Present, Awake, Alive

Present, Awake, Alive

a bit scary, but exciting

Our responsibility to children is to give them full experiences of the present. Alice Yardley, Senses and Sensibility, p.15.

Children of all ages benefit from living in the present moment. Many children and teenagers live programmed lives with little time just to be, to imagine, to explore and enjoy sensory experiences of all the elements. Many young people experience most of their interactions second hand through electronic media. I feel sad when I think about how this limits their opportunities to be more fully alive in body, mind, imagination, heart, and spirit.

What a blessing it was for my sisters and I that we lived on the outskirts of a small city in a neighbourhood with unpaved streets and little traffic. Making drains with the spring runoff of melting snow provided endless amusement –running one “river” into another, building dams with stones, floating small sticks and papers or silver foil boats all sparked our creativity and imaginations. When we were camping, we all enjoyed stargazing and watching the flames of the nightly campfire.

A yard or neighbourhood can also be a fertile environment for the imagination. It can offer opportunities to observe insects, notice butterflies, listen for birds, pick dandelions to make chains or bracelets, appreciate the tenacity of plants, watch clouds, or simply daydream. Conservation areas near your home or school can be good places to observe, ponder, or sit quietly, unwind, and experience moments of calm.

explorers on a hike, © Photograph by Colleen Watson-Turner

Even if you live in a city apartment, I hope it would be possible for you to go camping, visit a family farm or acreage, or, if you are First Nations or Métis, visit your ancestral reserve to encourage young people to:

  • explore,
  • collect,
  • climb a tree,
  • play games
Mom, I remember that first swing, the roughness of the rope, and the feeling of creating a breeze
  • read a book under a tree
  • find a quiet spot to draw or dream
  • build with blocks of snow, fallen branches, or the space within a circle of bushes to create a home or fort,
  • imagine worlds and create their place in the story imagined
  • notice diversity, pattern, delicacy, and uniqueness of familiar life forms and organisms they haven’t seen before
  • develop their sense of beauty
  • observe insect behaviour, (e.g., appreciating the industry of spiders or ants)
  • watch and listen for birds and other sounds of animals,(e.g., in relation to mating behaviours)
  • notice nests, webs, and cocoons without harming them
  • follow trails made by deer
  • find clues to who else lives in that place

(and always, of course, within boundaries of respect for that environment).

Through these experiences we are also providing young people a means to happiness that is sturdy and available despite the ups and downs of life.  And, the more we can engage our own curiosity and sense of awe and wonder, the more likely we are to live in the present moment with imagination, senses, and heart more fully engaged. The natural world is a good place to contemplate the wonders of symmetry.

“There are geometric equations hidden within the promise of a flower bud . . . The same equation dictates the swirls at the tip of your fingers and the arrangement of stars in the Milky Way” Ken Druse, Planthropology.

What influences young people most profoundly is the way the adults they depend on behave towards their surroundings. It is rewarding to keep our own senses alive, our minds curious and open to being amazed. Then, when we guard the unstructured time of children and teenagers, and give a few suggestions for what they might do outdoors within our slightly-broadened parameters of safety, we are providing them time to imagine, dream, create, use all their senses, cooperate with others, and test their powers. In short, live a more meaningful life.

Do children notice when we are fully present to them?

Do they notice when we are not?

Do we notice the difference between being fully present and being somewhere else in our thoughts, body, and spirit?

Comments are closed.