Some years ago, as I was just beginning a meditation practice, I committed to a three-day meditation workshop in Manhattan. As I placed my nametag on and smiled warmly at the fellow attendees, I remember noticing the altar on stage.
It was beautiful. Colorful fall flowers surrounded the elevated structure as the Earth tones were a reminder of the harvest season, as well as the cyclical growth of life. Mala beads, Buddha statues, healing crystals, and OM symbols covered the altar as sacred symbols of a philosophy that I was drawn to; a practice and belief system that made sense to me.
I loved examining these offerings as they served to remind me not only of the path that I wanted to walk, but of the kind of person I wished to be.
We often abandon ourselves when we don’t “feel good.” We seek to feel better because we are often guided to believe that it is “bad” not to feel positive emotions. On that crisp fall day in New York City, the workshop began with a round of “OM.” That felt good.
As the last vibration rang in the distance, we silently and collectively meditated. That felt good too.
The speaker then asked us, what really brought us to this gathering. He explained that over the next three days, we would explore this question. During the first lunch break on day one, I logically made a mental list of all the reasons why it was impractical for me to attend a 3-day workshop. I took the train back to my Long Island home and did not finish out the first day.
Looking back, the answer to that question of why I was there…didn’t feel good. Exploring the uncomfortable was not what I was seeking. I was seeking escape. I wanted to feel good while having a powerful or even mystical meditation experience during a collective three-day meditation practice. I wanted to feel I was evolving and for my weekend to commence in a state of bliss.
Why We Have To Find Comfort In The Uncomfortable
Since that day, I’ve attended many workshops, have become committed to a yoga practice, and have even become an instructor. I’ve sat next to countless people who want to awaken. They want to feel better, but understand that in order for that to happen they must first find comfort in the uncomfortable.
We are inundated with tips and ideas of how to stay positive and feel good, and yet we still don’t. Interestingly enough, at these healing gatherings where people go to feel better, they share their pain, their stories, their fears, and their most human traits. As this sharing evolves, people begin to feel less odd, less alone, and less pressure for optimism.
The practice of yoga is one area of self- discovery that has shown me exactly what it feels like to breathe through the uncomfortable—to welcome what lies beneath those feelings.
The Pose Begins The Moment You Want To Leave It
Just as I felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave the meditation workshop years ago, very often in our yoga practice, as soon as we begin to feel uncomfortable, we want to come out of the pose.
Our perception is often that we’re not supposed to feel pain or discomfort and we rush to make it all better. The process of any practice of self-care lies in healing the whole person. Healing takes time. We do not learn asana, read a few issues of Yoga Journal, and come to a place of healing. Just as we practice yoga, breathe through the uncomfortable, and find space in our body, we also find healing as we sit in the fullness of even our most painful emotions.
Each time we practice, we go a bit deeper, awakening to the tension in our mind and body. We begin to breathe through discomfort rather than resisting and coming out of the posture.
Move to Improve: Finding Space for Change
Our bodies are like computers; they store memory. We hold memory in our muscles, tissues, and our internal organs contain residue of past suffering. We may manifest this residue as illness, physical pain, or emotional distress. Yoga helps stuck energy move throughout the body.
Very often, the discomfort that we feel in a posture is a blockage of energy or residue that is trying to flow freely. Think of staying in the posture as a means of moving to improve and find space for fluidity. Transformation can only occur in the practice of least resistance to discomfort.
Millimeters Become Miles
In my own desire for healing, I have practiced energy work in many forms. Many of them, however well-intentioned, were based on the idea that something needed to go away; a physical pain, emotional state, or a particular mindset. My intention was always to change or banish it in order to feel better.
That is how many of us are generally conditioned to view things. Very often, we find temporary periods of relief, but the symptoms we wanted to go away would reform themselves over time.
After cultivating a yoga and meditation practice, learning energy healing therapy methods, and finding spiritual teachers who resonate with my desire to feel my life, I learned not to banish every negative emotion instantly. Healing lies in never abandoning ourselves. Just as a small ripple in the ocean is not separate, our unhealed aspects are not separate parts of our whole.
Our experience of transformation is never complete, as we are continually challenged to grow and expand. Finding comfort in the uncomfortable, breathing through resistance, and allowing ourselves to be whole are millimeters that can become miles both in our practice and in our lives.
When grapes turn,
To wine, they long for our ability to change.
When stars wheel
Around the North Pole,
they are longing for our growing consciousness.