Plush cushions of discomfort
Question 7: How comfortable are you with the uncomfortable?
Practising this question has been very real: it has been observing and reading on the moments of discomfort but also allowing myself to experience my own discomfort rather than fighting or fixing it.
The moments of truth are there in everyday life, so you do not necessarily have to go through a particularly rough period to practice ‘the human discomfort’ : that is, if you’re curious of what the rabbit holes might lead to.
The habit building exercise in your life or the current project you’re dedicated to: you’ve put time and energy into it, you have seen gradual progress and kept going and you’ve also thought through and learnt from setbacks. There has been highs and lows, detours and confusion on the road. And the outcome is not there (now) and (yet).
That behavioural loop in your relationship with the colleague, friend or family member where you’re aware that actions and reactions follow each other without much change. Annoyed at him/her or yourself and sometimes the context that reinforces the whole thing.
Slightest irritation after a quite enjoyable, busy and long day — the kitchen is messy and it’s late. Tomorrow I’ve to make that call I’m not keen on. What to do for the last few hours of the day, get some rest or move my body?
The tricky part of the discomfort : the fire gets brighter as you feed it with your thoughts and your efforts. The more you run away from the approaching darkness, the faster you find yourself immersed in a pitch black room. Seemingly smart solutions of distraction and stimulation do not last very long either. They’re effective when used to ease the impact of a strong crash to your mood, definitely not reliable and sustainable though.
Beyond the fighting and distraction, I observed what else is out there as a response to discomfort. Acting like the discomfort does not exist is almost a postmodern art form : this one is widely available every second on our social media feeds. It might be quite the panacea for some, and we would be lying if we claim to never pretend — still, it’s a solution that creates its own problems and I’m looking for a ‘clean fix’. Oh, and if you are honestly saying that your life is all comfort without a blemish of uneasiness : I invite you to remember that the heart rate monitors show a single line without any movement by the time of death.
Sitting in discomfort. No shit, I hear you say.
How long? With whom? Where? Is there a course, what’s the simplest way to learn and who’s the best trainer? I can guess the search engine attempts for redemption.
And it reminds me of my own search: I had dreamed of going to a vipassana retreat in Nepal around May 2020. Ironically, within a year, I understood that my life was preparing a ‘personalized’ vipassana retreat for me at home in London. Sitting in discomfort was not necessarily an experience to plan and pack for with the anticipation of ‘ higher consciousness’. I was to lose a loved one, let go of people and things and stumble as I move forward.
Sitting in discomfort and moving forward with discomfort. Well, this post has been absolutely disappointing, I hear you say.
Not to worry though, as I’ve saved the best news to share as I close my rambling for the day.
“Beginning again and again is the actual practice, not a problem to be overcome so that one day we can come to the ‘real’ meditation.”
From Loving Kindness] by Sharon Salzberg
There is no ‘real’ moments of peace awaiting us on the Tibetan hills. Fireworks of the utmost happiness is not scheduled for the morning when you’ll realize that dream.
The discomfort can transform into both, as paradoxical as it sounds — let it be there.