Whether we’re parents, educators, therapists, scientists, or whomever, we are a culture that has been brought up from infancy with a belief that we are to trust experts over our own experience and intuition. It’s the classic scene from Seinfeld where Costanza and Kramer are driving their car with a navigation system and in front of them is a lake. They opt to drive into the lake because the navigation system is telling them that is the way. They have no trust in their own navigation system.
I recently attended a private talk with a man many would consider to be a legend in his own time in the field of early childhood development and parenting, T. Berry Brazelton and his co-author Joshua Sparrow.
Brazelton is 92 years old and author of over 200 papers on early child development and 24 books, including his highly acclaimed book Touchpoints. Those of us in this small audience were mainly professionals in mental health and educators eager to learn. At one point during the talk, many people from this small group were asking questions around what to do when an infant does this or how to respond when a toddler does that.
As we continued on, the thought began to unfold that there’s a danger in this set up. We lose the ability to trust our own experience.
I think that is one of the major components that always attract me to mindfulness. There is a core emphasis of not relying on any teacher (although it gets set up that way sometimes), but instead to go out and practice yourself and trust your own experience.
In a way, this simply makes the most sense. When it comes to being motivated to make a change, an expert’s enthusiasm or credibility may create that initial spark, but it’s not long lasting. There needs to be something else. There needs to be an intrinsic motivation created by experience. The mind says, “Aha, I know this to be true because I’ve experienced it,” leaving doubt behind (or much of doubt anyway).
When this got brought up in the room, Brazelton was the first to say, “I see this same danger in me being put up as an expert, but I’m hoping that it’s done more good than harm.”
We can take information from experts, but we can never take their experience, that is only for us to garner.
When it comes to parenting there is the famous saying, “well, there’s no handbook on how to parent.” There are many handbooks; but, the best handbook, navigation system, or wise voice is the one inside. We just need the tools and support to access it sometimes.
I believe mindfulness is one way to access that wise voice. To be able to stop, take a breath and tune into the experience as it is allows the space for a more reliable intuition to arise.
We can listen to the experts, but remember there is a danger in relying too heavily on advice.
Our greatest teacher is just inside.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo by M@rg, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 26 Jan 2011