“I have no idea what she was thinking,” an older woman tells the woman laying next to her, “do teenagers always make bad decisions?”
I don’t open my eyes, the sun is hot and I’ve taken off my sunglasses to indulge in the Mexican sun on the beach. I do roll my eyes beneath their lids.
“I can’t imagine a teenager making a bad decision!” I muse to my teenage daughter laying next to me. I turn my head as she looks briefly up at me with a half-bemused smile, and like her mother rolls her eyes.
“Could it possibly be that teenagers brains aren’t fully functional? The decision making area of the brain isn’t completely developed and connected to rest of the brain?” I ask rhetorically of my daughter. “Yeah, something like that,” she says to me.
Impulsive behavior. Yes, teenagers have it in spades. We also tend to attribute lack of attention, detail, and overall organization. Neuroscience has revealed that in fact the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the place where we process decisions is not done growing until our late teen’s to early twenties. Yet I can’t help wonder if there is more to it.
Mindfulness training, which includes meditation, is becoming commonplace in our language and for many our life experiences. The training of our brains to “pay attention” to “focus” allowing us greater freedom from powerful emotions, and allowing us an overall greater sense of peace and wellbeing.
My question is why do we need, what I would consider, re-training? In my experience the art of getting lost in what you are doing, the time spent considering what shapes the clouds above you look like, right down to the freedom to put pencil (or crayons) to paper and create something were things I did frequently, without question as a child. I would also follow the roots of large, old trees for hours; I’d stare into a flame (candle or campfire) and feel content; I’d watch the stars at night to be on the look out for a shooting one; so why now do I need to encourage and remind myself to pay attention? And I don’t believe I am the only adult to wonder this, or to wonder where did our sense of wonder go, our ability to pay attention and see something, experience something?
Life gets busy. Maybe life is too busy. Could it be with all of our progress and instant access to phone calls, emails, text messages, instant chats, social media that we have become obsessed with virtual connection that we truly do forget to simply STOP and as the saying goes “smell the flowers.” When was the last time you did? Did you really look at the flowers you where smelling? Did you fill your lungs with air? Did you touch the petals? Did you pause?