I have often shared the story that on a summer day in my childhood, walking down a country road in Ohio, I experienced a moment of profound enlightenment. I did not know it at the time. I had no words for such things at the age of 10. But as my life deteriorated into anxiety and depression, I pointed to that moment and said to myself, “If I could get back to that moment, I know I would be healed.”
So I began the search for that glorious reality that my soul experienced at the age of 10. I longed to return to the inner experience of a childhood summer of freedom and play, openness and curiosity, while always regretfully acknowledging that it was not possible to escape the intervening experiences of life. The anxiety. The fear. The depression. The “bad” things that had occurred. There was no way to get “back” to some “place” before knowledge and experience arrived.
This summer, I read Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti, and understood for the first time that this innocence I sought has never left me. This innocence is present in every moment. True, it has been hidden from my ego-mind, buried beneath layers of experience and desire and attachment to things and outcomes. But it is always present, waiting only for me to “wake up” and recognize it.
Adyashanti says, “The innocence already exists and is approaching and experiencing each moment in a totally innocent way. When you start to touch upon it, you start to feel the childlike curiosity of it; you find that it actually moves toward experience, toward each thing… This is the quality of freshness we feel when we are living from no separate self.”
This is an amazing concept to me that both things can exist inside of me: the ego and the innocence. While my ego is constantly weighing, evaluating, judging, planning, resisting, fearing, defending, and yes, wanting to check out of this place entirely on some days, my spirit is – AT ALL TIMES – moving eagerly forward toward experience with an openness and curiosity. This explains to me how human beings can persist in the face of the most horrific circumstances. This is far more than a psychological “will to survive;” this is spirit expressing itself in the world, loving the life experience, moving towards it with grace and acceptance, and yes, even curiosity, no matter what stories about ourselves and existence we make up in our minds.
The good news for me – the “me” that is the planner and the doer – is that there is nothing I have to strive for to get back to that moment in my childhood. I only have to “live” the innocence that is already there, and move into life in lockstep with it, with curiosity and acceptance. And instead of judging or resisting, or worse, putting on my armor to avoid being hurt or overwhelmed by life, all I need to do is let the wisdom and love that flows naturally from this innocence guide my decisions and actions.