Discomfort. The thing we all try to avoid. Even the thought of it can bring up feelings of anxiety and aversion.
But what if discomfort isn’t such a bad thing? In fact, what if it’s a necessary – and even beautiful – part of life?
Life will always bring challenges. And these may not feel pleasant to experience. Yet if we’re able to meet them with an open mind, they can be powerful opportunities for learning and growth.
Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable
It’s all too easy to label our experiences as good or bad. And when something feels painful or difficult, we can be quick to judge it as negative.
Yet positive or negative is a matter of perspective. Tough situations often hold hidden blessings – from building strength and wisdom to opening new pathways we would never have discovered otherwise.
To find these blessings, acceptance is key. Accepting what we are facing allows us to flow with challenges, rather than against them. Not wasting energy on resistance leads to greater peace and equips us to find solutions.
One of the best ways to support this process is mindfulness meditation. Regular practice can help us to manage our emotions (INTERNAL LINK: Managing Emotions with Mindfulness) and meet life’s ups and downs with more equanimity (INTERNAL LINK: Meditation for Challenging Times). From a calm centre we gain perspective and increase our resilience.
This inner stability also allows us to cultivate curiosity. Being curious is a great antidote to fear and judgement and helps us to relate to situations in new ways. Viewing our experiences inquisitively allows us to find fresh approaches and unexpected outcomes. Try asking yourself what a difficult situation brings up for you – and if there are different ways you could look at it. With practise, we develop inner flexibility and can better ride out any difficulties we face.
Leaning into your edges
Alongside coping with life’s obstacles, it’s good to challenge ourselves inwardly from time to time.
Being in our comfort zone is safe and familiar. And we all need to enjoy the space it gives us to rest and recharge. But staying there all the time can leave us stuck in old patterns and limit our development.
Moving out of our comfort zone and trying unfamiliar things makes us feel engaged and alive. This is where change happens. It’s where we test our vulnerability and develop previously unknown capacities. And it’s how we grow and thrive.
This is all about striking a balance. We need to move out of the safety of the familiar, exploring what may involve fear or hesitation, while not going so far as to be in danger or induce panic.
Finding the balance is a practice of self-attunement. It’s important to move gradually, leaning into our edges rather than diving headfirst. In this way, we learn where our boundaries lie, and can mindfully explore new ways of operating. This process is unique to each one of us. Only by listening inwardly can we discover how far to go.
Once we’ve chartered new territory, it’s important to return to the ease of our comfort zone to recharge before opening out again. This oscillation between expansion and rest is part of the healthy pulse of life, allowing us to grow in a steady, sustainable way.
Over time, this process helps us to evolve. It also builds the skills and awareness that enable us to deal with life’s curveballs when they come along. We still may not welcome difficulties with open arms. But being able to hold with discomfort allows us to respond to challenges with greater fluidity, open more gracefully to them and make the most of the opportunities they bring.