Mindful Moment: Being uncomfortable

January 15, 2017 | Julie Luzarraga

We are all uncomfortable at some points throughout our days and our lives.  Without experiencing being uncomfortable, we would not know what it is to be comfortable.  Think about having a cramp in your leg.  Most likely, you stretch your leg out, roll the ankle and work out that cramp.  The stretch feels so good because there was an uncomfortable feeling to start with.  Comfort and discomfort cannot exist without the other.

We can be a little uncomfortable or a lot.  Major surgery is big uncomfortable.  Losing your job, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship – these are big uncomfortable periods in life.  Daily we experience small discomforts – an itch, feeling put on the spot, hearing feedback we don’t like.  Think of what makes you uncomfortable.

Whether our uncomfortable feelings are big or small, the common reaction is try to make it comfortable again.  We have an itch; we scratch.   If we feel put on the spot, we navigate away by changing the subject or checking out.  Don’t like the feedback?  We rationalize it as someone else’s problem.  It is human nature to gravitate towards what feels comfortable.

The problem is when we get into the habit of bypassing uncomfortable.  Hard and uncomfortable times are inevitable.  It is important to learn how to handle them.  How we handle these times, is really how we do life.  Sometimes it is as simple as scratching an itch.  But, if we continue to rationalize away feedback because it makes us uncomfortable, it becomes more problematic.  If we haven’t paid attention, when big uncomfortable things come we don’t know how to respond.  When we don’t know how to respond and it gets real uncomfortable we tend to numb and distract in unhealthy ways. It could be drinking too much, smoking, over eating, judging others, etc.  Whatever it is that you do when you are uncomfortable could be harmful and also make it difficult to know when you are comfortable.  We can’t numb out or distract from only the negative feelings.

This week, practice noticing what you do when you are uncomfortable.  Start with small things throughout the day. What do you do when your back hurts or you have a headache?  What do you do when you are disappointed with someone or frustrated with a colleague?   Common responses are judging others, numbing through food or substances, or using other distractions.  Do you get on your cell phone when you feel uncomfortable?

Just notice this week and see if there is anything you want to change.  Try not to judge yourself.  Rather, you are educating yourself about you.  Bring mindfulness to being uncomfortable so that when big uncomfortable moments come you can respond with mindfulness versus reacting mindlessly.

Mindful moments are short practices to be used throughout your week to relax, integrate and center yourself.  Inspired by the wisdom traditions and science, mindful moments are meant to be accessible and simple enough for anyone to practice.  Many teachers and leaders in integrative medicine have influenced our approach to mindful moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”  Pema Chodron would say it is “practicing in the gaps.”  Look for the weekly mindful moment every Monday.  May it support you in finding your center to live life to the fullest.

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