My five-year-old son counts stairs wherever we go.
He's been doing it since he and his twin brother first got the hang of counting back in March. Not only does he count steps and stairs in new places, he continues to count the stairs in our own house (12). And it's not ironic counting, or just announcing from memory that there are 12 steps. Every time he descends the stairs he counts them which is sometimes frustrating when you're trying to get somewhere in a hurry as in "come on! there are 12 steps, we all KNOW there are 12 steps will you stop counting and come on already!" But when I'm not in a rush I find my son's step counting to be possibly the most grounding activity I've ever witnessed.
In zazen we're instructed to focus on our breath in order to give us something to focus on in the present so our mind doesn't wander. In a display of his Buddha nature, my son practices this without any instruction There's nothing more in the present than counting the steps you take as you descent a flight of stairs. And there's nothing that says things are in a constant state of change as counting the same stairs every day since it speaks to the possibility that that number could, one day, change.
Taking a page from his example, my ten year old and I counted the steps up Scargo Tower the other day (37) but we didn't mention it to either twin because we figured they'd be mad to known we'd been somewhere (somewhere with stairs) without them.
It could, on the other hand, be some early warning sign of OCD but either way, when I feel as if I'm loosing my grasp on reality (which happens more frequently than I care to admit) I think I'll remind myself to count the stairs under my feet.
It's not the stairway to heaven exactly but perhaps it is one way to enlightenment.
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