Way of the Screaming Baby

I’ve often wondered why our 15 month old daughter screams so much. Her brother never did, but this one screams at the drop of a hat.

I think I finally understand. If I can experience her screaming and not lose my alignment, then I am on the right path.

I’m learning the way from my toddler’s tantrums. Ear-piercing and soul-numbing shrieks are my training ground for Zen-like calm.

Knowing that manifestations are the effect and thoughts are the cause, her cries are a perfect opportunity to wean myself off reactivity and fixating on conditions.

Every scream is a lesson in alignment. God sees only good in it, so should I. Thank you, tiny, beautiful, pooping master.

You don’t “have to”!

“I have to go pick up my son in a minute.”

That’s a great example of an old negative thought.

Have to means “possess as a duty”.

And that’s exactly how it feels if you think about it that way. Uh oh, here comes a duty.

But I don’t pick him up from school out of duty! I pick him up because he’s a delightful kid and I’m eager to see him, and I get to be the first person he sees after school, enjoy his smile, ask him about his day and bring him back home.

Do you want life to be full of duties? It’s just a form of expression, but words carry meaning from context and other uses, and when there are much happier words to use why not use them?

“It’s time to go pick up my son, and in case you’re wondering, I love doing it!”

Happiness Day 30

For thirty days I’ve been focusing on happiness, wanting good feelings to be the norm and bad feelings the rare exception.

So how did it go?

It went really really well 😄

Right from the beginning it reframed my inner landscape. The intention to feel good got me to look up instead of down, and start appreciating how often I felt good already.

Abraham teaches that our reality is created primarily by our inner being (God) who is pure positive energy. The role of our physical self and our worldly focusing mind is significant, but in terms of negativity it can only really create friction, it can’t halt the power of our inner being.

That’s why it is always possible to feel better, whether better be less bad or genuinely good.

In other words things are always better than they seem. Happiness is attainable, it just takes practice to retrain our focus.

What is life like now?

Life is really good now.

I’m laughing and smiling a lot more. I’m finding deeper appreciation of the many good things in my life.

I’m handling the contrast so much better! I can soothe bad feelings much more easily, and I even appreciate contrast because I can see how it’s helping me to focus in certain directions.

I’ve had insights just come to me on subjects dear to my heart. By day 30 I found myself musing on inspiration and the question I’ve long deferred: what do I really want to be doing in my life?

I no longer feel like I need to explain, justify, or apologise for my mood and lack of energy, because I’ve shown myself for thirty days that it’s entirely up to me how much energy I have, since I can decide what to focus on and how I focus!

Satisfied and eager for more

Last night my 1yo daughter slept through the night in her cot. That is a genuine miracle! I never even thought it would happen, and yet it all happened so suddenly and so easily.

And I allowed it to happen. My focus on being happy weakened my resistance and my negativity, and opened the tiniest crack in my old story, and circumstances that seemed unwanted opened the path for this new sleeping routine.

Many other things have shifted, small but meaningful and sometimes enormous in their significance to me. Things that were difficult have gotten easier. Things that felt hopeless feel easy. And things I already enjoyed and appreciated have become even more satisfying and wonderful.

What next?

This challenge has only whetted my appetite for more.

I can feel so much potential to feel better and refine my processes. There are many things I would like to allow into my experience, and now I know how to do it.

And without planning it, blogging has become a new experience for me and a wonderful discipline and tool for helping me train my focus.

Being able to write here fulfils an old desire that my writing become more like my private journaling in terms of ease and content.

I’ve written 55 posts in this thirty days. To put that in perspective, the previous 55 posts took about six months to write.

Blogging each day not only kept me focused, it also helped me develop my thoughts and deepen my understanding of this path I’m on.

I don’t yet know what form the next segment will take, but I want blogging to be part of it, and I want it to take my new habits even further.

Thank you for following, reading, and liking my posts! Having you reading my posts has helped keep me honest and on-track!

Count Your Blessings Day 8

My little girl has now soothed herself to sleep three nights in a row plus two day time naps!

I cannot fully express how much relief this brings me!

Never again will I have to rock and bounce her til she falls asleep!

