Talking To Your Inner Child
So many cheesy self-help books have been written about finding your inner child. Pretty much everyone has heard about it but the idea lacks any real substance for most and it’s something we say to sound wise or ironic. Yet there is deep wisdom embedded in talking to your inner child and giving that child a voice in your life. If Zen masters had been explaining the concept all along instead of charlatans the general public would feel differently about the whole endeavor.
One of the central ideas in the Buddhist philosophical system is interconnectedness. In the context of time the past, present, and future are not separate entities but are all intricately connected to one another in an alive way. A change in the present doesn’t just have ramifications on the future but also on the past. You are the living continuation of past moments and your thoughts and actions as they are now would be impossible without those precise past moments. This means that making a conscious choice to change your thoughts and actions from what they are now can infuse your past with a different meaning and therefore transform it.
When you think in these terms you have a lot of people taking up residence in your present, depending on you to make good on what was once their present. But they are no longer in the driver’s seat, you are. The person who is most intimately connected to you, more than your parents, siblings, partner or anyone else, is the child from your past who was you, who learned and grew, making it possible for you to be sitting here today.
This inner child has a great deal of Zen wisdom to share but sadly for most people the voice remains silent. If you can open up a conversation and give this child a living voice your current style of living will probably be altered by the experience. People wonder who they are and what they’re supposed to become. If you want to find out, the easiest way is to talk to that child. When you were very young, above all else you were honest and you were yourself without having to think about it. You hadn’t been taught to lie yet. You didn’t wear any masks, you were just you. This is not some other person we are talking about but the earliest incarnation of you, so if you want to find out who you really are the best place to start is with a Self not yet tarnished by the external world.
Some people don’t want to remember this child though, because they were hurt very badly by the people who were supposed to love them and they were powerless to do anything to stop it. They silence the child because really listening still feels too painful and raw, even after all these years. If you doubt that the past is alive in the present just think about that. What they don’t realize is that by opening up a dialogue they would be opening up the possibility for transformation. They might not have been able to create the environment they needed for themselves then, but by listening closely to what the child has to say they could go about creating it now, making good on the past and transforming it into one of triumph since these positive changes could not have occurred without that past.
The idea of listening to your inner child should not be thought of as theoretical or as new age jargon, but as practical and viscerally real. You realize that in actual fact you are the continuation of that child and he or she still lives within you, influencing your behavior whether you are consciously aware of it or not. The child from your past has a lot to tell you about the practice of your life and what needs to change. If you give this child a voice and an audience you will surely benefit. You will be validating the needs, experiences, worldview, and deep wisdom of that little guy or girl and you will be opening up the possibility for real transformation.