Skip to main content

Surrendering to Discomfort

Something that comes up a lot in yoga classes is the idea of settling into discomfort and being okay with it.  It'll most often come up in a challenging pose like utkatasana (chair pose or fierce pose).  As you breathe in the pose, quads and shoulders burning, sweat possibly beading on your forehead, your teacher leisurely walks around extolling the virtues of having your breath and mind stay as steady and calm as though you were in savasana.

It's always a good thing to cultivate - finding the comfort (or at least the tolerance) in discomfort.  It's one of the most easily transferable teachings to life off the mat as well.  This is also a lesson that I continually find myself needing to be retaught.

A quality I very much like about myself is that when something comes up - a disagreement, an offense, whatever it might be - my preferred way is to talk about it, deal with it, and move on as soon as possible.  I don't like to play games, draw things out, indulge in drama - I like to fix and forget.  This works great for short term, fixable problems, but not so much for other problems in life.  Those long-term problems, of which everyone has their share, are much harder for me to navigate so gracefully.  (This is probably in large part due to a lack of patience, but that's another blog post...)

When it comes to certain more long-term situations, such as a loved one (or yourself) struggling with chronic health problem, addiction, depression, or perhaps a drawn out divorce or custody battle, you need to truly tap into that reserve of strength that gives you a sense of ease amidst your efforts.  It requires patience to take things day by day and to not get discouraged when things become particularly challenging or drawn-out.

A friend of mine and I were talking about a few of these situations yesterday and we discussed this very question of how to live life day to day while enduring something particularly challenging that doesn't seem to have a clear end in sight.  How do you surrender to the situation without giving up the fight it requires to get through it?  How do you embrace acceptance without, to use her brilliant word, feeling like it's the same thing as approval?  So many of these yogi buzzwords we use, like surrender, accept, and finding "ease amidst effort," can seem at odds with our feelings of struggle over the situation we're in.  At the same time, it's so easy to let yourself slip into the deep pool of self-pity if you don't find that inner strength and presence of mind to find some level of acceptance of what is.

As I wrote last week, we can only control so much.  Refusal or inability to accept that very what is is cited as one of the chief causes of human suffering.

Despite how challenging it seems, I do believe it's very possible to surrender to what is while still working hard to change the situation.  It requires a certain amount of non-attachment to the outcome, otherwise you can drive yourself crazy if your labors don't produce the result you want.  I also believe it's possible to accept a situation without approving of it.  Oftentimes, what makes us miserable during dark times in our lives is our inability to acknowledge the truth of the situation.

By fighting against something we can't change, however, we just wind up wasting our energy, making ourselves miserable, falling into the depths of self-pity (which are very hard to escape), and worst of all, letting our challenges define us.

Surrender and acceptance are merely tools at our disposal to maintain our sanity during crazy-making situations.  In the same way that people extoll the virtues of forgiveness by assuring you that it doesn't mean you approve of behavior (there's that word again) but that you free yourself from the burden, surrender and acceptance to a hard situation merely frees you from the futile struggle against what is unchanging. By doing that, you have more energy to give toward changing what you can.


Popular posts from this blog

The Magic of Brain Gym

I cannot believe I haven't blogged about Brain Gym yet!  That is absolutely bananas, and also sort of great because after a few years of incorporating the little bits and pieces I learned from Shari (founder & director of Karma Kids Yoga and the only boss I've ever had with whom I've also done crazy things like the pose on the right, which she named "fart neck"), I finally took the "Brain Gym 101" course this past weekend to learn more in depth about the what's and wherefore's.

Brain Gym is a lot of things, but what it is primarily is a way to facilitate better learning through movement.  Although it started in the field of education and helping children learn better, everyone can benefit from it.  You may be reading and writing just fine, but do you have a situation where you struggle to communicate your needs clearly to a partner, a friend, a co-worker?  Do you struggle with random bouts of unexplained anxiety that you struggle to release…

Home is Where the Heart is

One of the most cloyingly saccharine cliches of all time?  Yes.  True?  Also yes.  Sort of.

It's been an incredibly eventful three weeks.  At the end of June, my sister underwent major abdominal surgery to repair a major diastasis caused by two back-to-back large pregnancies.  On that same day Marc and I headed up on the Megabus to Massachusetts for a fun long July 4th weekend of family (including our two delicious little LeVasseur nephews!), wine, fun, and going through endless boxes of nostalgia from his childhood as his parents prepare to put their gorgeous house on the market.  The baby pictures!  The metric tons of books! The middle school poetry!  Oh, the earnest and terrible middle school poetry...

Then last weekend, I flew to SC for a whirlwind celebration of the twins' third birthday with family (third!!!), helping out my sister, who is recovering beautifully in every sense of the word.  Just shy of three days of nonstop work, play, and extreme highs and lows of overs…

Health Scare

I had a whole draft of a blog in my head all made up, but it has been a day.  And now that I've come down from all the life-stuff of the day, I'm left to ponder with a growing, nauseating dread what 217 elected representatives voted for today.

Forgive the pun-y and ridiculous title.  I'm just so afraid that this is our country now.

In case you're wondering who voted how, check out this helpful page in the NYTimes.

Listen - we all know Obamacare wasn't perfect.  But I know several people who would literally not be alive today without it.  I wouldn't have health insurance without it - and you better believe I use my health insurance.

Instead of having a group of adults who can intelligently discuss policy and talk about improving our health care system, we have a group of children who stick their fingers in their ears and simply shout about destroying any bit of legacy President Obama may have had.  They've denigrated this so deeply that there are literally p…