Never again will I fight exhaustion to get her to stop crying!

This is so amazing. This is a miracle! And I owe it all to changing my focus from the burden of “getting her to sleep” to the love and appreciation of “helping her self-soothe to sleep”.

This is life-changing. When I look back on this Happiness series, I look forward to appreciating all over again how a year of sleep-deprivation and struggle so easily gave way to our 1yo learning to fall asleep all by herself.

And all it took was for me to be so exhausted I had no choice but to allow things to improve.

Yep. It was my own resistance. I was so set on being diligent and “in control”. I wanted it to be easy, but found it easier to put in effort than to actually focus on feeling better.

This is profound.

Rocking her to sleep I felt good that I could make things easier. But it was the relief of managing an unwanted situation, not the relief of moving towards a wanted one.

The truth is that I spent a lot of my past focusing on the unwanted and trying to escape it. I didn’t put much effort into defining what I did want.

The positive aspect is that I had great faith everything would work out. I would find the one answer that would fix everything.

But I kept fixating on the problems rather than the solutions. I kept picking at the question and all the evidence of unwanted things in my life. I kept reminding myself of why I wanted to escape, rather than looking at where I was escaping to.

In other words I was trying to manage all the unwanted things in life rather than moving toward the wanted.

Managing the unwanted implies acceptance of it, keeping it alive even while trying not to suffer from it.

Focusing on the wanted is like entering a totally different reality. Changing “I don’t want to go!” into “I want to go there.”

It’s a melancholic thing to not really know what you want. But it just takes us a little longer to make our minds up, work out what is possible, and finally resolve to push beyond that!

Our feelings don’t recognise limitations or impossibilities. It just takes us a little while to accept the truth and power of those feelings!

Count Your Blessings Day 7

I love my kids! They are so rewarding!

My son is such a smart and caring and lovely kid. And my 1yo daughter is so adorable!

She once again soothed herself to sleep in her cot!

I’m so proud of my son, especially with how well he has taken to the “feeling game” tricks I’ve been practicing with him. We work on subjects together, helping each other find ways to feel good about them.

My favourite part is when he comes home all excited to tell me how well the feeling game worked.

Kids have very little resistance to good things happening, so he’s a real source of inspiration for me.

We keep coming up with new tricks and ideas that help him (and me) soothe difficult subjects and find inspiration.

Translating these concepts for a child’s point of view is a lot of fun and helps solidify my own understanding.

Besides, he really keeps me honest and on track with my own feeling processes. His lower resistance inspires me to do better with my difficult subjects.

And as children often do, asking “Why? Or Why not?” prompts me to reconsider and think more openly about life’s possibilities.

Evolution

When I started this “Count Your Blessings” series I had no idea what to expect from it.

But with each iteration I feel things shifting subtly. Part of me wants to be really consistent and methodical (because it’s counting). Instead it’s evolving because my ability to appreciate is growing, and with that I am able to appreciate new things, and old things in new ways.

I don’t have a clear sense of where this is headed, but I’m noticing episodic changes in how I perceive things.

Like my “doing the dishes” post, and my success with getting our 1yo to go to sleep by herself, I’m finding myself suddenly inspired to look at difficult aspects of my life and instead of rejecting the unwanted, find in myself a genuine desire for something I can love and appreciate.

How I want my life to be, my relationships to be, my family, career, income and health, home and hobbies…everything can be transformed and translated by finding the aspects we desire in love and appreciation.

Learning to let go: lessons from a 1yo baby

Why do I feel relieved when my 1yo daughter goes down for a nap?

Why do I not reach for the same feeling of relief while she is awake?

Isn’t it just my own resistance?

The Dao of parenting…sleep deprivation edition

Parenting is really really demanding.

But it’s our own resistance that makes those demands difficult to meet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to preach here; last night was one of the most challenging I’ve had in a while, so I want to move forward on this subject.

It helps to see these challenges as bringing to attention our own pockets of resistance.

But don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t feel like that right now.

When things feel really tough it’s not the best time to reach for answers. At those times the best we can do is to find the barest positives like “at least we’re all still alive!”

