The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nurturing the "Ancient Child"

As I sort out the next phase of my life, one of the things I’m going to is review all the component pieces of the puzzle, relating them to the three major aspects of my life: relationships, career, physical health.  Because of the way I taught myself to write and live, each of these tools has been tested in my personal life, in coaching and teaching, and as means of constructing characters in novels and screenplays.

The “Ancient Child” is a metaphor, a way of looking at the relationship between different aspects of our personality.  While the result of decades of practice, teaching and research, the structure is very simple: visualize the “chakras” arrayed along the spine.   The “child” self is down at the 1st chakra (survival) the adult is in your heart, the “elder” is above the crown.   These positions are flexible: when I want the “child” in my heart I just change my perspective so that I’m looking down from above the heart, straight down to the root, and there the little rascal is, waving at me.

Science fiction giant Harlan Ellison defined success as “to bring into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.”  That’s fabulous.   Combine that with the fact that countless hospice workers have reported that the things people aspire to upon their deathbeds are deep, clear values.  The life-views or values most often embraced include: Love, forgiveness contribution, self-expression, spiritual growth connection, adventure, and regret for not living fearlessly.  

By the way: making this connection does NOT lead to “childish” behavior.   The child may be self-centered, emotional, grasping, and inexperienced, but the “adult” aspect of your personality is now there for guidance.   Connecting heart, body, and mind gives you complete control of the system, perhaps for the first time in your life.  Love someone?  Fine, but don’t form a relationship unless they can also be a business partner and support your values.  Love that fattening food?  Great, but the “adult”part of you has to know where that road will lead in five years: have a “cheat day” once a week, but if you give in to the tantrums every day, you are in serious trouble.

Work at a job that deadens your soul?  Either find a way to love what you do, or begin NOW to plan your escape to a job where you can do what you love.  It is your “adult” self’s job to protect your heart, protect your dreams, “parent” that kid inside you with what I call “ruthless compassion.”   Be a dragon, a gorgon, an amazon, an absolute rabid tiger in protection of your most precious essence.  But…when you have “vetted” a person or situation as healthy for you…that protective icon can just melt and play with spontaneous joy.  There’s nothing like playing in the sandbox with other “kids” who have “parents” strong enough to keep watch.   
So the simple, simple version is that if we live our adult lives in alignment with BOTH our childhood dreams and our ultimate “deathbed” values, we will act with power and authority, move toward love and away from fear, seek connection without codependence, nurture and love ourselves deeply enough to have love to offer others, express ourselves, and hold every moment as precious and irreplaceable.   

We seek creativity, select health over mere performance, seek “flow” (those moments when ego dissolves and we submerge ourselves in an ecstatic or immersive experience or relationship), choose relationships that challenge and nurture us…it goes on and on.  Tolerate fools less gladly, while having compassion for human weakness.   Insist on honesty from the people around us, and offer it…with love and ruthless compassion.

To treat ourselves as we would our most beloved child.  That’s a core, central principle.   Would you want your own beloved child to take this job?   Associate with this person?  Eat this meal? Cling to this emotion?  Accept or deny this experience?

On your deathbed, will this grudge seem worth holding?  Did this phobia really protect you?   Was this experience really worth spending precious hours/days/years that can never be recovered?

Here are three exercises that can help you zero in, make this connection:

1) Sit quietly, listening to/feeling your heartbeat.

2) Visualize yourself looking at yourself in the mirror.   See the light within the image.  Even if only a spark, condense it into a human form: even as little as a single fertilized cell.  An embryo.   A fetus.   A one year old.   A six year old.  WHATEVER YOU CAN MANAGE.  This represents your sense of the undamaged portion of your Self.

3) With your non-dominant hand, write a letter from your “child” self TO your “adult” self.  Let it flow.  That child is looking at who you are now.   Be prepared to hear what she has to say.

4) With your dominant hand, write a letter from your adult to your “child” self.  What do you wish you could reach back and say?  What teachings, lessons, encouragements, resources would you offer to that younger self?  What apologies?   Commitments?   That “younger” self needs to be connected to your heart, or you will seek approval from others, in inappropriate ways (have a rotten relationship history?  I GUARANTEE you that you have a disconnect on this level!  Fix it, and you will automatically cease seeking love, sex, pleasure, “happiness” with inappropriate partners.)

There is more…much more.  Contact me if you need more personalized guidance.  But in all honesty, THIS WILL GET YOU STARTED!   These are the steps that will “root” you in your life and heart, give you control over your energies, and set you on the path to generative healing and Awakened Adulthood.  Without this connection, you can earn a fortune, win marathons, and be loved by millions and still feel suicidally empty.  WITH this connection, you are free to accomplish simply as an expression of who and what you really are—to begin and live your days with joy and gratitude.

A fast measure of this is: can you look in the mirror, and without a hint of irony smile, see the child you were and say with warmth and joy: “I love you.  You’ve done absolutely the best you could with the resources you have, and I am so proud.”

And…perhaps even hear the answering voice of love and approval.  We play all manner of ugly fantasy games with ourselves.  Any hesitation to play a positive game is a disconnect from that simple “what if?” capacity all children have, the ability to shift roles, the dynamic perceptual flexibility that once allowed us to dream of being astronauts, or cowboys, or actresses, or singers, or…

We still have those abilities.  We DO NOT NEED TO “GAIN” THEM.  All we need is to learn to take the brakes off.  To “chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.”  To disassociate with past failures and disappointments.  To extract the lessons from our experiences, but cast off the pain and fear.

To commit to bringing into existence, in an adult fashion, our childhood dreams.  Love yourselves, deeply and without reservation.  Then…send the overflow out into the world, to nurture and support and heal.  The world needs so much healing, and the healing must begin with you.   You do not know the world.  You know your view of the world.  To change what you see, change yourself first. 


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