The Discomfort Zone…
It’s not a place we talk about often. Certainly not a place we strive to be.
But it is a very important place.
It’s possible that our extreme desire for comfort keeps us a little too protected. We successfully avoid situations where we are forced to grow, where there is uncertainty, where we don’t already feel adept and safe. This can make us reactive, entitled and a little lazy.
Not to mention what our desire for comfort — and convenience — has done to the planet…but that’s a topic for another time.
In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama offer his sage wisdom on building resilience against mental/emotional suffering. He says:
“Like physical illness, preventative measures are the best way. Yes, if some disease has already developed, then there’s no other choice but to take medicine. So similarly, once a person develops a strong negative emotion, like anger or jealousy, it is very difficult to counter it at that moment. So the best thing is to cultivate your mind through practice so that you can learn to prevent it from arising in the first place.”
By getting into our Discomfort Zone, we can practice non-reactivity, observe how a feeling or sensation changes and meet the moment in reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.
You might be familiar with these qualities in your yoga practice, certainly in your meditation and asana practices.
This is one of the skills Yoga helps to develop — being with what is, as it is, without immediately discharging it, trying to fix or distract from it.
Here are a few ways to strengthen this skill, like a muscle, on your mat:
Practice meditation — anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes — in complete stillness. Sit with the itch, the wanting to fidget, and watch the feeling or sensation change, maybe even disappear.
When in a yoga pose, stay even when it becomes (safely) intense. Warmth and tingling in the thighs in Warrior II? Awkward and humbling in the arm balance? Again, stay with it and watch the sensations change and move.
In Savasana, resist the impulse to move immediately at the “end” of the time. Notice that some of your urges are habitual rather than conscious choice.
How does aversion to discomfort show up in the rest of your life? Especially considering the attitudes and actions surfacing in our country right now, it's crucial for us to stretch out the comfort of complacency. What's one thing you could do -- make a phone call? Write a letter? Volunteer? Organize a group?
Why does any of this matter? What good does it do to go into a discomfort zone? Isn’t that opposite of what Yoga is for?
As my teacher Mary often says, Yoga is not a practice to make us feel better, it is an opportunity to feel.
Additionally, Yoga is a practice of Action, not just witnessing.
This is a whole-life path. It builds mental, emotional AND physical strength and flexibility.
And goodness knows we need it.