My three-year-old daughter has recently discovered the power of a simple three letter word. Whatever I say, ask or do, she looks at me with wide inquisitive eyes and replies… ‘WHY’? The conversation in our house goes something like this:
‘It is time for dinner Rosie’
Because you must be hungry
Because you haven’t eaten since lunchtime.
Well, we have been playing in the park and I forgot to pack a banana.
Erm, because… look just come here and eat your dinner!
And so it goes on. Infuriating and relentless at times, it often seems like a pointless dialogue that just goes round in circles until one of us eventually crumbles. So far, that person has always been me.
Last week however, I was lucky enough to attend a meditation retreat. 7 days of Yin Yoga, silent contemplation and perhaps more importantly for my sanity, an escape from the dreaded ‘WHY’.
I arrived at the retreat centre and settled into my new strict routine; 6 hours of meditation every day. Ahhh, peace and calm at last! Or so I thought…
To my horror, as the week went on and I began to pay closer attention to my thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations, I found myself calling upon the very same word I had been so eager to escape. I would recognise a feeling of doubt arising; ‘Why’? Notice a strong urge to go for a run; ‘Why’? Start to feel angry or bored, restless or annoyed; ‘Why’? I had transformed into my 3-year-old daughter!
It was through this process of self-enquiry however, that I began to realise how a simple line of questioning had started to reframe so much of what previously, I had just assumed I already knew. I began to see a new perspective on so many things and occasionally, found myself able to step away from the automatic responses or patterns that I would usually not even notice.
The Harvard Psychology Professor, Ellen Langer once wrote: “When you approach things with the mindset that you no longer think you know everything about it, you bring a different kind of attention to it”.
I would encourage you to try it out. Whether you are on your Yoga mat, at your office desk or in the line at the supermarket. Assume you know nothing about what you are thinking or feeling and the things you see around you. Call upon a childlike naivety to just pause and ask yourself, ‘WHY’?
Of course, I am back home now and my daughter is constantly at it! It is still very frustrating when we are are trying to leave the front door or get her to sit down at the table. But I do have a new respect for the word and think I am able to be much more present, whenever I am asking myself,