Yesterday I took my 4-month-old son, Noam, for the first time to a baby swimming class. It’s difficult for me to describe in words the feeling of excitement I felt during the ride toward the swimming pool. I felt an overflow of emotions from the rudimentary event. This is the second time my wife and I took Noam to the swimming class. The first time it was my wife who went into the water with him; But for me, it was the first time entering the water with him.
For Noam, everything in life is new, so his enthusiasm for any such social gathering is at its peak! It’s funny when I think about it, I feel like Noam teaches me how to get excited about the simple things in life. I eagerly watch his reactions to how he experiences the world, and I learn how I would like to get excited too from the simple things in life. As he watches a rubber toy gets thrown by the swimming instructor into the water, he opens his eyes as if it was the first time in his life that he has seen a toy. He looks at the toy with supreme excitement and immediately extends his hands forward to feel the new accessory. He puts it in his mouth, takes it out, and observes. I simply love to observe his enthusiasm for any kind of interaction with any new accessory.
In a kind of personal reflection, I ponder and think how much as time goes on, we adults lose interest in the simple things in life. We stop appreciating the same thing we have experienced countless times during our lives. And so we get used to food, places, movies and series, relationships, and slowly banality takes over every corner of our lives. Once we lose interest we lose the pure spark that was in our lives, and so we inject a kind of grayness into every corner of our hearts. As if nothing can surprise us anymore, nothing can excite us anymore.
Even before Noam was born I started practicing gratitude, which is basically the practice of appreciation for the things I have in my life. As someone who has lost so much in such a short time span, I felt an inherent need to practice appreciation for the things I have left. Instead of crying over the people I’ve lost, I decided to change my perception of reality and appreciate what I have. I decided to be thankful for what exists. Noam helped me bring another ray of light into my life by teaching me to expand gratitude in a new and fascinating direction. He simply taught me how to get excited about the simple stuff in life, the same things I have already seen and experienced so many times during my life. Excitement has an aspect of admiration, an awakening of emotions that are expressed not only from within but also from a behavioral level. As I experience it, gratitude and excitement are two sides of the same coin.
The first example of this practice is in the way I eat, which is perhaps one of the most basic and natural actions for every human being. As I mentioned, this is reflected in the simplest things. When I eat, I try to close my eyes and eat slowly. Be one with every taste, by letting every tastebud enjoy the full experience of flavors. Once I close my eyes, I divert more attention to the different flavors that flood my mouth. Each bite gets longer, more exciting, and more noticeable. What I focus on expands.
The second example of such practice is the way I take my dog Shusha for a walk. Well, you probably guessed I’m not talking specifically about my dog here, but about the way I experience whatever is around me. When you think about it, a walk with the dog can be considered a dull task. In the past, I would really consider it a chore that “someone has to do”. Something that must be done. Today, as I walk with my dog, I walk slowly, I look at the trees above me that adorn the neighborhood, I stop to smell a flower I pass by, I look at the shadow cast on the sides of the neighborhood buildings, I’m mindful to my dog’s tail wagging cheerfully, and I’m glad that she enjoys the walk no less than I am.
These are, of course, only 2 examples. As time goes on I learn more and more ways to enjoy the moment, to experience the world through the eyes of a baby? I learn over time not only to live because I breathe but rather to enjoy every breath and live to the fullest.