One could say that integration is the truest spiritual goal.For the universe to become one, as a fractal of the universe, we must become one. We will do that by integrating. We will integrate by “loving” all aspects of ourselves. We will integrate by pulling close and seeing value in the aspects of us that we have pushed away.
For most of us in the world, in the process that we go through in order to ‘grow up’, there is an element of pushing our child-self away. And this is a tragedy because when we push our child self away, we don’t simply gain all the positive attributes of maturity and adulthood. We lose all the positive attributes of youth and childhood. An essential part of integration is to re-own your child self. An essential spiritual practice is to ‘become like a child’.
Obviously one of the most straightforward ways to integrate the child self is to do inner child work. There are several methods for doing this. To learn my favorite methods, you can watch two of my videos. The first titled: A Letter from Your Inner Child – Inner child Work. And the second titled: Parts Work (What Is Parts Work and How to Do It). And you can start doing The Completion Process. To learn how to do this process, you can pick up a copy of my book that is quite literally titled: The Completion Process. Alternatively, you can go to www.completionprocess.com and select a practitioner to lead you through it.
But something that you can also do is to re-own and practice your child-like qualities by including the practice of ‘becoming like a child’ to your spiritual practice. Restore yourself to a child-like sense of life. And here are some ways that you can do that:
- Spend time around children and join their world. This can take the form of sitting at a park and simply watching them, letting yourself become lost in their way of being in the world; or even meditating on the children at play there. It can take the form of deliberately spending quality time with a child, talking to them, asking them questions, and/or playing with them. But when you do this, instead of you bringing them into your world and way of seeing things, let them bring you into their world and into their way of seeing things. Your aim is simply to follow along.
- Be in the present moment. One of the beautiful elements of the child is that the child is immersed in the present moment. As a result, they experience the full impact of life itself. The full taste and smell and feel and sound of things. Bring your attention back to what is happening in the moment regarding whatever it is that you are experiencing. And take it in fully. Really BE THERE.
Play. When we are children, we know how to have fun. We don’t have to be coerced into play. We don’t need a reward to give us incentive to play. Play is just a natural, intrinsic function of being human. Play is defined as engagement in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than for a serious or practical purpose. But this is where we have to stop and think. In the very definition of the word play, we find the dysfunction of the society we have co-created. We have all grown up thinking that play is not synonymous with any purpose. We grow up and wonder why we aren’t happy without realizing that it is because we don’t take the straight path to happiness by prioritizing enjoyment. Rather, we spend our lives beating around the bush, hoping that our happiness will come as the end result of other priorities like keeping a reliable job or reaching our goals.
Childhood is not the only time we need play. We need it just as much when we are adults, but we tend to get worse and worse at it. Most of us haven’t played for so long that we’ve forgotten how to do it. There is no right or wrong way to play. It can take the form of a game like poker. It could be playing a sport like volleyball. It can take the form of a leisure activity like taking a bath or it could be some kind of totally spontaneous action like climbing a tree. No matter what it is, the only criterion that the activity (or nonactivity) must meet in order to be considered play, is that you are doing it for one reason and one reason only: To enjoy yourself. Having fun isn’t just about the big “fun” things like skydiving—it’s also about the small things, like giving yourself permission to take a leisurely walk along a beach, go on a date, or even get totally wet instead of covering up when it rains one day.
Develop your awareness of the “spontaneous play impulse.” In the same way that someone might have to tune in to and recognize his or her emotions, you might have to tune in to and recognize your play impulse. For example, when you are walking on a beach, you may have the spontaneous inspiration to run into the surf regardless of whether you are wearing pants or shorts. A sensible person who has trained themselves to ignore and defy their play impulse would choose not to heed that inspiration to play and instead would immediately argue with the impulse by justifying why it’s a bad decision. Maybe they’d think about getting their pants wet and then getting their car seat wet and then having to do laundry. Whatever the case may be, they would not allow themselves to play. They may defy their play impulse so often that they no longer recognize the impulse at all. A person who has recognized the value in enjoyment, on the other hand, would recognize the impulse to play and heed that inspiration by running out into the surf for example. When that play impulse comes up, let yourself act on the impulse to play. Let yourself climb that tree if you suddenly get the impulse to climb it. Let yourself buy the finger paints you pass in the grocery- store aisle and paint with them. Give yourself permission to roll down a grassy hill in the park even if you’re wearing a skirt or a suit and tie. Sign up for scuba-diving lessons if you’ve always wanted to try it.