Here comes some resolve!

But this morning I’m feeling a little more focused. I know last night was an unwanted experience. I know I didn’t reach for relief. I know I can do better and by doing better I mean feeling better.

So I intend to remember the things I learned and applied with our first child.

Our first child was a steep learning curve and there were tough times for sure. But I recall moments of real clarity and focus that I now think were even more powerful than I realised at the time.

Be like water

The Dao is often likened to water, because water flows without effort, never holds itself back, is content to take the lowest position, but in the grand scheme of things is unstoppable in its influence.

Interacting with an infant or young child, being like water means being sensitive and adaptable without contrivances or resistance.

After all, children want to be happy and feel good. We don’t make them happy, we merely provide the basic things they need.

Happiness comes naturally.

In Chinese this kind of nature is 自然 ziran and I love this word because it basically means “flows from oneself”.

So the happiness of a child flows from itself.

But that’s not how it feels. It feels like the little darling wants to scream and cry and be constantly dissatisfied.

How can happiness be natural when the kid is so often inconsolable?

Let go of resistance

It may not be obvious at first, but there is a natural flow and it is most likely our resistance to that flow that comes before the screaming and crying kick in.

We need to be sensitive and let go of our own demands and arbitrary deadlines and procedures. In effect, we need to be guided by the child.

But the guiding can’t start in the midst of a meltdown. Start when things are relatively easy.

She has to eat!

Here’s my first point of resistance. She has to eat, and it’s vital that she eat at this time because she needs to sleep at this other time, or else she’ll be overtired and the whole schedule will fall apart and she’ll probably get sick and we’ll all die horribly..

Okay that last part is exaggerated.

But notice that before she gets upset, I’m approaching her with a determination that she must eat a certain amount of food at a specific time or else everything will fall apart!

What if she’s not hungry?

What if she’s teething and it hurts to eat?

What happens if she doesn’t eat right now?

Have a little faith

If she doesn’t eat right now, she’ll eat later when she’s hungry.

If she doesn’t sleep right this minute, she’ll sleep later when she’s tired.

And guess what? Feeding her later and sleeping her later will be so much easier if I haven’t spent the past hour or so fighting with her to eat when she’s not hungry and sleep when she’s not tired!

A little bit of faith in nature is essential. And if you talk to anyone who’s had a few kids their faith is heavily seasoned by experience.

Speaking of nature as “flowing from oneself”, our 1yo hadn’t pooped for three whole days. But we knew from our first child (and yes we worried back then) that this is totally normal.

Make sure they have plenty of water, make sure their diet is good. Otherwise just sit back and wait because it will inevitably flow from themselves!

And when it comes, it will come abundantly….

But what about my schedule?

If your schedule works, then keep doing it. But if you’re finding that “nothing works!”, if you’re at the end of your tether, then consider no longer fighting, resisting, or struggling.

What I’m reminding myself is that when I let go of my preconceptions and resistance and have the intention to just flow naturally, I become more relaxed and more sensitive to what is going on.

I’m better able to read her moods and wants and needs and she seems to adapt to my greater ease and letting go of the struggle.

We create our reality

My problem is not that I’m forced to care for a difficult child single-handed. My problem is that I’ve let worries and cares and resistance accrue for a while and I’ve only gone looking for relief when I felt completely overwhelmed.

It’s taken time for me to acknowledge I want life to be different on this subject.

And then it took more time for me to know how I want it to be different, the kind of difference I’d like to see.

It’s not about the baby, it’s about me and my habits of reaching for better feelings, or digging more firmly into resistance.

So to come full circle – she’s asleep right now, not because I made an effort or was super patient, but because I felt suddenly inspired to leave the house and go for a walk with her.

She fell asleep about twenty minutes into the walk, but I hardly noticed because I was busy looking at the beautiful houses and trying to work out which house owned a tiny little driveway that I’d never noticed, tucked away between two other houses.

It turned out to be the rear entrance to a massive heritage estate, taking up about 4,000 sqm of land right in the midst of ordinary suburbia.

