"Breathe into the discomfort" my yoga teacher whispered as she walked by my mat.
As I stood, my body trembling in the pose, my foot screaming in bursts of pain—I absolutely did not want to breathe any further into the discomfort.
I wanted to lay down on the mat and be finished.
As I stood there, challenging my mind's preference, I realized that this simple statement could pretty much sum up most human life.
We don't want to feel discomfort.
We want to avoid it and we’ve gotten really good at such distractions.
Jamming our calendars with things to do from the time we wake up until the time we pass out from exhaustion in the late hours of the evening.
Using food or alcohol to keep our bodies heavy or numb or both.
Drifting mindlessly for hours on social media instead of being present with ourselves.
As I continue to shake and tremble on my mat, I wondered where this belief that I couldn’t lean in to discomfort came from. And, as in most cases, I could trace it back to my relationship with fear.
Fear, disguised as all sorts of 'realistic' thoughts such as “I can’t think about that right now, I have too many things to get done”, believes any discomfort we may encounter in our lives is a direct threat to our safety. And that belief, although not always conscious, can then drive our avoidance to all things uncomfortable or even slightly painful.
Somewhere, though, deeper than where fear resides, I knew that this is just not true.
How can it be safe to not allow all the parts of our lives’ experiences to be felt?
Discomfort is information. It is a gift of truth—if we allow ourselves to be with it and be open to its messages.
In that moment, in that pose, a truth for me was that I don't particularly nurture my physical body. I have felt she betrayed me, or I betrayed her, and somehow acknowledging her pain feels like reliving all my disappointments and failures on the scale of my life.
So I tend to ignore her or keep our relationship to superficial tasks like brushing my teeth, eating breakfast, and driving me from place to place throughout my day.
Intellectually, I know different. I know that my body is not my enemy, and that discomfort and truth are invitations for a deeper awareness and connection.
But the human in me really resists.
So, this moment, on my mat was a significant invitation to change my relationship with discomfort and thus with my body. To choose presence and love, instead of fear.
As I kept breathing, I knew I was safe and I could be with whatever presented itself to me.
There are days when life is asking us to breathe into the discomfort instead of choosing to lean out. We can do it. Trust yourself and give yourself permission to acknowledge that it’s here with you and wants to share something valuable with you.
If this process sounds equally scary and intriguing, where do you start?
Begin with taking a few minutes of stillness with yourself every day. Breathe. Notice. Acknowledge, both the comfortable and uncomfortable that may arise. A second companion step can be to ask yourself, “discomfort, what do you have to share with me?”.
Being gentle and compassionate with yourself is always a good response, especially as you begin this process.
And you don’t have the explore the discomfort alone. Find a loving guide. A yogi, a friend, a coach, a therapist or counselor—someone who you trust and someone who holds safe space for you.
As simple as it sounds, staying present and breathing in any moment is a way to move differently with our fears and our discomforts, and, in doing so, we deepen our connection with our own life force... and that was exactly what I think my highest-self, and my yoga teacher, wanted most for me in that moment.
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