- Try new things. And experience old things as if you are experiencing them for the very first time. One of the most intoxicating things about being around children is that they are experiencing everything for the first time. And when we show a child something, it is as if we get to re-experience it for the first time. And by doing so, we don’t take it for granted. Even simple things, like puddles, become things of wonder. To restore this sense of wonder, we need to put ourselves back in that place of trying new things. And learn new things. It doesn’t matter what it is. This keeps you young, no matter what your age is. Part of this practice is to do a mental exercise where you pretend that you are a walk in or an alien who, having suddenly been given a human body, are now going to experience things on earth for the first time. You may have eaten granola 1,000 times before. But this time, you are going to pretend that you have never eaten it before and try to experience granola as if it were the first time. You may have walked down a road 100 times before. But this time, you are going to pretend that you have never walked down it before. And try to experience that road as if it were the first time. This is a powerful way to restore your innocence.
- Be curious. Keep your mind active instead of passive. For this practice, throw away whatever knowing that you think you have, including the idea of boredom. If you find something boring, you are not looking deep or close enough at it. Start from a place of: Nothing is boring. Start from a place of not knowing. Let go of all pre conceived ideas. Keep an open mind and an attitude of wanting to learn instead of judge. And also, connect to the fun in learning. Ask questions. You cannot ask too many questions. Question everything. Make it a habit to spend time in different worlds. What I mean by this is that a specific movie is a world. A specific social group is a world. A field of interest is a world. To develop curiosity, you’re going to have to stop sticking to only the worlds you know and you’re going to have to become a mental traveler, even if that means reading something you would never normally read or talking to someone from a totally different walk of life. Seek out different worlds. Do something or engage with something totally out of the norm. Search for the positive in anything you come across. And study everything you come across.
- Be radically honest. Say what’s on your mind. And say how you feel. One of the greatest things about children is that they are so honest. They express themselves honestly and openly until they are trained not to. Whenever you encounter a situation where you are tempted to be strategic, be honest instead. Even if at first you are only called to practice being radically honest with yourself and in a journal, re-establishing that connection between your awareness and your immediate personal truth will take you a long way. Adults feel the pressure to behave in ways that are counter to their own truth. They say they aren’t hungry when they are. They act like they are fine alone, when they aren’t. They sit in positions their body doesn’t want to be in. To be like a child, there needs to be a congruence between your truth and the rest of you.
- Let other people help you. Part of this is to re-connect to your needs. Draw on other people’s knowledge and capabilities and skills. And don’t pretend you don’t have a need when you do. For example, a child will not just keep on walking if they are thirsty. They act as if their needs are a crucial element of life. So, start to become aware of and meet those needs, including asking someone to help you meet those needs. Needing others does not mean anything negative about a child… It also doesn’t mean anything negative about you.
- Identify the qualities of children that you would like to emulate and then emulate them. Observing how children do these things might help you. For example, if you identify that a quality of children that you’d like to emulate is creativity, then watch how a child creates. By watching how they create, you might then get messy. You might assume you’d be good at something and find out whether you are or not by trying it. You might do something hands on. You might let your imagination run free, uninhibited by ideas of what is possible and not possible. You might stop being inhibited by what other people will think of what you create. And you might create with things and in ways that could be considered wacky.
No matter what practice you select in order to become like a child, make sure to remember this: A child would not be serious about any of them. So, don’t be serious or disciplined about any one of these practices. And if you find yourself getting serious, instead of lighthearted about doing any one of them, drop it.
We have the tendency to minimize the power of the child. We love to think that the child represents what we will grow out of in the process of personal progression. But I have a little secret for you. The inner child is the disguise for the higher self. This is why awakened beings have many childlike qualities. In fact, the more awakened someone becomes, the more they become once again like a child; albeit a very wise one. And so, it only seems appropriate to end this article with a quote by Paula Poundstone:
“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.”