I’d never noticed it before, but isn’t that a wonderful omen? In the midst of “normalcy” we might stumble upon the path to something amazing and beautiful, so long as we are open to that experience!

Happiness Challenge Day 8

This morning I’m feeling uncharacteristically happy, and I love it.

I just got off the computer and found myself feeling like I’d just accomplished something wonderful, but couldn’t remember what it was.

Once upon a time I would have punctured that good mood immediately, worried I was losing my grip on reality.

“You can’t feel good without doing something to deserve it!

But actually I have done something: I’ve spent the last eight days challenging myself to make feeling good the rule, no exceptions.

And on the back of nearly two years of gradual work at feeling better, I’ve well and truly earned this feeling of ease, satisfaction, and accomplishment.

I’ve become so good at finding relief that last night we took the kids to a movie screening at the park, and I looked after them on my own for four hours, including feeding them and getting them to bed, so my wife could go to a local Symphony performance.

That might not sound like a big deal, but not so long ago I would have felt too tired, too stressed, or too anxious.

I would have asked my wife to choose between the movie or the symphony because both was “too much” for me to handle alone.

I’ve learned to actively find relief, knowing that this not only feels better right away, but also makes my future path easier.

So I’m relishing this good feeling right now, making hay while the sun shines, but also knowing the sun will always shine, and I love the rain just as much anyway!

Raising happy children

It’s actually not difficult, since children are naturally happy and find happiness easily.

All you really have to do is not actively undermine them and you’re already ahead.

I took to heart some painful lessons from my own childhood, and so with my kids I make an effort to:

Not belittle them, their efforts or their interests.

Not criticise, pick on, or draw attention to perceived faults.

Not mock, ridicule or laugh at them.

Limit the harm

We aren’t perfect. I get angry, frustrated, and can be petty or stubborn.

But I make an effort to limit the harm my bad mood might have on my kids.

I apologise to them, and explain that even if they’ve done something wrong, they aren’t to blame for my mood.

Sometimes our reactions as parents can be remarkably childish. It’s important to admit that and apologise rather than dig in and get defensive.

Focus on happiness

As part of my own efforts to be happier I’ve taught my son the “feeling game”, which is basically about finding good things to focus on rather than bad ones.

He’s taken to it with enthusiasm, and will even remind me of it when I’m frustrated or tired.

He has learned through his own experience that focusing on the wanted aspects of life is far more enjoyable than whining about the unwanted.

I don’t think we have to be perfect to be good parents. But I hope at least that my kids will grow up with a clear sense that happiness is accessible to them, and that my honest admission of my slip-ups and shortcomings on this path will aid them in their own journey.

Is it time to consider the lily?

My latest piece at MercatorNet is part 2 of my parenting tips from a low-energy father. Therein I advise we draw on providence and find ways to be happy, for the benefit of ourselves and our children:

Parenting doesn’t end at getting things done. Parents aren’t machines. We model not only our behaviours and skills to our children, but our entire worldview and the moods and personality traits that accompany it.

We can, in a sense, “do everything right” but still inhabit a joyless existence, and our children are powerfully susceptible to the long-term influence of our attitude to life.

That’s why good communication is not enough, and why – for my own sake, and for the sake of my children – I set out learning how to change how I feel.

https://www.mercatornet.com/family_edge/view/is-it-time-to-consider-the-lily/21652

Parenting advice from a low-energy father

In my latest at article at MercatorNet I share the merits of assertive communication in raising kids:

instead of using aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviours to coerce others into doing what you want, you can learn to literally assert your needs and wants, thoughts and feelings to others, with the implication that merely communicating your own inner world is the first and most important step in interacting with others.

In other words, relationships are ideally not power struggles of passive or outright coercion, manipulation and resentment. How novel!

Learning to communicate well is important because other people don’t necessarily understand what we want, think, or feel (even though it’s obvious, right?), and many of us are blinded to good communication by an expectation of conflict in our relationships.

But in an ideal world we could all learn to be open and clear about what we want, think, and feel, and let others decide how they think, feel, and want in response to that.

https://www.mercatornet.com/family_edge/view/3-parenting-tips-from-a-low-energy-father/21616