What’s holding you back?


Sometimes the universe sends us messages. For example, we think about how we really should call that friend we haven’t been in touch with, and an hour later, out of nowhere, we see them driving down the street.  (The message there being, yes, definitely call them.)

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little slow at picking up on these messages and sometimes you pretend you didn’t hear.  It’s an evolved habit to pay attention and listen, and it often takes a big leap to follow where the message seems to be guiding you. But when the same thing keeps popping up over and over from different angles, even my ears perk up.

For me lately the message has been “what’s holding you back?” Whether from a business webinar or a chat with an old friend, the same question keeps coming up. A wonderfully wise American Buddhist teacher I know – Lama Marut – calls this “holding on to our burning coal.”  We want to change or live differently, but we’re not willing to let go of the burning coal in our own hands.  We clutch on to our current ideas and our existing self concepts, despite wanting change.

Change is hard.  Which brings me to the point where I need to make this relevant to babies’ sleep.  :) When your baby has always gone to sleep with a “prop” – on your chest, in a swing, at the breast, on a bottle, with a soother, etc. etc., the day that that has to change (and of course it has to change) will probably be hard for your baby.  There are some gradual ways to warm up to it, to make it less sudden and stressful, but there will still be a big shift one day. 


And human beings don’t like change, by nature. If you don’t believe this, you probably don’t have a two-year-old yet (just try giving them a different spoon at dinner time, I dare you).

The shift is also big for parents, especially mothers.  If baby has a sleep prop, chances are Mom is either somewhat involved or is the outright human pacifier.

There are all sides to the argument of whether sleep training is a dream come true or downright awful (especially online!), and that can make it tough for some parents to make the decision.  Plus, the ones who really need it are sleep deprived, so double-whammy in the decision-making department.

So when you haven’t slept more than a few hours in a row for months (or years!) on end, and you so desperately want sleep, maybe this is a helpful question to ask: what is holding me back? This is always a tough question for us to answer about ourselves.

I’ll start.  My issue isn’t around sleep, but more general lifestyle. What’s holding me back from living the way I want to live?  The answer (I think) is my own negative self talk around the time excuse: “I don’t have time. I’m a working mother of two young children; I can’t.” 

So yesterday I threw dinner into the pressure cooker and went out for a bike ride and we ate a little later than usual. As my mother likes to say, “Your kids are never going to thank you for staying home.” This is in relation to travel, but in this case, they’re not going to thank me for being out of shape and bluesy about it. 

In another example of us banging our parenting heads against the wall for way too long, my husband and I finally read up on how to tackle the incessant mealtime struggle with our three-year-old.  We ordered a book, read the expert advice, started an entirely new approach to eating and suffered through the two-week change phase.

We are now blown away on a daily basis by our child happily coming to the table and eating things she never would have before. It’s shocking.  Kind of like high-fiving your spouse for an entire year after sleep coaching because you still can’t believe your child just accepts the new norm and happily, easily falls asleep in their little bed every night and for every nap.

Time can be a big excuse.  So can money.  We have to first value ourselves to make change.  And we have to be happy ourselves in order to help others be happy.

Anything is possible. We usually just have to listen up, trust and get ourselves out of the way.