Life Musings, Spiritual Musings

Leaning Into Discomfort

Aside from the moment when I flushed the toilet on the LIRR only to have the bowl splash stool on my face, it’s been a pretty good day.

If this happened in the not so distant past, my entire day week year – would have been utterly ruined. But today, instead, I sort of relaxed into the momentary disgust, tried my best to disinfect my face and kept it moving.

The thing about becoming increasingly “conscious” is that it means you’re actually opening up to the full spectrum of life — not just what Mooji calls the “chocolate flavored moments”. In my experience, awakening has meant being more (not less) acutely plugged into emotional, mental and physical discomfort.

Right now, for example, my feet are throbbing. They’re swollen, tired and begging for a(nother) massage. My eyes are aching with fatigue. I have a slight headache My energy field feels a bit sluggish.

Lately (all semester, really) I’ve been all up in my stressful feelings. I mean, stress has just really presented itself in all of its neurotic glory. I’ve been very aware of the physiological signs — insomnia, elevated heart-rate, shortness of breath, a sense of restlessness, body aches. I’ve been aware of low-level signs of fear and anxiety.

Even more importantly, I’ve noticed an increasing alertness around my own resistance to physical, emotional and mental discomfort. With time, I’ve cultivated the ability to distinguish the subtle difference between the actual discomfort itself and the second layer of suffering the ego generally produces — a knee-jerk, perhaps even biologically-driven resistance to feeling bad.

In the past, I could only recognize this second layer of suffering retrospectively. These days, I routinely catch myself in the moment — noticing my own resistance and succumbing to it almost immediately.

Eckhart Tolle has a great quote about this. He says, to paraphrase — when you notice unhappiness within yourself, experiment with saying (and meaning): “I don’t mind feeling unhappy.” In other words, accept it.

Tolle explains that accepting unhappiness, sadness, anger, disturbing feelings and discomfort doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to staying there. Instead, it actually opens up a space for us to relax more deeply into the present moment. The double burden of feeling bad and feeling bad about feeling bad is lifted. Grounded in the present — or, more accurately, in our Presence — new possibilities, feelings, choices and actions become possible.

These days, I say an awful lot of thank-yous . . . and not just for the things that the ego selectively views as “blessings”. Thank you for the foot ache, for the nerve-wracking stress, for getting soaked in the rain the other night, for the disagreement, for the unmet expectations, for the fear and the sleep deprivation. Thank you for the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the self-pity and the self-aggrandizement. Thank you for the cold wind snapping at my face, the mean look that stranger gave me, the racist cab driver and the misunderstanding that left me feeling bereft.

Thank you for the thing that happened that I didn’t want to happen, and for the thing that did not happen that I wanted to happen.

Thank you, because gratitude is the only sane option in a universe in which whatever happened has obviously already happened.

Thank you, because the idea that there is any difference between “me” and “You” is an illusion.

Making peace with my shadow and expressing gratitude in the midst of suffering means coming to terms with the fact that I am made of All This — the chocolate moments and the shitty moments, too. And as I learn to lean into discomfort, I’m progressively letting go of my primordial aversion to pain.

Right there in the maelstrom of regret, sadness, stress, fear, jealousy, shame or anger, I remind myself to relax. It’s okay to feel what I feel. Breathing in, I acknowledge and experience my feelings. Breathing out, I recognize the fact that my true, higher Self – is beyond all thought, all emotion.

In a flash, I experience the transcendental reality of Consciousness that remains completely untouched by mental activity — even as it makes all thoughts and feelings possible Slipping ever more deeply into my own discomfort, I invite negative energy to find what Adyashanti calls “resolution” — the blessing of my acceptance, the full embrace of my compassion, the permission to be as it is, at home in the safety of my Self.

Now, the irony is that when you lean into discomfort, you generally feel better. The difference now, though, is that you don’t try to hold onto the warm and fuzzies. You no longer believe in the silly idea that life should always feel comfortable. You know, as the Buddhists say, that this existence is full of suffering. But you also learn, through practice, to assert (perhaps on faith, at first, but later, through genuine recognition) a sense of gratitude for the growing pains — knowing that the fruit of being stretched and challenged is a deepening realization of your true nature. You know that comfort, just like discomfort, is fleeting. We can’t keep anything. And that’s perfectly, perfectly, perfectly okay.

4 thoughts on “Leaning Into Discomfort”

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