Why are we encouraged to sit through the discomfort?
After four intensive years of turning towards, of digging, of being, I ask this question again. And it didn’t surface during my meditation, those moments when the foot falls asleep or the face itches. No, it happened in the midst of my life. In the midst of discomfort, of struggle, of the unknown. I couldn’t figure out how to move forward, which direction to move in. I wanted so badly to just get out of the place I was in. Of course, my focus went to the physical plane. Wanting to move the pieces of the puzzle, the scenery of the play, to make it better. Yet, my heart kept calling out “Baby, that ain’t going to make it better. You’ve got to come closer to me.” I resisted this voice for a bit. I wanted to believe that I could just make some changes, make things a bit more comfortable, and the discomfort would disappear. And you know, in truth, the discomfort might have temporarily subsided had I made these moves. Ah, the beauty of the linear, masculine mind, who wants so badly to solve the equation! This mind that wants to constantly return to security and safety, to make IT better. And many times we are directed by this energy. No, I don’t want to sit in discomfort. Yes, I will make different decisions to alleviate these symptoms. This started to make perfect sense to me. What are the wise teachers saying!? Stay in discomfort! HA! But why when we can move from it!?
And as is the spirally, circular way of life, I remembered once again why we stay. If I sit in meditation and my knee is bothered, and I move, if I choose this as my reaction, I will move each time, and the meditation, the quality of awareness, evaporates. The priority becomes the moving, the bothered, and the rest becomes secondary. We sit through discomfort to empower our awareness. We sit through discomfort because when we react, we continue the cycle of unconsciousness, creating more discomfort. The moment we feel discomfort and say, “I will stay here. I am not afraid,” the strength of the discomfort weakens and soon enough, it even passes. We sit through the discomfort because the discomfort is wise, it is our teacher. It reminds us that we can never really run away from it. We will keep returning to its lessons until we move through them. Some of us stay in the same discomfort for our whole lives, like a dog chasing its tail, continuously trying to avoid what’s there through blame, through numbing. It is true, when we move towards the discomfort, we can transform. We awaken to what we’ve always turned from. This is also the way of compassion, moving towards suffering, holding suffering with the highest regards. And yes, it is a courageous, humbled path. It is not something I was raised to practice, but it is something that I am choosing now. And just like making it to the mat can be the hardest part of a yoga practice, the commitment to show up to the discomfort, to step up to it and face it, even if we don’t know how, is the hardest part. To enter into the unknown, to come as a vulnerable being, ready to be taught and ready to learn. To make the commitment to ourselves that we are not afraid of what we will find in the discomfort, because the only things we’ll find are pieces of ourselves, pieces that want care, attention, and honoring. In a split second of staying, we can uncover our truth, our traumas, breathing through our deepest fears.
And as always, these are all words. And while words are my medicine, the biggest message of all is the action. How do we put words into action? What I can offer you, is what I come back to as my anchoring practice, to start with a breath. In the midst of confusion or frustration, anger or pain, pause for just a moment and breathe. Perhaps, you can stay breathing long enough to come to a place of calm and clarity, a place of response rather than reactivity. And explore what’s there. Get uncomfortable, baby