Dealing with Discomfort

Hatha Yoga Video - Revolving Lunge Pose I keep a quotation journal in the stack of books next to my reading chair. When I find a beautiful line or a sentence that seems to cut to the core of something important, I write it down in this leather journal. There are a few quotations that appear again and again, as if my psyche needs to hear the words as often as possible. One of these is from Eckhart Tolle: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.

When I face a person or a situation that causes me stress or discomfort, I call upon this thought: what would happen if I stopped resisting this problem? I try to relax into the discomfort of the situation and sit with it calmly. I say to myself, I’m not OK with this feeling, but I accept it. And if I can grab even a single moment of genuine acceptance, I can feel my body relax and fully absorb the moment. I watch myself being uncomfortable and not having to run away from the discomfort. It’s quite an amazing experience.

Most of us are highly skilled at fleeing the first sign of discomfort. I could catalog the tricks we use to relieve our pain or unease. We ignore it away, we sleep it away, we drink it away, we complain it away, we anger it away, we over-work it away, we defend ourselves to the high heavens. This behavior of avoidance is quite deft, on one level. But deadly, of course, on another. Because none of these tactics will help. They will only secure the discomfort (read anger, shame, disappointment, etc.) as a part of our psyche, and that discomfort will eventually seep out of our personality in some distorted or destructive way.

Then what am I to do with this experience I’m not liking very much? Examine it. Watch it. Question it. Refuse to make it my enemy. Learn from it. Believe that it’s in my life to evolve my consciousness, to move me to some new awareness, some new state of compassion, some new understanding of who I am and how I can help things along. It’s exactly what I need right now this minute.

In yoga, we experience postures that challenge us; the muscle shakes, the breath deepens, the sweat pours from the body. I say to my students, just note the feeling in the body. You don’t have to do anything about it. Just be aware of it and see if you can ever-so-slightly relax into it. Just a little easing of the posture will allow you to be with the posture a bit longer, and then see what begins to shift or open as a result of holding the posture longer. You don’t need to fix it or change it or complain about it or judge it. Just be in the posture that is presenting itself to you today.

And if you can grasp one teeny moment of that kind of acceptance of your discomfort, wow, an amazing thing happens. Tension releases. Maybe just a bit, but enough to allow you to experience the posture more deeply, more purely. And sometimes, the muscle releases enough and the breath deepens enough that the discomfort seems to become tolerable, if not disappear.  And that is a whole new way to experience your body–and your life.

Meet me on the mat!  It’s a LifeArt practice.

Photo credit:  My Yoga Online via Compfight