To me, the words pain, the void, and uncertainty in life always translate to discomfort. I feel like we create these routines and rhythms in our life cycles and as we do-we become attached to the people, the places and the things that we have feathered our nests with…such is the human experience.
So when something goes amiss… when someone we love leaves… when our routine or our “certainty” has been disrupted in any way- I believe our first instinct is to fill that void in whatever way we can with whomever we need to in order to avoid facing the discomfort.
Humans love pleasure after all… I know I do anyway. So why on Earth would we choose to sit in our pain or sit with the discomfort when we can so easily distract ourselves with external things that we think will help us feel better?
Certainly there are some things that feel good in the moment, right? But in my experience, I feel like if we are seeking external relief from the pain we are feeling within- no amount of looking outside of our experience will serve to help us feel better. In fact, the opposite could come to pass and you might find the years of unhealed pain show up as a physical disease in the body.
My healing started with yoga.
At first, the mat was just a rubbery piece of material that stayed rolled up in the corner of my room for the most part. I couldn’t bring myself to develop a regular practice so it ended up mostly being a strobe light affair for many years… on again… off again… on again… etc.
Until one day- after writing a paper for my Master’s degree on how Yoga helps heal the Central Nervous system. I looked at my mat and suddenly- it appeared much brighter to me than ever before. It was like looking at my first love in hindsight, only this time it was that rubbery piece of material that could do no wrong.
And then- my mat became a sanctuary. I can’t tell you the countless tears I cried (and still cry) on its metaphorical shoulder. At first, yoga was about the physical benefits to be gained… I mean, who doesn’t want to age well, right? But over time and with a steady practice, I began to notice the emotional and spiritual benefits as well.
But here’s the thing. To me, yoga is not just about what we bring to our mats or to our practice. It is also about what we bring to our lives.
So you might be asking yourself- what does sitting with discomfort have to do with yoga?
My answer to that question is… EVERY. THING.
There have been times where I have been so incredibly uncomfortable within a pose whether it be a burning sensation in my thigh during what feels like the longest Warrior II on the planet or in long, steady stretches where my mind is running around from story to story in order to help me by distracting me. Since I knew that in those moments of extreme discomfort- punching my yoga teacher in the face for making me hold that position wasn’t very Zen like or appropriate to the practice, all I could do was to notice the feelings and sensations I was having and breathe through them.
“This too shall pass…”
Let’s take that off the mat.
Only your life isn’t filled with just ONE teacher guiding you through your practice, but MANY teachers guiding you. Your parents, your friends, your lovers, your spouse, your children…. Shall I go on? What about other things- like your job? Or perhaps something within your life that you are feeling incredibly frustrated with?
What is all of it teaching you?
The void? What can you learn?
In the pain? Does it teach you to close yourself off? Or do you let it serve to open you up further?
The uncertainty? Is it teaching you trust? Those are the uncomfortable parts of our human existence. Those are the very things we want to avoid at all costs and quite possibly the most brilliant teachers you will ever have.
You want to cry? Please do. You want to scream? Go for it! You want to wrap yourself up in a blanket and hibernate for a bit? Guess what? You’re allowed! You want to punch a yoga teacher…? Okay well, please don’t do that… (we love you). Everything passes. Even the most pleasurable moments of our lives pass. It is the way of life.
Sitting in our discomfort feels intensely counter intuitive (believe me I know!), but it gets easier the more you practice…
So the next time you are noticing some discomfort- or perhaps you are there now- honor it. Let the stories come up… write them down and burn them if you need to.
And remember, it’s all here and designed to help you- but you must be willing to study the lessons and be willing to PRACTICE!