This week, I have a challenge regarding discomfort. But first, a bit on the subject.
Discomfort is prevalent in all aspects of life, in varying amounts. Whether the intense pain of breaking a bone or the mild annoyance of a mosquito bite, we all face unpleasant things over the course of life. But what if we could somehow learn to deal with the unpleasantness, and learn to embrace it instead of running away from it? If you improved your ability to handle mild distress, wouldn't life be more enjoyable?
This skill is crucial for creating new habits such as writing or exercising on a daily basis. While these activities are definitely rewarding, oftentimes they require going through some discomfort to complete the work. In today's day and age, we can run from this unpleasantness to easier tasks like checking social media, checking email, or watching tv. But, the things that truly matter in our life, and have the power to positively impact our lives, or the lives of those around us are rarely comfortable. Therefore, it is important to learn how to work through discomfort.
So, back to the challenge. In order to learn how to deal with discomfort, you don't need to run an ultramarathon or write a best selling novel. Instead, we can use simple tasks to train the skill, and then apply it to things that matter. The task I created is to brush your teeth every day with your non-dominant hand (left hand if you're right-handed, right hand if you're left handed). Starting next Thursday, June 1 I will be brushing my teeth every day for a month with my left hand, and I challenge you to do the same. Although brushing your teeth with a different hand may seem trivial, it is a small task that most people already do twice a day. Therefore, you don't need to carve out any extra time in your daily routine, just switch hands and you're ready to go.
Even if you don't want to go an entire month, even going for a few days allows plenty of opportunity to watch the urge to run from discomfort arise, acknowledge it, and then continue to do the activity that makes you uncomfortable. And if brushing your teeth isn't a challenge you'd like to do, I encourage you to find other ways to practice dealing with discomfort. Talk to a new person at work or school, tell someone how you really feel about them, or even step out the door and go for a short run.
Even though the discomfort we face in our daily lives varies from barely noticeable to the extreme, the basic method of dealing with it remains the same.
Regardless of how you practice dealing with discomfort, I guarantee you will be better off for it. I wish you the best of luck.
Photo is of the mountains in Death Valley, from a trip I took through the Western US at the end of Summer 2015. Feel free to write in the comments below if you'll be doing the challenge, and how it's been going for you!
Question (from c):Just wondering from other peoples experiences.... is it good/bad to use yoga as a vice?I think its what I might have been doing last month (though there was also a 30 day challenge going on at the studio) and things were great! I was feeling so good.but I'm taking some time away from the studio this month with work/school/moving and my life seems to be falling apart.
Short answer:We call it a daily practice. It is no more a vice than brushing your teeth. Try not brushing your teeth for a month, and see what happens.
This is where the buddhists really seem to have some insight that isn't felt as fully in the yoga community.For the buddhists, the purpose of practice is the relieve the individual, and all beings everywhere of the suffering caused by the neurotic, conditioned mind. That is pretty much the whole deal. there is no promise of a 'yoga butt', no promise of a stronger back, or more flexible hips. It focuses on the fact that we are tortured by our minds, all of us, and the only way out is through consistent practice. The mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If you don't take serious time to train it, it will probably be the latter.
Patanjali says something similar too, in Yoga Sutra 1.14
About a year ago, I began to notice things. Waking up from a very vivid dream, I would wonder at the difference between dreams and reality. I started to see that the world I lived in in my mind was quite subjective. I began to pay attention to my bad habits instead of purposely overlooking or justifying them. I began to desire deep change.
I am writing this now because I want to challenge myself to be more awake and more alive. I wish to stop wasting my precious time on this planet and learn to embrace myself with compassion and strength.
I struggle with procrastination. I waste time because I am afraid - of failure, of not getting what I want, of criticism, and of simply being uncomfortable. I procrastinate because I am terrified of discomfort.
Recently, this root of fear is easily exposed - at the subconscious drop of a hat, my stomach is in knots, my heart is racing, my hands tremble. It's very physical. In those moments, I may have no conscious idea why I feel these physical symptoms, but I feel that something below the surface is crying out to me, "I'm afraid! Let's run - let's go hide in a safe place." I notice that I could be sitting at my workstation and attempting a simple task, and suddenly like this I begin to feel very nervous and ill.
I want to learn to say to myself, "you are safe. Nothing can truly harm you. Take the sweet and the bitter in equal measure and with gratitude. Don't avert your eyes - look carefully at this fear, name it, befriend it. Embrace it tenderly. Take care of it. It doesn't know any better."