Now that the weather is warming up I have been thinking about thinking. It's funny what goes through your mind, over and over and over and.... I have noticed that "it's too cold it's too cold it's too cold..." seems to have lodged itself in my brain somewhere. It starts up with just the slightest provocation, "It's too cold it's too cold it's too cold...".
This isn't the first time I have noticed it either. Some years ago I was thinking about it in relation to swimming. When I was a kid I was a water-baby, I would stay in the water for hours and hours and I always had to be dragged out. Our Mum was happy to sit on the 'beach' of the creek reading for hours and hours (beats housework), while we jumped off the bank, bombed out of trees, had underwater-walking races carrying huge rocks to weigh us down, dived for preserving-jar lids, and generally just mucked around. Eventually Mum would look up and announce, "Come on you kids, you're cold, get out." We would protest that we weren't cold, "Yes you are, your lips are bright blue." We weren't silly enough to argue with Mum, she was always right. Bruce's lips would be bright blue so I suppose mine were too, but I never felt the cold and neither did he.
What was I thinking?
What I got to thinking was, what has changed? What is different now (when I inch my way into the creek like a nana) from when I was eleven (say) and I couldn't get in fast enough? Obviously not the water. The water is still the same temperature as it was back then - maybe a tad warmer with global warming - maybe not. So if the difference isn't the actual environment, the difference must be in me - in my expectations, in my thinking. "It's too cold it's too cold it's too cold..." isn't even based on perception. Actually, it isn't even thinking - it is the replay of 'automatic-habits-of thinking', rather like a CD that is stuck and can't move on.
The Spring-Clean Challenge
There are a lot of us working with babies and young children who have got automatic-habits-of-thinking that make it next to impossible for the children in our care to become ecoliterate - or even to have a childhood. I know this because when I am working with teachers and tell them, "We are going outside now, bare foot", their thinking escapes out loud: "It's too cold. It's wet. But it's going to rain. We'll catch our death of cold. I hate bare feet." Spring is a great time of the year to get your shoes off and get out there and feel the warmth of the earth. When those same teachers do go outside and dance on the damp grass in bare feet we all stop and take note of the temperature of the earth through the soles of our feet: "It's warm! I thought it would be freezing. It's soft, I thought it would be prickly...". And when we come back inside, "My feet are all tingly. My feet are warm. That was a real surprise for me".
So the Spring Challenge is not about taking your shoes off (although that would be better for your health), it is about noticing your automatic-habits-of-thinking. The Spring-clean Challenge is about just-noticing what that little voice in your head has to say when it comes to going outside, when it's raining, when the wind is blowing, when it's sunny... catch your automatic-habits-of-thinking and see if they will cause you to rob children of their chances to be ecoliterate and rob them of their childhood.
- Step one: If you could jot what you just noticed - word-for-word.
- Step two: For each phrase you notice and jot, ask yourself "Is this true? Can I categorically say I know this is true?"
- Step three: Jot your in-the-moment perceptions of your actual experience.
Is this true? Can you categorically say you know this is true?
"We are not allowed to. The owner won't let us. We have to have the door shut. We haven't got enough people to have on outside. It's too wet"... All of these automatic-habits-of-thinking betray the adult's loss of childlike curiosity, their sense of adventure, their open mindedness, and their capability for life-long learning. So listen out for this kind of automatic-habit-of-thinking as well, and submit them to the Spring-clean Challenge. These institutional blocks to ecoliteracy are a kind of virus that doesn't actually kill you, but takes away the richness that could be there for our children and ourselves.