Friday, August 17, 2012


I've been thinking about discomfort lately. Well, I've always thought about it , really, but my understanding is gaining more depth.

I've always had this love/hate relationship with comfort. At first, it was physical comfort that I related to: what kind of house I lived in, whether the kitchen had the right appliances to be able to make my favorite foods, whether or not I had a car. I would crave these things, and then once I had them become so overwhelmed with the monotony of the life it took to sustain them, that I would let them go (sometimes some other times more) and move on.  And it would happen all over again.

I understand that the reason I've lived in so many different places is in some attempt to stave off that routine, mundane existence that seems to show up without fail after a few months of being in a place. I'd play house for a while, find a job, stick to a schedule- all in an attempt to create stability. And as soon as it was there, I'd be sick of it already.

And during these times, I'd more or less been oblivious to whether or not I was experiencing internal discomfort. Or I wouldn't think of it like that, anyway. I just thought I had gypsy blood- or something more poetic than an inability to cope.

These past two years or so, however, have been sobering. Literally and otherwise. I actually began to look inside with openness. It's not that I'd never looked inside (I spent most of my time in there). It's that I was looking at stories that led to stories that led to stories. There was hardly a moment of present reality. I didn't know what was going on "here" or "now".

Beginning a regular yoga practice was the first thing that brought me to the present. It taught me to pay more attention to my body. To breathe (what in the world did I do before I learned about my breath?). To stay there, in a pose, in the pain or discomfort of it, and to experience what it felt like. What were the sensations? What was it like to breathe into that space? To open up some space around the discomfort? To accept my experience as it was without judgement?

And discomfort took on an entirely new meaning to me. Now it was internal. And here and now. It had nothing to do with a juicer. As I began to meditate regularly, I began looking at all the mental and spiritual discomfort as well. And the same questions arose. What did it feel like to open up some space around the fear? To let go of the stories and experience the sensations instead?

So I began to seek out these experiences of discomfort: going to yoga class and meditating regularly- even going on meditation retreats. And I still do this.

Four times a week I go to yoga class. I work or pay to go. I put myself in a hot room for 90 minutes and stay present with my body as it protests, creaks, aches, stretches, thanks me, and any other number of things. I listen to my thoughts, which suggest, after every posture, that I should take child's pose during the next posture because it is too difficult. Yet when the posture changes, I don't rest. I do it. And yes, it is uncomfortable. Sweat gets in my eyes. I sometimes feel nauseated or dizzy. But ultimately, I feel. I feel sensations and thoughts and the present moment. And afterwards, I feel like a million bucks. Stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

And then I get on the cushion and sit. Willingly. I sit for 30 minutes or an hour. I experience anxiety or fear or anger or happiness or confusion, and I don't get up until the bell rings. I sit with achy hips or legs falling asleep or tired eyes. My thoughts, here too, suggest that I get up. Because it is uncomfortable.  But I stay.

What this is teaching me is to stay. I've always been really good at leaving. At going. At moving on. (Hence what I titled this blog when it first began: Follow the Setting Sun).

In Buddhism, there's something to be said for the rising sun. One explanation elaborates on the beginning of one of the Shambhala chants, "By the confidence of the golden sun of the great east..."

                   Great Eastern Sun:  the primordial dot/now, the present moment  
                   ripe with the possibility of all possible outcomes

And so, I am learning about the value of the rising sun, the present moment. And staying in it. Whether physically or otherwise. 

I realize that if I seek out all of these experiences of discomfort in my life, then why would I shy away when life itself is uncomfortable? Rather, I experience it- all the sensations of life. And I stay here. Because really, where else is there?

1 comment:

E said...

That's a very insightful and hard-earned post, Leslie. It reminds me of the alchemical term "rubedo". I think you might something of value there.