The Cook Awakening

The Unbearable Beauty of Uncertainty

February 8, 2012
Posted in: Health and Nutrition, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Meditation

As I was scrolling posts on Facebook a few weeks ago, my heart broke. A friend shared the new method she’d been using to get her child to sleep on her own. It was a pretty standard sleep-training method: leave the child alone for gradually longer periods of time, periodic reassuring, tolerate the whining or crying a bit….

But it generated an extremely polarized conversation. In the one camp, “kids need to be trained to be independent,” and the other, “kids need to sleep with their parents as long as they exhibit the need; they will learn to be independent by having their needs met.”

I have been viewing life, health and wellbeing through the lens of evolution for some time now. It has been a profound contemplation for me, bringing me into deeper connection with my health, mental states, and choices about how I live my life. Questions like, “How would my ancestor have experienced this?” or “How can I simplify my life, bringing it closer to what my ancestor might have experienced?” Or, the obvious, “What would my ancestor have eaten?”

This lens has been powerful enough that I use it as the basis for a teaching series that I now offer monthly.

In typical mom fashion, though, I have always viewed the baby co-sleeping issue according to what’s best for baby. I put them first. Infants, toddlers and children don’t have the cognitive skills to understand that they are safe when there’s no adult in attendance in the dark. They’re genetically wired to know that they are vulnerable, and need protection. We know they are safe and sound in a crib, but all they know is they are alone. Fear and anxiety generates surges of cortisol, which stresses baby on a cellular level.

Of course, this is important. We need to help our children lead as stress-free an existence as possible, for their long-term physical and psychological health.

The piece I was missing is that in a hunter-gatherer, or even an agrarian, society, this job was not all up to two (or one!) parents. There were many adults available to protect infants and young children. There were older children and teens available. We lived in tribes—not in small, separate dwellings, away from extended family.

I’ve said it often. The nuclear family is a really bad experiment. It’s just too much pressure on one or two adults, the taking care of the deep needs of human young.

And, here we are. Feeling like there’s no way out. Hence my grief and heartbreak.

We either have children not getting their needs met, or we have adults overly stressed and strung out trying to satisfy those needs. And perhaps never quite meeting them even if they try everything in their power to “do it right”. Because, try as I might, I will never be a tribe unto myself. I have to wonder: Are some of my health issues a result of trying to satisfy the needs of my children, when it is literally impossible for me to do so?

It is a part of my ongoing contemplation about living in today’s world. I simply offer the question: How can we live as healthfully as possible in a culture that has changed so radically from that with which we have evolved?

I know, the answer is different for every individual. Just as the answer to, “how should I eat?” is different for everyone. And the answer that works today may be different than the answer that worked last year, or will work next year.

Another question I offer you, and myself to deepen this inquiry:

Can we forgive ourselves for not being able to perfectly satisfy our own and our children’s needs? Our spouse’s? Our parents’?

The ramifications of the fundamental changes of how we live as humans are far reaching. To name just a few: We no longer live in a tribal society. We eat foods our ancestors wouldn’t recognize. We can go long stretches of time without ever touching the earth. Our sleep is no longer governed by the rising and setting of the sun.

All this changes us on cellular and metabolic levels. And yet, we cannot say we have truly adapted to these shifts in environment. Our mental and physical health trends show the stress of this revolution.

We are generally not comfortable living with uncertainty. We want to know the right way to live. And, with all these changes, there may be no right way available to us. How do we live with that?

This is inquiry. It’s a simple process. Not always easy. But in the end, if we can let ourselves rest in the not knowing, the paradox, it can lead to great intimacy with ourselves, our loved one, and our lives. And perhaps more kindness to strangers on Facebook!

My work is in this world, at this time. This work invites you into intimacy with your life, despite the paradox.

My friend on facebook was hurt by the criticism. She felt the implication that she was insensitive to her child’s needs, or worse.

Like her, though, we are all between a rock and a hard place, looking for certain answers in an uncertain world.

We can be happy and healthy in this uncertainty. But it doesn’t happen by turning away from the paradoxes. Unacknowledged conflicts fester and are as toxic in our systems as fetid food.

This is gentle work we do. In classes and private counseling my passion is easing people into facing the fears that may arise from this seemingly unworkable situation. And perhaps finding freedom right in the center of what we may think is utterly untenable. I live in this world, too. This is a truly human journey.

May we all learn to find comfort in the paradox.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 at 5:10 am and is filed under Health and Nutrition, Integrating Lifestyle Changes, Meditation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “The Unbearable Beauty of Uncertainty”

  1. Pamela Says:

    If this were posted on Facebook, I’d have clicked the “like” button. 🙂 Have you read Pema Chodron? I’ ve found comfort through her book, “Comfortable With Uncertainty”.

  2. admin Says:

    Lol! I probably will post a link to it on facebook – you can like it there 😉

    Pema’s amazing. She’s a guiding light in the joys of surrendering to what is.

  3. Cougar Says:

    There is actually a lot of research about these areas. I did not find the one was looking for in specific that used solid research to find that the faster that parents respond to an infant’s needs, the more secure and stable that child is throughout life. Here’s an article I did find about Paleo child rearing.

    Here’s a more general link that supports what you’re saying.

    I did not follow all the leads in these links–I leave that to you.


  4. admin Says:

    Thanks, Cougar! Great links.

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