Touching Discomforts

The Buddhist Meditation Teacher, Pema Chodron, has been a source of inspiration and guidance to me for a number of years now. In her book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, she outlines steps that she's used to become freer from her entanglements. No doubt, we all have old habits and fears that we wish we could be freed from.

We all experience things in life that we feel we just can't bear. How many times do we say to ourselves, "no, I don't want to go there" when faced with unpleasant memories that cause knots in our stomach? How often do we find ourselves planning our daily to-do lists and thinking, "ugh, I don't want to work on that task today. Can't it wait." What Pema suggested that was so compelling to me was:

"... take an interest in your pain and fear. Move closer, lean in, get curious, even for a moment experience the feelings beyond labels, beyond good or bad. Welcome them. Invite them. Do anything that helps melt the resistance."

She writes that her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, "described the basic practice [of meditation] as being completely present. [He] emphasized that it allowed for our neuroses to come to the surface. It was not, as he put it, 'a vacation from irritation.'"

Most often, we don't want to see that neurosis rising to the surface of our minds. "Why can't it remain buried forever," we wish. "I don't want to go there," we shout internally. But Pema suggests that in "going there" we can actually begin the process of destroying the seed itself. She writes: 

"In this very lifetime, I have what it takes to change the movie of my life so that the same things don't keep happening to me. It does seem the same things keep coming back to trigger the same feelings in us until we've made friends with them. Our attitude can be that we keep getting another chance, rather than that we're just getting another bad deal. ... [When confronted with yet another neuroses rising to the surface,] our repetitive suffering does not come from [the] uncomfortable sensation ... [rather] it comes from rejecting our own energy when it comes in a form we don't like. It comes from continually strengthening habits of grasping and aversion and distancing ourselves. ... But if we choose to practice by acknowledging, pausing, abiding with the energy, and then moving on, the power of this is not just that it weakens old habits but that it burns up the propensity for these habits altogether." 

Pema shared an experience she had when she found herself overtaken by a deep anxiety. She went to her teacher to ask for advice. After describing the feelings she was experiencing in her body, her teacher exclaimed, "... that's the Dakini Bliss, ... a high level of spiritual bliss." Pema writes:

"I thought, 'Wow, this is great!' And I couldn't wait to feel that intensity again. And do you know what happened? When I eagerly sat down to practice [meditation], of course, since the resistance was gone, so was the anxiety. ... I had been making the sensation bad. ... But when my teacher said, 'Dakini Bliss,' it completely changed the way I looked at it."

If the promise of yoga is liberation, then we must first be willing to touch discomforts. At the physical level, it is uncomfortable to do yoga asana practice. On the mental level, it is uncomfortable to sit in meditation and pause when our mind is telling us "get up and go eat that piece of cake and scroll through Facebook." And we can reframe the way we are looking at these experiences, as they may just be leading us to the highest level of spiritual bliss.

As much as I applaud myself for getting things done in order to keep Keoni Movement Arts moving forward, there are a good number of times when I procrastinate and just don't want to do the next task. The result of course is that the resistance increases, the guilt piles up, and the task remains undone. But as I learned in this article on why we procrastinate, the best thing one can do for one's self at such times is to forgive and have compassion for one's self. We can also do what the Buddhist meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg says, "just begin again." Touching the energy, having compassion, and beginning again are the keys to loosening the resistance. They are the keys that open the door to liberation. 

U.S. Senator Cory Booker said:

"People who get comfortable of mind and intellect get dull. People who get comfortable in their spirit, they miss what they were created for. ... I have come to learn in my life, to embrace discomfort, because it's a pre-condition to service.  I've come to realize to embrace fears because if you can move through fear you find out that fear is a pre-condition to discovery. I've learned in my life to embrace frustration, because when you get really frustrated, that is a pre-condition to incredible break-throughs. ... take the more difficult road. ..."

May your touching your discomforts lead you to further liberation from old habits and fears. 

May you touch discomforts for the benefit of all beings everywhere.