Searching for your true self? Check out your kindergarten pictures

While we are born with natural exuberance and the potential for radical authenticity, for better or worse the world works its magic on us and, over years, we become a product of that world.  Yet we often feel lost in this world and unsure about who we really are.  Perhaps we fantasize changing things up, heading out into the forest or the mountains or having a good long time on a beach to chill and discover our true Selves…

Yet in our search for our true and best Selves we might not need to eat, pray and love our way through exotic locales and experiences, but rather simply break out the photo album and take another look at ourselves when we were five.  Even if you don’t have any pictures of those days and the old school yard, try to conjure up your kindergarten self in your mind and meditate on her.

When we are newborns we are wildly open, Buddha-like souls, but we are hardly acclimated to planet earth; by kindergarten, however, we have generally picked up some language, developed a rudimentary sense of style and yet we are beautifully clueless about whatever differences and perceived weirdnesses will, by nine or ten, leave us feeling judged, judgmental and painfully self-conscious (no matter how artfully we may hide it) for many years to come.

When it comes to the authentic Self, the kindergartener is proto-king and queen.  While Her Majesty the Baby can be a seeming tyrant, at five the worst of the tantrum years are, hopefully, on the wane and yet cynicism is not part of the vernacular—our face is our own and no mask of artifice has yet occurred to us.  Kindergarteners smile at the camera full-bore, oblivious to hair, blemish and food-stained clothes.  Soon-to-be tough guys are ready to hear a magical story in circle time and girls are too real to conceal their crushes. 

Some kindergarteners are ready for circle time, docile and sweet, while others need to spin literally in circles because circle time is just too confining, but if you look into their eyes, once they’ve paused in their Tasmanian dervish dance, they are all utterly without guile.  Kindergarteners may not be good at sharing, some may still be into parallel play, but each and every kindergartener I’ve met has had a realness about them that few adults retain.

If you think about who you were as a kindergartener, smiling for your class photo, even if you were sad that day or in that time of life you were most likely still hopeful about good things being possible for you.  The world was still magical and, rather than interests and ambitions, you possessed a voice and a vibe of just so-ness.  Like a fingerprint, a kindergartener is subtly unique, and yet clearly related to the general natural swirl of all kindergarteners.

Now, if as a kindergartener you truly knew how cute, adorable, lovable, deserving of good things, trusting and industrious you were—and if you were able to hold onto this self-concept (i.e. remain authentic, open and calmly confident, while accepting that every other kindergartener, and older kid, and adult were equally wonderful), the world as it stands would truly be your oyster—a Birth of Venus world yours to inhabit,  enjoy, learn from and grow within. 

So, let’s dedicate today to kindergarteners—those who come across our paths in their kindergarten form, as well as those kindergarteners which all of us grown-ups were, once upon an authentic time.  Let’s try to see the kindergartener in each other, without judgment and guile, appreciating those splendid sparks to be found everywhere, just behind the veils of our learned, and unmagical, worldviews.  In the private silliness of a cross-legged rug-time solitude, smile like a shinning five-year-old Buddha (literally let this smile overtake your lips) and discover that she’s still here—pulsing with life and ready to have a cookie and love the world—in the service of all us collective children

Namaste, Bruce

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