I've recently discovered how babies are little Zen masters. They're highly conscious beings, able to use their brains to learn about life at supersonic speed—noticing the quirkiest of details—seeing delicious slices of reality that we adults often miss. And I'm not just saying all this pro-baby stuff because I'm eight months pregnant and about to become the proud mommy to my own baby Zen master. I'm saying this because I've been reading up on the fascinating neuroscience behind how a baby thinks. And I'm here to tell you, we adults can learn a lot from babies.
Here's the neuroscientific scoop: Babies have more brain cells and fewer inhibitory neurotransmitters than us grown-ups. As a result, babies have a greater expanded consciousness than us grown-ups! Says who? Alison Gopnik, a University of California at Berkeley psychologist and the author of The Philosophical Baby: What Children's Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life
According to Gopnik, a pruning process
is found in our adult brain that allows for only a limited view of life. As a result, we might find ourselves instinctively choosing to focus strongly on the wrong bits of information. Or we might find ourselves neglecting important possibilities and helpful perceptions that could empower us to live more lovingly, successfully and happily.
A baby's brain has many advantages compared to an adult's brain. The "narrow consciousness" of our adult brains makes us a bit lacking when it comes to creativity and problem-solving. Plus, our limited consciousness also makes us less open to adjusting to the new and less able to be in the now.
In contrast, a baby's brain is like a lantern—spreading the light of awareness—that can sort through lots of seemingly irrelevant information and be more receptive to discovering highly rewarding solutions or intriguing, innovative concepts. A baby's brain is also better able to notice beauty and experience delight wherever it wanders—being fully appreciative of the new, and present in the now. You've heard of the Buddhist concept of "beginner's mind?" Well, a baby is blessed with the ultimate beginner's mind! What babies and jazz musicians have in common