Discomfort. We all experience it. It is a recognition that what is happening is not in accordance with our beliefs about the way things should be. Now, what to do at this moment when that lurking sense of discomfort arises?
In my worst moments, I bear witness to my own avoidance patterns and the many forms that avoidance takes: my remarkable capacity to schedule myself into frantic busyness, to create the next drama out of thin air to distract myself with, to drown myself in social media, to consume food with little to no nutritional value… and did I mention social media? These are a few; and I’m sure there are many others I’m not ready to see.
Most of us have an “out” in these moments of discomfort—the habitual place we go to bypass the reality, the work it would take to confront the discomfort head-on. That “out” comes in the form of anesthetizing with: phones, food, alcohol, drugs, busyness… and whatever yours is.
Rarely are we willing to take the time (and the emotional energy) to move toward the discomfort. To sit down with it and ask it the real questions. Where is it arising from? Where is it located it in my body right now? What is the physical sensation? What does it evoke? What can it teach me? Am I willing to learn from it and if so, what?
In yoga we attend to the body, which is directly related to the five elements; and those five elements are expressed through our environment. In effect, these two bodies are one—the one I’m inhabiting and the one I walk upon. And when I pause to think about “bodily” discomfort, I think about the body of this earth as well. Our current political moment (local and global)—which is helping precipitate our environmental crisis—makes it so tempting to turn to my “out.”
It feels so big, so complex, so bewildering, so beyond my power or control. I reach for those distractions, hoping that someone else who’s got more power than I do will work it out. Or I reach for those distractions because otherwise I’m left sitting with this deep sense of despair that those in power aren’t interested in a solution. They’re not interested in these bodies—the earth’s, or ours.
When Al Gore named his film An Inconvenient Truth he was hassled for it being too… well, inconvenient. Now here we are: Climate change isn’t only imminent; it’s a present reality. And in our discomfort, we turn to those “outs.” Amazon is just so easy. Buying more is the norm. But our “outs” in light of this environmental crisis are exactly what makes the crisis worse. We bypass the discomfort by buying things we don’t need (and soon throw away); our “self-care” entails to-go coffee cups, individually plastic-wrapped salads, plastic bottled kale juice, beauty products, or clothes that have devastating effects on mother earth, and so on.
One of the flip sides of the “discomfort” coin is SUSTAINABILITY. The moment we can stop bypassing our discomfort—taking those “outs”—we also stop buying into (and BUYING) the things that are ultimately harming our earth. In this sense, our willingness to sit with the discomfort when it arises is our promise to BOTH bodies that we are willing to invest in viable, sustainable ways of being and maintaining.
It’s in yoga, this relationship between our approach to discomfort and earth/body sustainability. So I wonder if you’re willing to experiment with me in this advent season. Next time you feel that sense of discomfort arises, observe the “out” you first turn to. Is it an “out” with both a bodily impact and an environmental impact? What happens if you’re willing to sit with the discomfort instead? How many ways are you “practicing sustainability” by doing so? Does buying things equal love expressed?
Advent is a time of expectation; but it’s also a time of taking stock of what nourishes and where we are perhaps over-feeding ourselves: a gentle self-scrutiny that hopefully resonates no matter WHAT your belief system is. This advent, I’m offering a 25-day “challenge” for you to reflect upon what you have, what you’ve been given, where it comes from, and how it’s serving you. Come join me if you’d like in this version of “fasting”—investigating your relationship to the material world, to instant gratification, to consumption.
I’ll be offering one practice a day on my Instagram story. I hope to meet you there.