THE NEED TO BE IN CONTROL AND BABY SLEEP
For those of you who know me or have worked with me in the past 7/8 months, you will have learned that I have made the decision to begin meditation and mindfulness. It has been quite transformative in my life.
This past week the focus of our mediation was about control. It was quite amazing because I really do find that this is one of the biggest struggles of new parents… this idea that we can control our children and especially around eating and sleeping. We feel like if we just got them on a certain schedule that they would sleep. If we just read x book, they would sleep. If we just sleep trained (or did not sleep train), they would sleep. The sleep industry is feeding this idea that we can control sleep. Sleep is not within our conscious control. If I tell you to go to sleep right now, you are not going to fall asleep and in fact, the pressure to fall asleep makes it even worse. All of the strict schedules, and sleep training that forces your baby to shut down leads you to believe that you have control over their sleep but you do not.
The greatest lesson in parenting (in my opinion) is understanding that you cannot control. The more you try to control, the more a child pushes back. As Dr. Shefali says, “Letting go of control over our children is probably the hardest spiritual task we face as parents.”
I often work with families who are holding onto way too much control and their toddler is struggling with eating, sleeping and eliminating (the three things they can control).
This talk was really great because it was a great reminder that we control very little in life. Dr. Shefali explains, “The only thing we can control in life is how we choose to feel. No one or nothing gets to dictate this.” and yet… we also feel like we get to control our children’s emotions by shutting them down, distracting them or stopping them. We shut down their emotions because they make us uncomfortable.
We do not even have control of our own thoughts and emotions so how do we expect to control another human being? The more we try to control and it does not work, the more stress we have. When we let go of the idea that we can control our children, and their sleep, the stress starts to disappear. As I have mentioned over and over, our children mirror back everything that we are feeling in that exact moment. If we are not ok, or we are stressed, they are stressed. I would really challenge you to let go a bit.
I am challenging you to LET GO…
The following is the talk given by (and written by), G.Arnaud Painvin, MD, FRCSC is a Zen Master & Dharma teacher
Being in control…are we ?
It is a wonderful thing to be in control…or to believe that we are.
When you are in control, you can pick what you want to do and when and where to do it.
You can go left or right, eat this or that, start a hobby, change car, job and partner, etc…
The world and life seem to be under our control and this feeling is nice to our ego.
So, for most of us, we believe that we are control of our destiny as long that each of us believes there is such a thing. Is it reality or illusion?
There is indeed sort of hidden destiny for each of us. If so, we are not in control of it at 100%.
There is no destiny at all. If so, we cannot control something, which does not exist.
In Zen, the metaphor for the mind is a monkey continuously jumping from one branch to the next or to a wild bull. Both are not tamed.
We are “day sleep walker” and “thinking zombies” as Zen says.
Our mind produces around 90 to 100 thousands thoughts a day and only very few of them are useful such as making decisions. The rest is pure static noise, a permanent inner voice impossible to control at once. Being in the past and future all the time is a perfect example of uncontrollable fictional thinking. Thoughts do exist but are not real despite the fact that we produce them.
Regarding our emotions:
Most of the time we are not either in control of our emotions /feelings either positive or negative ones.
If we are able to manage some of the negative ones by accepting them as they are, it gives us a sense of control but it is transient since a new one will pop out.
Most of the time the lack of emotional management strikes and our pain, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, fear, etc. are running wild. When that happens, we feel out of control. This is where meditation becomes essential.
When it comes to love, control is tricky too.
We don’t decide to be in love. We fall in love. Boom! Emotional reaction at sight. Thinking comes later.
Our ego and hormones are in total control, at least foe a little while.
In fact, love and hatred are those strong feelings where we enjoy to lose control.
In those moments, we believe in destiny and we go with it for the better or the worse.
Similar to our thoughts, we have the tendency to believe in our illusions, judgments and mind-set, giving the feeling of control. Feeling being in control is one of these strong illusions probably ego-driven.
As far our body is concerned: Are we in control of its functions, diseases and aging?
Regarding our environment, people and events, what, when and whom do we control?
Finally: change is everywhere and continuous. Everything is transient around us and within us.
This is life. So, do we control ongoing changes? Not so.
Here is a little homework for you:
Write down a list of things, events, situations and people that you believe you are in control
(score from0 to 5 with 0 as no control and 5 as full control).
Accepting this obvious reality that we do not control too much of anything does not mean to be defeatist, resigned or pessimistic. We still have to act and strive for the best.
If we cannot even control our body and mind, how, on Earth, can we expect to control the external world?
Thinking that we control can be stressful…………….. for fear of loosing it.
However, thinking of not controlling too much will bring you closer to serenity.
This is something that is worth a lot of reflection. Let go of control and write me a note below to let me know if you noticed any changes.