A common saying is to "Live like you're dying." Tim McGraw's song comes to mind, which goes through bucket list activities such as skydiving and "Rocky Mountain climbing" as well as being a better spouse, friend, and enjoying every moment like it was your last. I am totally on board with "Carpe Diem" and the idea of living in the present (and in fact, many of my blog posts will focus on that topic) but for me, I think it's more important to approach life like a baby who just learned how to walk.
1) As babies, we are our true selves, because who else could we be? We haven't had any negative feedback (except maybe our parents telling us "no" when we try to put our fingers in the electric socket!) and we are free to express our true unbounded joy. As we get older, we receive feedback which causes us to scale back this joy and in many cases make us think that we're not "enough"- not smart enough, thin enough, good enough. What meditation has given me is the gift of realizing that when I look at myself as "not enough" because of what others have told me, what I perceive that others think of me, or my own negative self-talk, that is not my true self. My true self is that of uninhibited joy and potential, just like a baby. When you realize how much of your life has been impacted by how you've limited your own potential, it's quite eye opening.
2) Have you ever seen a baby that just learned how to walk? They are so excited to be on their feet that they run around at full speed. You look the other way for a second and they're gone. New parents may not think this is that fantastic since they constantly have their eyes on them, but I think that babies are thrilled to have a physical way to outwardly express their internal joy.
More importantly, have you ever seen a baby fall that just learned how to walk? Probably yes since it happens a lot, especially at the beginning. If you witness it, you hold your breath for a moment, anticipating a blood-curdling scream when the baby does a face plant. But what happens nine times out of ten? They get up and start running around again, right? Babies aren't afraid to fall flat on their faces. Even kids that are slightly older may fall down and wait to see how the adults around them react. Most times, if the adult says, "You're OK!" the child gets back up and starts running around again. So why do we treat our own failures differently? When we fall flat on our faces we feel embarrassment and shame. It prevents us from trying again or if we do try again, we do so very cautiously. Whether it's true or not, we imagine the reactions of those around us- feeling sorry for us, embarrassed for us, shaking their heads in disapproval. We don't tell ourselves "You're OK!" so we can dust ourselves off and get back up to running at full speed again.
I recently finished a book by Brené Brown called Daring Greatly which I would highly recommend about having the courage to be vulnerable and live an authentic life. Brené uses a quote from Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena speech which I think is a great way to remember living life like a baby just learning to walk who gets up time and time again:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The next time you do a face plant of failure, think of yourself as a joyful baby who can't wait to get up and start running around again.