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Like a Child

Someone I know had a baby yesterday. At the time I did my meditation, she was still in labor and had been for around 24 hours at that point. While I was meditating, I saw the baby who was about to arrive and realized how for a time, she will live entirely in her body, in the present moment, without having to struggle with a mind that, if she develops like most of us, eventually will be filled with all sorts of judgments, expectations, disappointments, stories, scripts, fears, angers, certainties, and more that will color her experience of life. To be sure, like when she’s an older child and then an adult, her life as a newborn will not be perfect: she’ll have joy and warmth and safety and fun and peace, but she will also have hunger, pain, fear, confusion, and frustration, and she will probably let us know that loudly. But unlike us, she will respond to whatever comes as she needs to, and then she will move on to whatever comes next, not carrying the highs and the lows with her from moment to moment, grasping for more highs and desperately trying to avoid more lows. It is that grasping and avoiding that causes suffering in our lives, not the highs and lows themselves. For a time, this newly-arrived girl will not suffer.

Jesus taught that in order to get into heaven, we must become like little children (Matthew 18:3). I am not Christian, but I find this teaching profound. I don’t know if there is a directly comparable teaching in Judaism, but Moses, considered by scripture to be the greatest Jewish leader, is referred to as very humble (Numbers 12:3), and humility is put forth as a great virtue in many Jewish scriptures. Certainly, one of the qualities Jesus sees in little children is humility. Shimshon of Chinon, a prominent rabbi in France in the early 14th century, is reported to have taught, “When I pray, I pray with the mind of a small child.” Islam also identifies humility as an essential trait to serving Allah (Surah Al-Furqan 25:63).

When we are humble, we let go of knowing. We may, in fact, know many things, but we don’t let that knowing dictate how we see or react to the present situation. Instead, we observe with an “open mind” and take the situation as it actually is, rather than how our minds tell us it is or should be. There is no suffering in that, no disappointed expectations, no angst. That is how the baby born yesterday will approach the world she finds herself in…at least until her mind develops and she is conditioned to see things in a certain way.

In my meditation yesterday, where I let go of thinking, wanting, avoiding, etc., and worked to stay in my body as it was right then and as it changed over the time I sat, I realized that I was practicing becoming like a little child.

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