The other day my children and I were walking in New York's Washington Square Park. It was a beautiful day and there were at least five or six different groups playing music. As we walked through the park all the competing sounds of instruments and singing voices felt loud and jolting. I asked both of my children to stop walking and just focus on the one man in front of us playing the guitar and singing “Imagine” by John Lennon. When the three of us just put our attention on this man and his guitar it was beautiful. All we really heard was his fabulous music.
Then we took a few steps back and I asked the children to focus on the drummers several feet away. It was so interesting that as soon as we put our attention on the drummers that is all we heard. We did it several times over the course of 30 minutes, each time focusing on a different musical group playing in the park. What was so fascinating was that as we pulled our attention away from one type of sound we just heard noise again and it was disruptive to our ears. Except for one musician singing off key, each time we focused our attention, the beauty of each musical group came forward and felt pleasant and peaceful. The children were amazed that just switching their attention and thoughts could have such an impact on their experience. I turned to them and said, “Now try to do that with your thoughts in your everyday life.”
That was the end of our conversation and we all walked home.
A few weeks later my daughter came home and she was upset that she had felt excluded at a party. After half an hour of feeling anguish, she turned to me and said, “You know mom, those kids at school are not the only thing in my life. I have other friends at school, I have my family, camp friends and this evening I'm spending with you! I feel better already. It still bothers me, but when I put my attention on the other things in my life it becomes more of the background and I can feel happy again.” I thought to myself, “Yes, you got it!”
I find children learn best through experience. Maybe you can find a busy place in your town or city or even a park and let your children experience what they see, hear and feel when they shift their attention in their surroundings. Maybe have a chat about it. It won’t cause them to ignore painful parts of life; instead, it will teach them not to let one part of their life drown out the parts that are pleasant and joyful. It could be the foundation for them to do that in their everyday lives.
When our children are able to focus and appreciate the beauty in life, they will find the precious moments in everyday living!
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