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It's OK to Be Uncomfortable

by Carlo Alcos Nov 22, 2011
It’s all about perspective. We have the ability to use our discomfort to make positive growth.

EACH SUNDAY MORNING at the Shambhala Meditation Center in town is a public meditation practice that runs from 9 am to noon. You can come and go as you please, and at 10:30 there is a tea break during which refreshments are available and you can talk to other guests of the center. It’s a fabulous way to start the day.

I decided to take a seat near the back of the room. I sat in my usual meditative position, which I just learned is called the Burmese position. I meditate mostly with my eyes open, gazing six feet in front with relaxed eyes. It seems counter-intuitive but I find that’s how I focus best. Plus, sometimes when I close my eyes I drift off and do the old “head nod.”

At times I would take note of my own discomfort.

Because I was sitting at the back, I had a peripheral view of other meditators. As I sat I would notice the others shifting periodically in their seats. It wasn’t distracting, it was just on the edge of consciousness. It just was. At times I would take note of my own discomfort. My left hip felt tighter the longer I sat without moving. The long johns I was wearing on this cold winter morning felt a bit constrictive. My back muscles, contracted to keep my back straight and posture upright, felt a little tired.

Sitting in meditation is fairly uncomfortable. Physically speaking, it is not a relaxed position. Mentally speaking, to sit in silence and notice all of the “crazy” thoughts that come and go is far from comfortable. But this is kind of the point, to come to accept the discomfort and learn to work through it. Life can be uncomfortable, sometimes very much so, and practicing the ability to breathe through the discomfort, focus on it, and even ask questions like, “why is this so uncomfortable?” can lead to a shift. Fighting it, I’ve found, only makes the discomfort more intense, which isn’t to say I don’t do that. But the more I practice (and the more consistently I practice) the easier it becomes to sit through tough moments and to just be present and aware.

This can be an invaluable tool when traveling and can radically shift emotions while sitting on a bumpy 16-hour bus ride, dealing with a long layover, or going through homesickness. Check out our 10 meditation techniques for travelers for on-the-road peace.

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