Friday, June 10, 2011

Sitting with Our Discomfort--and the Discomfort of Others

Christine Valters Paintner has a great post on getting comfortable with our discomfort. She talks about a yoga practice, yin yoga, where participants hold a pose for a much regular time than most yoga (3-20 minutes). Yikes. I'm usually lucky if I can hold the pose for much longer than a few seconds after I compose my body into the pose. Usually I attain the pose and topple over or out.

Yes, I have work to do. I have work to do with other areas that make me feel discomfort too. Yesterday I wrote a post about all the people who come through my office with various problems. It's all I can do to sit quietly while they explain the problem. The super-efficient part of me wants to leap right in with a possible solution--often before they finish the explanation.

You can imagine how I am with problems that have no solution.

Christine notes, "We each have a threshold of tolerance for uncomfortable or painful experiences. When we stay within this range we can be present to what life brings us in the moment. When we drop below our threshold we become numb to what is happening and seek out things that help us avoid the pain, like drugs or overwork. When we move above the threshold our anxiety kicks into overdrive and we feel panicked, unsettled, or ill at ease."

Her post made me think of the phrase "sitting with our discomfort." I need to learn how to invite discomfort in to have a cup of tea. I need to learn how to spend a day with my discomfort. What would it be like to invite my discomfort to live in my house?

The great spiritual masters have always done this and lived to tell us of their discoveries. Think of the desert mothers and fathers, the founders of religious orders (and their modern practioners), the social justice warriors who have lived with discomfort for a lifetime so that future generations could live without that particular discomfort.

So, a spiritual discipline to work on: sitting with my discomfort. And maybe I should add holding a yoga pose for longer than a few seconds. I've got all sorts of ligaments that need limbering.

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