cranium, but the mind is located throughout the body.*

One way we lose or abandon our crazy-dancing child-selves is by becoming numb to our surroundings. For a variety of reasons we function on automatic. As Charles Duhigg notes in his book The Power of Habit, this helps us move through life efficiently. Once we know how to tie our shoes or brush our teeth, we don’t need to think about each movement. We save mega-watts of mental energy. Efficient and quite sensible. But auto-pilot as a default for most of life? Bye-bye curiosity. Farewell wonder.

Extraordinary fades into the ordinary.

So, did you do the warm up with the first post? No worries. Here’s how it goes: picture your curious, wonder-filled child-self. Where does she spend time? What does she love doing? Imagine details about her and her surroundings. See her moving. Hear her laughing. Absorb as much of her essence as you can. This may seem too simple or just plain ordinary. That’s all right.

Be aware that the extraordinary masquerades as the ordinary much of the time.

Found your child-self? Yay! Now, here’s a playdate activity for both of you.

Use this little playsheet with my Five Senses Mandala

or draw one in your journal, or scrawl one on a piece of already-printed paper. It’s all good. Make time for remembering specific sense experiences. Play through all five or spend time on one or two. The right way to do this is the way that works for you. Pick up a pen, crayon or marker and draw or write. Or grab some old magazines, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick.

Today’s point of play: recapturing the joy of awareness.

We’re tapping the mind, no the brain. As you remember and recapture, savor. Welcome back the wonder.

Until next time, spend a few moments each day as a child. It’s a kind of meditation. Be present and see, smell, taste, hear, touch the world with curiosity and openness.

Tell me what happens. I really want to know. Want to share the goodness with a friend? Pass along the fun.

*Parker Palmer in his interview in The Sun, November 2012


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