Sitting with Discomfort

Ideas and goals and dreams are so exciting! They make my skin buzz with the energy of possibility. Thinking of and planning goals and dreams makes me feel confident, hopeful, at peace, and passionate about my future. My heart feels full, I feel open and spacious, my skin glows, and I can't help but smile!

And then comes taking action on the nicely laid out goals, ideas, and dreams. And it gets hard. It's uncomfortable. It forces me to do things I normally don't like doing, or that I feel anxious and self-conscious about. It's more fun to sit in the brain-storming phase than it is to dig into the mud and get my hands dirty working towards growth and change. The sunflowers, fruit of the garden, warm summer sunshine, and hounddog bounding around the field (that's my vision of peace and joy!) feel a long way out once I jump into the process of making changes in my life.

Yoga helps in countless ways, but one of the most profound gifts I've seen yoga offer myself and others is being able to sit with discomfort. That moment of knowing you need to do something because it will lead to positive growth and change, but at the same time feeling a small knot grow in your stomach when it's time to take action. Maybe your foot starts bouncing around, you feel heat in your cheeks, your hands get a little clammy, some tingling starts in your hands and feet.  To me, it's a feeling of squirming in my seat. It's as though I'm in a battle with myself to stay seated and do the work while also wanting to jump up and sprint back to comfort as fast as possible.  The buzzing, excited energy of goal-planning turns to a buzzing, fearful energy that threatens to talk my mind into retreating back to what was easy and familiar. 

These sensations mark the crucial moment of changes. Each time you can sit through that discomfort and proceed forward with action that will lead to a new pattern, you leave the old pattern behind. You grow! Change is uncomfortable, even when it's amazing, incredible, and leading to our deepest dreams. Our mind and body get used to what is familiar, even if it's causing us suffering. 

If you've been trying to make changes to your diet, exercise pattens, relationships, spending, or countless other intentions or goals, but always seem to fall short, keep reading!

On the yoga mat, we find our way into a variety of poses, oftentimes poses that are different, awkward, new, or challenging in some way. The yoga instructor teaches us to breathe, to sit with the sensations of discomfort and experience the pose fully. We learn how to make small adjustments in a pose so that while it may be uncomfortable, it is not painful or unsafe. One day, you realize that you are in the pose- and it's no longer uncomfortable! You've grown in your yoga practice through continued, diligent effort in sitting with discomfort and ignoring urges to give up, stop, or run out of your yoga class!

This experience helps us understand we can do the same thing in our daily life. Discomfort does not last forever, and if we can sit with discomfort long enough, we get to experience the positive change of growth.

For me, today, my discomfort revolves around having to initiate a difficult conversation with someone. I don't like conflict, and I don't like people being disappointed or unhappy with me.  I'm making a choice that I've spent significant time reflecting on in my yoga practice and in consulting with others that I feel is neccessary and important in order to further grow in what I believe is my destined path. Even though I know this will lead to positive growth and change I've been working hard towards, I still cringe a bit when I think about how the conversation might go. My mind could get carried away for the next hour, worrying about how terrible the conversation will be. But yoga has taught me that isn't helpful. Breathing through discomfort, continuing to make choices that lead to balance in my body, emotions, and mind, and taking action with faith in myself and the universe that this is the right thing to do- that will be helpful.

You cannot grow without taking that leap of vulnerability- being afraid of trying something new, and doing it anyways because deep in your heart, in a place of stillness, there is a peaceful knowing that this is an action leading you closer to the change you seek. 

Next time on the blog: specific practices you can use to sit with discomfort, and further exploration into how we stick with making change when things get tough. 


Sal Discomfort .JPG

This is Sal, finding and choosing peace and relaxation over discomfort...