Let the Discomfort do its Work

In yoga we talk about "finding your edge" in a pose, referring to the balance between allowing discomfort and not going so far as to injure yourself. The physical practice serves as an invitation to meet the discomfort with grace, ease, and patience so we have the opportunity to experience learning that the discomfort will not kill us and is actually a gateway to growth.

How does this relate to life off of the yoga mat? Same principles, same practice. Discomfort is a part of being human and is often the birthplace of extraordinary growth and expansion on our journeys. Let's be honest though, discomfort and our egos aren't exactly best friends. When we begin to experience discomfort we tend to frantically look for the nearest emergency exit. For many that may come in the form of food, alcohol, TV, relationships, shopping, social media, the list could go on and on. After all, we are hard-wired to avoid discomfort because our brains perceive it as a threat to our existence, the same way that being chased by a woolly mammoth was actually a threat to our existence. Of course, we still very much need this hard-wiring in our brains because we are still surviving out in the world. The problem comes in when we confuse uncomfortable emotions for actual threats to our safety and well-being.

What if instead of seeking distraction, we befriended the discomfort? Better yet, what if we befriended ourselves with self-love and care through the process, fully trusting that everything is always happening for our highest and best? Here are some helpful tools I've learned along the way which allow me to sit in the discomfort with more grace and ease:

1. Breathe

What does befriending ourselves and being patient with discomfort look like? First, it is noticing and extending the precious pause between stimuli and action. Bringing breath in to calm your nervous system and allowing yourself to become conscious of the origin of the discomfort before responding. I am going through this right now, feeling quite uncomfortable as the process of emotional shedding I discussed in my last post is not yet complete. I am still processing, integrating, and shedding some more. So instead of reacting to the feeling that something must really be wrong, I'm breathing and noticing. The more long, deep, conscious breaths I take, the calmer I feel. It really is that simple.

2. Choose Love

So often we are running from fear because we don't even realize that we have a choice. The fear monkeys, the ego's loyal operatives, are already on the case, telling us crazy stories filled with horrible outcomes. What if we were able to pause and actually ask the question, "am I running towards love or away from fear?" Once we gain clarity on what "running towards love" looks like in that situation, we tend to then have access to an expanded perspective that helps quiet the monkeys and remind us that we truly are okay. I find journaling to be a wonderful tool for helping me choose love. I start with stream of consciousness, allow my fears to flow, and by the time I'm done writing my perspective has often shifted entirely. Thus, I've both stopped my fears from spiraling in my head and gained clarity on what choosing love truly looks like.

3. Self-care

Once we've been able to discern love from fear, we're well on the way to allowing the discomfort to camp out for awhile, serving as fertile soil for our growth. What else can we add to the soil to aid growth? More fertilizer and water of course! Nurturing ourselves through self-care can both be easy and so easily neglected. Often we're focused on taking care of others or are so overcome with the discomfort and fear that we want to crawl up in a ball. Again, completely normal and understandable - look at what a roly-poly does when it may be harmed! However, there are some tried and true self-care items that are even accessible from a ball (if you're willing to do somersaults through the house). First, make sure to drink a lot of water and eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods. We can only process through things when we have the fuel to do so. Next, get enough sleep, take naps, allow the yin side of life to support your process. I find it extraordinarily helpful to have a list of favorite things handy so you don't have to think when you are feeling really down. This list may include things like: take a bath, light candles, watch a favorite movie, listen to music, get a massage, or go on a walk with your dog.

4. Settle in and allow

Now that you have beautifully noticed what is happening, reassured yourself that you are going to be okay, made the loving decision that you are not going to seek distraction to avoid, and instead are going to take beautiful care of yourself, it's time to let the discomfort do its work. That's right, settle in like it's a luxurious mud bath in Calistoga, temporarily enveloping you in heaviness to allow the release of what is no longer serving you. This process of shedding is so incredibly important for personal growth.

Next time you find yourself repeating a cycle that you know is not serving your highest and best, I encourage you to stop and notice. Ask yourself, is there discomfort that I am trying to avoid? Is this an opportunity for me to breathe, notice, and take another path, allowing new growth? You don't have to like it as it's transpiring but your soul promises it will be worth it!