By Janaiah von Hassel
Lately I’ve had a stirring more than ever to return to the freedom of my youthful thinking. As a child it seemed there was nothing in this world that was unattainable. I remember thinking that if those pesky adults would just step out of the way they would find out that nothing was beyond my reach, and that I held within me the ability to create my dreams and live happily within them. Over time, I began to understand a new reality and eventually I gave up my childish thinking and accepted the reality of a critical world, where I lacked the ability to shine. I surrendered my belief that I had something to offer this world for a more ego driven belief that if I played my cards just right, I might get something out of it.
It wasn’t until I had my own children that I was reminded of the pure simplicity that we have all come into this world with something to offer. I was reminded of how it felt to know you were special, without wondering if you were more special than someone else. As a child there was a sense of accomplishment in being able to do something you were unable to do the day before, without worrying about who else could do it, or if they did it better. I remember both my son’s first steps. The sheer excitement and wonder as they toddled their way across a room. Imagine if they simply sat down thinking “I’ll never walk as well as everyone else.” Children express a joy from within that has little to do with their external world. One could argue that as fragile and limited as children’s lives are, they hold more personal power than most adults.
My friend shared a precious story of her daughter who was just learning to pull herself up on furniture. After pulling herself up, she looked back at her mother with a flirty sense of playfulness and gave her that giant baby grin as she exuded the pure joy of this monumental moment in her babyhood. Her mother acknowledged that despite her chunky gutting belly, her rolling thighs and her double chin, this baby girl loved her body, loved herself, and was proud of her accomplishment. My friend wondered, when did we lose this? How can we get it back? When did we become so insecure of our bodies, of our abilities, of what we think or want to say? How can we reclaim the personal power we were all born with?
Reading the summer edition of Pathways to Family Wellness I was intrigued by the article “Our Childhood Language” by John Marc. In this article we learn about the solar plexus. As children we are much more in touch with this mechanism within our navel center. John Marc expresses through the article the ways children are more in touch with their solar plexus and how we can reconnect with it as adults. We learn that the development of the “critical mind” is responsible for a diminishing connection to our solar plexus.
As I began reading more about our solar plexus I understood it as a source of our personal power, self-esteem, and self-confidence. This revelation became more real to me because of my own experience with my youngest son. For years now my son, Corbin, has been almost obsessed with this part of my navel. He will lay his head on it, rub it, or just hold it. In fact, when we were visiting developmental pediatricians who diagnosed him with autism, they noticed his fascination with my belly button and my stomach just above it, to the point that they were calling it a “stim”. Self-stimulating or “stimming” as it’s referred to in the autism community is a repetitive action generally used to self-soothe.
I think back to those stressful days when I would worry about my son’s future, wondering what was to come. I was so caught up in the discouraging words of doctors or others whose lives had been devastated by a similar diagnosis. I believed it was my fault, and I succumbed to much self-criticism, and often gave up my personal power to professionals whom I believed at the time knew best.
During these difficult times my son, then only two years old, would come to me periodically throughout the day, grab my hand, lead me to my bedroom, turn off the light, and lay down next to me in bed. He would hold his hand on what I now know to be my solar plexus. For years, until I read this article, I assumed he was self-soothing, but I now believe he was attempting to soothe me. The frequency of this “stim” has diminished over the past couple years, as has my need to be reminded of my own personal power.
In “Our Childhood Language” the author says, “The key is attention. Although this practice occurred naturally for us as children, now with the constant activity of our thinking mind it is impossible for navel radiance to happen automatically. We must remember to be aware of our solar plexus, to consciously breathe into it and be moved by it, all while in the midst of our daily activities.”
I’m grateful to my son, who encouraged me to regularly take time to focus my attention on this, to regain some of my childhood language, to relax my thinking, and embrace myself.
Children have such radical self-acceptance and self-love. I used to marvel at how my boys would clap for themselves after doing various things they felt good about. I loved when they reached the stage where they found their hands and toes to be little miracles that they had control over. There is so much beauty in the way children see the world, and as parents being witness to this, our opportunity is to reconnect with that sense of awe and wonder still within us.