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How to Get Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

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No one likes to wait in line at the bank—do they?

And yet, for better or worse, life is dotted with moments like that—ones we don’t look forward to, but need to get through. Chances are, you’ve already tackled a few of them today. Perhaps you took the trash out in the rain, paid a parking ticket, or lost far too many moments pound-signing your way into an insurance company telephone matrix.

Yikes. That list alone sounds pretty bleak.

If only a fairy godmother could dissolve such moments into nothingness with a wave of her wand. But alas, rough spots are here to stay. The upshot is that how you handle them is entirely up to you.

Mindfulness practice is the closest thing we’ve got to a magic wand. Give it a wave, and you might conjure some fairly astonishing methods for easing the weight of the daily mundane. We find these three reminders to be particularly helpful.

1) Don’t Ask the Uncomfortable to be Comfortable.

“We mistakenly bind ourselves to be content only when life is feeling pleasurable.” — Noah Levine

Some things in life are simply uncomfortable. Many things, in fact. The easy slip we make (often without even seeing it happen) is that we respond to discomfort by evoking a sense of internalized unease. By seamlessly connecting experience and response in a challenging moment, we lose sight of the fact that these are actually two separate things—married as one in our mind.

The trick comes in disentangling the pieces. Comfort needn’t always live with content. And discomfort needn’t always live with discontent. How we react is up to us. What is guaranteed is that discomfort (unfortunately) isn’t leaving the building.

And so, what might arise if we simply allowed for that, and stopped dreading it? Crazy talk? Buddhism says otherwise. Again, Noah Levine: “True happiness exists as the spacious and compassionate heart's willingness to feel whatever is present.”

2) Expect the Mind to Storm. Bring an Umbrella.

“Make peace with worry.” — Panache Desai

When we look through the mindful looking glass at ourselves, boy is it easy to feel unpolished and judge what we find. How tempting it can be to conjure grand delusions of calm, spiritually present teachers so anchored in practice (so unlike us!) that all of their emotional mess must now be clean and tidy.

In truth, no one is without emotional mess. No one is immune from the rough-and-tumble thought patterns that chase us. But with practice, we learn not to run.

Life’s uncomfortable moments immerse us in death, taxes, and everything in between. Often, they trigger crashes of anxiety, fear, anger, or doubt. Instead of judging ourselves for being tossed around by them, we’d do well to step back and watch the nasty weather patterns roll in, notice how they make us feel—and then observe how they roll out again.

3) Care for Yourself.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day.” — Christopher Germer

Life offers no (healthy or advisable) escape hatch from the everyday mundane. We have to keep on truckin’ in the face of the dull and disrupting. And yet, there is no reason for any of us to doggedly endure daily discomforts without relief.

Regardless of whether you actually do it, give yourself permission to want to run screaming out of the pharmacy! Notice that scraping ice off your windshield makes you wince! Laugh at it. Allow for it. It is indeed possible to build our capacity for mental, emotional, and spiritual presence in the face of discomfort, and to hold our own hand at the same time—to gift ourselves the same patience and care we might so easily offer a beloved.

So go ahead, grab the wand. Give it a try.

This post originally appeared on 1440 Multiversity.

1440 Multiversity is the nation’s newest learning destination offering weekend and 5-day immersion learning programs in professional development, personal growth, and health and wellness with world-class faculty in the California redwoods near Santa Cruz.

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