Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Reflections on Silence, World-Travelling Snails & Wonder

When you write, always leave space for the butterflies
                                          - Mrs Mudge (my junior school English teacher)

I am not the most patient mother in the world. I really do nearly cry over spilt milk some days (yesterday to be exact) and I have shared about the frequent appearances of The Grumpy Mother in our household.

But there is one area I am really getting the hang of: Wondering!

Just before she fell asleep this evening, my daughter, who is 6 years old, asked me one last question. 

She had been quiet for a while and then she said 'Mummy, how long do you think it would take a tiny snail to travel all the way around the world?'

A few practical, boring and non-magical answers popped into my head, of course. Thankfully I am learning to keep them there.

Instead of saying 'a snail wouldn't live that long' or 'that would be impossible' I just let a sense of wonder wash over me. I mean real, proper, lie-on-your-back-trying-to-imagine-the-end-of-the-universe wonder. Because she is not looking for the right answer - or any answer at all - she is wondering. And inviting me to do the same. 'Hmm, I wonder....' was my response. 

And what if I don't know the answer to that question anyway? What if a snail is halfway around the world, crossing the Mexican border right now, thinking 'Everyone said I couldn't do it and look at me now.....'

[You see? Snails really do talk to each other.]

And what's the harm in marvelling alongside my daughter at the mystery and beauty and miraculousness of it all? At the endless possibilities, the interconnectedness of everything? Because, really, that's what she's inviting me to do.

It took me a while to get the hang of this one - I used to jump straight in, trying to be a good mother (whatever that even means), who gives the appropriate answer and 'teaches'. I was used to getting the right answer at school. It made me feel safe to know things.

But then I worked out that assuming I was right - and answering the question straight away - was the opposite of trust. And the opposite of joining. 

So I stopped. And now, when I am asked one of these amazing questions, I am learning to take a breath and sit in the Silence. 

And from here I can shift from 'I know' to 'Maybe I don't'. And let go of my need to be right and all that comes with that.

When we can do this, we create a space for possibility and openness. It is a space beyond judgment and Needing-to-be-right. Imagine if we could respond to a friend's difficult-to-swallow opinion this way, or the thing that drives us crazy about our partner. 

Sweet and wonderful things can grow in this space for everybody. Whole worlds are allowed to exist for as long as they need to. Magic can be kept alive. And we leave plenty of cracks for the Love to get in.

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