Is there anything more endearing than watching a baby bop up and down to a tune on the radio?

As humans, we are born with an innate joyful response to music. We naturally tap our feet, hands and bob our heads when a good song comes on.

But somewhere along the way we stop asking ourselves if dancing and singing makes us feel good, and start asking ourselves if we are good at them. When we stop trusting our bodies, our inner child begins to play tug o’ war with our inner critic.

“Am I out of time? Is this the right pitch? I made a mistake… again!” These thoughts bring the rope in the direction of our inner critic.

Perhaps you can relate?

At Happy Buddha’s Ignite Your Life Retreat, I wanted to reconnect with my inner child – the toddler who sang freely (and loudly… to whoever would listen) and danced with two left feet before her inner critic came knocking.

The body percussion and drumming workshops were a great way to reintroduce playfulness into mindful movement – if you’re the type of person whose heart races when you lie down to meditate, then this is an opportunity to clap along to it’s beat instead!

Stomping, clapping and clicking in a circle of strangers sounds funny at first – however body percussion is actually an ancient African practise that helps people communicate, connect, improve circulation, coordination and enter a mindful state almost instantly.

Sound healing after dinner was a more restful activity. We lay under blankets with eye masks whilst someone sung and gently played a harp as we grounded our thoughts through Om chanting. It was soothing to have my voice melt into the collective Ommmmm of those around me without judgement, simply feeling the sound reverberating through my body.

But how can I nurture my inner child when my inner critic won’t give me a break?

Question your “Facts”.

We all create narratives that we believe keep us safe. As mentioned, one of my personal scripts tells me that “I cannot sing. I do not dance.” because clinging to these self-determined “facts” guards me from (mostly my own!) judgement. However, just because my inner critic’s the loudest, most painful and most consistent voice doesn’t make it factual. Loud doesn’t equal true – it’s just loud!

As these “facts” must shout at you to keep you invested in them, your inner child (who doesn’t need to raise their voice to convince you of anything) often gets drowned out. Knowing you deeply and intimately, their wisdom is instead communicated softly through calm breaths, gentle feelings and quiet affirmations.

Often it is deeply uncomfortable to listen to this wisdom as it challenges the narratives we have devoted so much time to. To begin, it is therefore helpful to simply redirect our focus away from our heads and down into our chests and bellies and observe what arises.

Ask yourself: which of your narratives are preventing you from living freely?

We can also delve into creative hobbies that we would enjoy as children! Painting, drumming, singing and craft – whatever it is that you can get lost in – all transport your energy away from the thinking brain and down into your heart. Don’t judge your efforts, just as you wouldn’t judge a child bringing home her artwork from school. Cherish yourself and the process!

It was both invigorating and soul-stirring during the retreat to experiment with sound, reconnect through movement and laugh freely at ourselves when we fell out of time. Within this non-judgemental space, it turned out that making mistakes together was often the best part!

And remember: your inner child will eventually always win the tug o’ war match. Why? Because as your inner critic becomes flustered, angry and upset your inner child simply stands on the other side, laughing – knowing that this too… is only a game!