For my readers, who may or may not be familiar with some sort of Yoga, a brief definition of that word. Yoga: Union. To ‘Yoke’. The practice of linking together mind, body and spirit. In the eastern tradition from which our modern take on Yoga comes. Yoga is not only a series of physical postures that have health benefits. There are in fact several distinct practices called Yoga involving focus on the mind, the heart, service to others, all to the same end of bringing into alignment the mind, body and spirit. And in its original context, any person in society whatever their role, is able to bring spiritual purpose to their life. I am paralleling that idea, with my own experience of parenting. This is an important role I have in life right now, and the source of rich material to work with for spiritual growth.
One week ago, I took a leap, made a commitment, and followed through with the uncomfortable job of changing a sleep routine that was not working for anyone in the house. After months of getting in the bed with her, to help my daughter fall asleep, she was waking up multiple times a night requiring the same assistance. And we were exhausted. All the normal daily things that require some patience and perspective as a parent to a small child, became increasingly difficult. My life, which at the moment has many new creations in the works, was feeling overwhelming. I felt like I didn’t have enough time in the day, and I was struggling organize myself with the time I did have. I couldn’t exercise the way I’m used to, because I couldn’t get the necessary sleep to recover properly. Basically EVERYTHING was and is effected by sleep and lack thereof.
In this process of retraining the sleep routine I have had to face myself in relationship to my daughter. I have had to look deep into my heart and my mind and work through some difficult feelings. Feelings of resistance, to her and what she was expressing. It comes down to a simple concept. Essentially the Law of Attraction as it plays out in parenting. Like, unto like, is drawn. And, that which we resist, persists. Each night as we have worked through the new approach to going to bed, I have had the opportunity to observe myself, reacting to her emotions. Reacting to her behaviors. Seeing myself, react and resist. Then applying the simple concept of releasing that resistance (sometimes only just a little), even as I stay focused on moving us towards the ultimate objective of her going to sleep without me in the room. I have practiced checking my thoughts, and replacing the ones that are not helping with ones that do. This is what Abraham-Hicks (the collaborative team who brought the concept of the Law of Attraction to the masses) calls “upstream or downstream” thinking. Upstream thoughts are ones that are resistant in nature, fighting what is happening (the current) and causing discomfort. Downstream thoughts are ones that create a different feeling in our bodies, one of release, of yielding (going with the current), and ultimately peacefulness. The law of attraction applied to parenting, is that I have to feel in my own body-mind what I am wanting in relationship with my daughter, with the focus primarily on what I can change in my experience. If I am wanting her to have any chance of being calm, you better believe I need to be calm. If I am wanting her to be able to let go of needing me to go to sleep, I have to match that ‘letting go’ in my own experience. I let go of the resistance to what she is expressing.
At the same time, ‘giving in’ to what she is saying she wants is not what this is about. Clearly… Because as a child, she is going to want things at times, that ultimately aren’t the best thing for her (duh, right?). And as a parent I get to set those boundaries, which at times are going to be in conflict with her natural impulses. If I didn’t do that, we’d have chocolate chip cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ok maybe she’d want chocolate ice-cream for dinner. And she’d watch TV all day. And you get the idea. And so often as parents we give in to our children precisely because we don’t want to deal with the conflict. What if, that is actually reflecting that we don’t want to deal with ourselves? And likely, we never learned how to navigate conflict productively, or peacefully. Certainly this is evident in society as a whole, but what may be less obvious are the unresolved internal conflicts many of us are living with. And that’s a topic for another blog!
I had some idea that parenting was going to be my biggest and most profound life experience. And yet, I could not have imagined all the ways that would be true. Or all the ways I would not be able to ‘deal’. In fact, after my daughters birth, and the trauma I experienced, I couldn’t deal with some things for a long time. Parts of me shut down, emotionally and physically. I knew it was happening to some degree… at least. I just couldn’t do much about it. I prayed that my love for her and my faith in a Higher Power, would carry her and I through those early days/weeks/months. I tried to forgive myself along the way (still working on that). This isn’t to paint an entirely bleak picture, it was also a beautiful and sweet time. It was both, and more. And now, some of these parts of me that I couldn’t deal with then are more available to my consciousness. I’m better able to make myself accountable for my own thoughts (especially after a good nights sleep). Perhaps most profoundly, my heart continues to open, deeper and wider, to better receive more and more of the enormity of LOVE.
This is a process. And a practice. It is the Yoga of Parenting.
PS It’s working. We’re SLEEPING! It’s still a bit of a process going down, but she falls asleep on her own, stays asleep, and recently has been taking herself to the potty at night! (Hall-eh-fricking-lujah!!!)