If my 23+ years of studying yoga and meditation have taught me anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter one bit what you do on the mat (or cushion). The ability to do a handstand does not make you a yogi, and the inclination to attend silent retreats does not make you at one with the world. Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less if someone can do a scorpion variation, or sit in lotus for hours on end, if when they come away from their practice, they haven’t taken those valuable lessons of flexibility, strength, compassion and understanding off the mat and into everyday life.
And one of the most valuable lessons yoga and meditation have taught me is the importance of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean being an idiot, and injuring yourself by forcing your body into a posture it’s not ready for (although, obviously, I’ve been there too). It means using a compassionate and inquisitive approach to seek out your personal limits, and then looking beyond them, to explore what is on the other side of fear. Yes physically on the mat, but more importantly, in your life off it.
Now more than ever, we need to look at the things that make us uncomfortable. We must be willing to challenge ourselves, to challenge our preconceptions and our unconscious thoughts and behaviours, to seek out people and circumstances that don’t feel easy. To confront the dark places (both internal and external) that we instinctively want to shy away from. To step into the unknown.
Because when you hide from the tough issues, when you play safe, when you steer clear of risk when you avoid difficult conversations at home and at work, you fail to live life fully. You fail to challenge yourself (or others) to grow.
We must be willing to change our relationship to change, fear and the unknown. Because by stepping into these places, is how we thrive and progress as people and as societies.
The Stoic philosophers believed that you should intentionally place yourself in situations of discomfort, in an effort to increase your comfort range as well as to make you value your moments of safety, making it easy for you to always consider yourself comfortable after enough practice.
So let’s get uncomfortable…