She was mesmerized playing with the box.
It was quite funny that the toy inside was set aside while she seemed more fascinated with the outer plain brown parcel box.
She turned it around multiple times. Putting her hands in and took it out.
I wondered what was going through her.
How was she sensing this thing she had in her hand?
In the next moment, her father came around to pick her up.
He swooped her up lovingly in his arms and turned around to face her to another couple whispering, “Lookie, who is here! They got you this gift. Say thank you.”
She looked back at the box on the floor and then up again at him.
He smiled at her and repeated, “Uncle and Aunty got you this lovely gift. Isn't that so kind of them? Say thank you.”
She looked up at him quizzically as he patiently waited for her.
Looking right at his lips, she parroted his words - ”Tank you.”
The scene brought up a familiar and similar memory in my mind's landscape. I felt the earnestness of the doting father, who just like most of us parents, wanted to guide and teach his child to see and acknowledge the generous relationships we have in our lives and all gifts we have abundantly received.
I also sensed the young child who enthralled in her play was already in her element enjoying what she had received.
In her awareness, there might have been no sense of another to thank.
No other to receive from or give back to.
She was completely and simply BEing.
Young children and nature are great teachers of Life.
Both my kids, now teens, have taught me much.
Parenting as we know, continues to be an ever-evolving journey.
As the holiday season comes around, gratitude seems to be on all our minds at this time.
The way things have been for so many of us during these tumultuous times, we recognize even more the importance of acknowledging the gifts we have received.In a fast-paced world where a wholehearted connection with ourselves and the world feels scarce at times, it is no wonder that we naturally think that we want our children to recognize, value, and acknowledge the gifts already present in their lives.
What is gratitude?
The response depends on who/what is asking/answering this question.
As the Body-Mind
For us who live our lives through and as the Body-Mind, gratitude is a sacred attitude that connects us to the very abundance of life.
When we think of all the good in our lives, our hearts open wide to the goodness present in all forms. The more good/open we feel, the more goodness we recognize in ourselves and others, and naturally, the more good we do.
Our expressions are then a natural extension of what we feel and interpret ourselves to be.Gratitude as understood, experienced, and expressed by the Body-Mind is a sacred pathway to connect to the holy truth of what we are/what is.
The true Self
The true Self is living gratitude. It is beyond the concept of expressing gratitude as it itself is a sacred expression of it.
When we are aware and fully present to and with what is, our presence becomes everything. We become the gift and the gratitude.
Young children and Nature who live in the present and outside the narrative of the familiar mind naturally embody and live this innate stance. That is what the young child was BEing as she played with her toy - the true Self.
On this journey as a parent, I have often wondered… at what point do we as children forget our natural state of being?
As children, when do we start relating to life through the identity of our body-minds and its conditioning?
At what point, if at all, does a parent need to use practices to train children to express gratitude? And what is the best way to do that?
The wonderful part of what is revealing itself at the core is this - is that all we need is what we already are!
All that we need to be is the true Self we are.
The more present we are as awareness/presence in life, the more the questions of what and how drop away. Being fully present with a child allows us to naturally respond in the now to the situation in front of us. This applies to all relationships in life.
For the true Self, there is no practice required.
Life is dynamic, and therefore how can there be one standard answer or one way of doing?
“To the Body-Mind, gratitude is an attitude - a sacred practice.
To the true Self, gratitude simply is.”
Do you experience times when you just don't feel grateful?
Here are a couple of practices that may help.
- Acceptance of what is - Accepting what is, including us not feeling grateful, is a radically effective and transmuting stance/practice. Allowing ourselves to be with whatever there is may feel like a counter-intuitive action to the conditioned mind whose nature is to do. But this is the ultimate power move for natural transmutation. Being present with what is for as long as it is, acknowledging what we feel without reacting can help us truly see and therefore be.
- Find one thing and elaborate - When we find ourselves wanting to feel grateful but are unable to, start by finding one small thing to be thankful for. Elaborate on that. Write as many details about that one thing you are thankful for.
- Body Mudra/Posture - Place both your hands on your heart and bow your head a little as you bring your attention to your breath. Observe and be with the breath for a few minutes. This focus and posture/body mudra helps the body-mind to almost immediately connect and open up to the fullness of gratitude. By doing this, we may see that just the ability to have this breath and life, the ability even to experience whatever we are experiencing in itself, is a gift.
- Especially for parents/guardians of children - this is from one of my all-time favorite conscious parenting authors Sandy Blackard whose little book on parenting “Say what you see” helped me immensely with my ways of being/parenting my children. One of the tenets she shares in her books is that we recognize that “All children already have every possible inner strength”.
Feel the truth of it. Instead of doing it as a mental exercise, feel the thankfulness arise in your body/heart.
Even a little helps as it opens the valve for more to flow. You may be surprised to find how quickly you will start seeing/feeling more and more things to be grateful for.
As we know, keeping a gratitude journal and list is also another powerful practice.
In one of her blogs, she shares, “Think of it not as instilling but as bringing out the hidden strength of gratitude that is already there in the child.”
I have seen this work for children of all ages – from 0–100+!:)
You can read more here.
Gratitude is a natural byproduct of being/seeing/feeling the essence of what we already are. The more connected we are, the more we live, love, and naturally express our gratitude.
May this blessed time with our loved ones be a time where we get to see, be and share the gratefulness we already are!
So it is, and so it shall be.
Wishing you a very happy holiday season!