Using Discomfort to Confront the Habitual
When I decided that I was going to pack up my life and move across the country without the promise of anything, the most common response I got was “CONGRATULATIONS!” It was so interesting to me because I felt like I was failing hard. Why would people want to congratulate me on that? Way back in January, I set my intention for the year: to show up in every situation with courage. Courageous is not a word I would use to describe myself, so I wanted to cultivate that quality and learn to act from this place. The courageous path is very often the harder one. It means making some very difficult choices without the assurance that what happens on the other side will be good or better or happier or easier. This has been how the yoga shows up in my daily life; my practice is not limited to my mat, it expands to the whole of my reality. When things completely and utterly fall apart, when life gets very hard, can I find the courage to stay inside of immense discomfort long enough to discover my truth? I’m learning the lessons of discomfort and how to advocate for myself inside of that discomfort.
For a while, I felt like my purpose in staying with discomfort was to prove that I was strong enough to weather the storm (first, who am I trying to prove my strength to; second, why do I feel the need to prove anything to anyone; third, why do I believe that I don’t have strength to begin with). Many of us have heard and probably believe the idea of pushing through and past discomfort because that’s where change happens. I want us all to reframe that. Discomfort is the place where we have the ability to change, but it doesn’t have to come from a forceful and cruel way of interacting with the self. We can look at discomfort as a battle zone where we accumulate scar tissue that turns into armor, hardening us. The longer we stay, the longer we can survive under difficult circumstances, the more we prove our strength and our worth. This stems from a learned way of seeing the self: you are not enough. The “push mentality” will do that. Whether it’s from outside or inside sources, the push mentality will say that no matter how hard you try or how much you do, it will never be enough. I have lived most of my life inside of the push and, at least from my experience, that hardening solidifies these patterns of acting out-of-sync with my integrity and my truth. Eventually acting in a way or living inside of circumstances that don’t align with your higher truth will break you down. So this is where the work begins. This is where you must start to confront your truth and your habits.
This time around, I’m discovering that discomfort is the space where we are confronted with who we are, the choices that we make. We are given an opportunity to change or to fall back into the same patterns that led us to discomfort. It’s a chaotic space. Hard times mean being faced with some equally hard truths. Courage looks like acknowledging that something is not right and choosing to do something about it instead of standing by and allowing it to continue. Because I tend to be pretty attuned to my own truth, when I continually align myself in circumstances that are no longer supporting my integrity and my higher purpose, it effects everything about me. I think this is not too off the mark for anyone else. A few years back when I was in less-than-ideal working circumstances I actually started waking up with weird patches of a rash. That’s pretty extreme, but chronic stress will do crazy things to the body, heart, and mind. Now a few years later and leagues deeper in life experience, this year has been a mainly uncomfortable one where I have had to face one very hard truth: I am afraid to stand up for myself.
I don’t like confrontation. It makes me incredibly uncomfortable. When I have to, I can argue with the best of them (Gemini problems) but it’s not my preferred method of communication. I would rather acquiesce and figure out how to deal with less than ideal circumstances than cause a conflict over differing ways of seeing the world. Confrontation that has to deal with outside circumstances, standing up for other people, being their advocate, I can do. When I have to confront myself about my own happiness and well being, the conversation is a million and ten times harder. So my mantra for myself has been, “Be brave, strong heart. You are more than enough. You are worth it.”
The last six months have been full of confrontation with myself: my goals, my dreams, my hopes, the imprint of goodness I want to leave on the world, the positions I’m putting myself in that compromise my ability to do that. I’ve known that I have wanted to leave New York since December of 2016. Just so we are all on the same page, it is June 2018. New York was never going to be my forever home. But why did it take a year and a half to actually make the move? So many things happened in that year and a half that made me feel like I should stay, like I had something keeping me here - mostly, what I perceived as other peoples expectations. Every time something good happened or another opportunity came up that would anchor me in the city, I saw it as a sign from the universe that I was traveling on the right path. Maybe it was and I needed all of these things to happen. Maybe I needed everything to fall apart because the unbearable discomfort finally forced me to see clearly how I was compromising my own happiness, integrity, and truth to make other people feel comfortable. I decided to move because I had absolutely nothing else to stay for, and that sense of being completely empty meant that I was also completely free.
I know that I am not alone when I express the challenges that these last few months have presented me. If you are in a truly uncomfortable space, what are the lessons you are learning about who you are and how you show up? It’s enough to recognize the pattern because that awareness opens you up to the opportunity to choose something else. Be brave, strong hearts. You are more than enough. You are worth it.
Next time on the blog...
Advocating for yourself: the lesson that six months of discomfort and courage finally taught me.