Moving Into Discomfort

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"That's one of the reasons it's recommended to have some form of practice and to take the opportunity to practice when it presents itself.  This enables you to work with whatever circumstances arise.  When people come on retreats, their knee is hurting or their whole body is hurting, so why, they ask, can they not just get up and move and make it easier?


I'll often say in response, 'Well, you could get up and that would be fine, but at some point in your life there's going to be a time when you are in great pain - or maybe you'll be sitting at the bedside of soemone you love who's in a lot of pain - and if you haven't learned to find some graciousness and capacity to be with what's difficult, things are simply going to get worse and worse.  One of the great blessings I see in people who have committed themselves to a Buddhist practice is that their capacity for both joy and for dealing with the sorrows and the pain of life grows.  
Practice opens the door to both."

Jack Kornfield
from "The Wondrous Path of Difficulties", p.27; Buddhadharma, Winter 2005


Please know: I am not of the "no pain, no gain" mindset by any means.  I lean more towards the cuddly, love-y side than the drill-sergeant mentality.  (My kids might beg to differ.)  However, I believe there comes times in life where we can and "should" (if we are interested in changing any of our habitual patterns) play with discomfort.


I am also not advocating that a Buddhist practice is the only frame in which this play can occur.  It doesn't matter who you pray to (if anyone), what your temple, church, or home altar looks like, or what label you give yourself.  Anyone can practice.
A way of practice - To approach the tightness we feel in the forward bend and, instead of coming out of it, ask with our breath - why are you there? How can we work together to get past this...'cause I ain't goin' away.  It is during these times of practice that we learn the ways of being peaceful amidst pain.


And it is that way of being that we then carry with us off the mat, away from the canvas, after we take off our running shoes.  It is that way of being that keeps us calm when someone cuts us off in traffic, that prevents our day from being "ruined" when unexpected events re-arrange our entire schedule.  It is the calm we can keep and feel  in our hearts even as we remember our most painful memories or see the suffering of someone else.


How many times throughout the day do you turn away from suffering?  How many times do you mindlessly grab that extra piece of food to appease a stressful thought-train or back off on a workout because it is starting to test the body?  


Can you - without pushing yourself into further suffering - play with discomfort instead of automatically doing whatever you can to move into comfort?


No right or wrong path.  Just exploration.  Just being.




Lisa Wilson2 Comments