Recently, while walking down to the river with my two nephews, wandering through the field on our farm, I felt a tiny judgment run through my mind: “What am I doing, walking through this field? Everything is cold, brown, grey, and dead.” This was a fleeting thought and as I looked down at my nephew’s faces that were lit up with joy and excitement, charging toward the frozen river, I was instantly reminded of a picture that was taken three years ago. In the picture I had picked one of them up and placed him on my back in a baby carrier that he barely squeezed into. I held my other nephew in my arms and all three of us smiled as my wife snapped a picture. I was taken back by the image, all three of us in a space of pure joy. What surprised me about the picture was seeing the joy in my face and eyes during a time when I was experiencing depression and a difficult spell in my life. When I looked at the picture, I saw light finding its way out of darkness. As I walked along the river, I was reminded of this picture and the powerful influence my own mind can have in darkening my curiosity. This trip was a powerful lesson in what happens when I do not allow the messaging of my own mind to restrict my joy and curiosity.
The mind sends messages to the heart in order to protect us from harm and to keep us safe and secure. These messages project into the future what will happen if we express ourselves fully. When I looked down at my nephews and saw their joy, I was reminded of their heartfelt excitement for this trip. They were eager to spend time with their uncle and to share in a new experience of playing on the bank of the river that had frozen solid. As we gently took our first steps onto the ice, I began to feel a sense of fear rise up inside of myself. As they walked to the river and the tip of their boots touched the cold surface of the ice, I quickly stopped them in their tracks. I honored my mind as I told them everything they needed to know about the ice. I placed my knees on the cold ground and pulled them close in order look them both in the eyes. I told them, “Stay close to the bank of the river at all times; do not walk where the water is deep, you could fall through and be swept under the frozen surface; always be with an adult as you play near a frozen body of water.” They looked back into my eyes and nodded their heads as they acknowledged what I was saying. I immediately felt the immense influence of the mind in overpowering their curiosity. This moment made me think about the long history of messages that I have sent to myself. At one time in my life, I listened heavily to my mind as negative messages slowly filtered down to my heart. Messages such as, “Jake it will never work out, you’re not good enough, it’s too hard, you’re too weak, you’re not ready yet,” all of which seemed to create a constant energy of pushing forward but tripping over my own insecurity. These messages made the world around me look cold and grey as I protected myself from being exposed. I kept my light contained only to find a way through in moments when it felt safe to share. As I looked into my nephews eyes, I learned how to honor my mind in telling them how to stay safe, how to be mindful of their surroundings, but more importantly how to honor the mind without allowing it to restrict a moment when curiosity could run the show.
As we finally stepped foot on the river, I grabbed a rock and threw it on the ice: it spun and swirled and stopped in the middle of the frozen river. I looked down at my nephews and their eyes lit up as they began to smile and laugh. They began to spontaneously grab rocks of their own and throw them onto the ice. We watched them glide on the surface, almost as if they were levitating in space and time. As the ice in front of us became filled with rocks, one of my nephews threw another and it slowly glided through all of the rocks and gently landed on the bank across from where we stood. We all looked at each other with amazement and created a game out of what had just occurred. We imagined that the rocks lying still on the icy river were mines and the rocks we threw needed us to help them navigate their way to safety. As our rocks traveled through the maze, they clattered into one another, sending rocks spinning in every direction. As the rocks hit each other and swerved and glided in all directions, it was a reminder of what can happen when the mind does not limit curiosity. We then left our minefield and found a large space along the river where still water had been frozen into a thick, safe sheet of ice. We placed rocks side by side in order to create goals and began to play hockey, using a flat circular rock as a puck and we attempted to kick it through the posts for a point. The mind that is meant to keep us safe was put to rest and it became okay to fall, okay to slip up, okay to be imperfect as we played on the ice. As the light began to fade, we walked towards home and I noticed the sky filled with pink and purple and I saw it as a reflection of how beautiful things can unfold when everything is put in its rightful place, as the heart is placed in the driving seat and the mind creates the parameters of safety and security. As we walked through the fields, one of my nephews asked me if we could make our winter trips to the river a tradition. I felt a sense of pride in knowing that the heart was honored to such an extent that this experience may be passed down through time.
The mind has the power to restrict our curiosity through the messages that you and I send to ourselves on a regular basis. From my experience at the river, I learned the power of my own mind to stifle the potential of a creative experience. When the mind is fully honored, it is used in order to be aware of the repercussions of our actions and to protect us from harm. It is also an incredible tool to imagine the possibilities of self-expression. But when the mind rules the show completely, it also becomes a tool for limiting ourselves. It consistently relays the negative messages that limit our creativity, keeping us from expressing and risking being open and vulnerable. It keeps us from stepping foot on that ice and taking the chance of self-expression. The key is to listen to the messages that you continue to recycle in your mind. See them as a part of yourself that is protecting you from harm. Their power is in the restriction that keeps you from taking that step onto the ice and once you put them to rest, you are free to take the risk of self-expression. Thank those beautiful thoughts that have kept you safe over the course of your life as they flowed through your consciousness. But like my nephews, the heart wants to explore and create and it is the mind’s job to gain the wisdom of past experience to allow that curiosity to flow in a space of peace and safety. Just like that beautiful winter sky, your life will become a reflection of your choice to allow your curiosity to run the show.