Wouldn’t it be nice if it were simple? When we sense hunger, we eat. When we feel tired, we sleep. When we feel pain, we stop and assess.
But we make it complicated. When food is available, we eat or don’t eat, because of any number of morality plays we cast ourselves in about the goodness or badness of desires and appetites and worthiness.
We keep ourselves awake artificially.
We push through fatigue and illness and discomfort of all kinds. For all kinds of reasons that can be viewed as good and bad. Endurance is a globally admired trait – and it can also be a lie. It’s possible that what is more true than the choice to endure is the emotion churning beneath it. There may be a tension there between action and feeling that will get expressed somehow, at some point, whether we like it or not, in ways we may not like at all.
My discomfort can only truly be grasped in tiny, tiny slivers of experience.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I am sitting in chair on my day off, reading a book. As I read, I find I am re-reading sentences and have the thought, “This book isn’t really captivating me.” Then I might think, This book should be better. Or: I should have better focus or concentration. Joe liked the book and Joe reads a lot more than me, and has good taste, so am I just not getting it? The thoughts cascade like that, tumbling over one another like they are racing for a finish line, some sort of conclusion my ego can latch onto to make sense of the experience. My ego wants to decide how this fits in with all my other experiences of lack. Aware of a growing discomfort within me, a discomfort I want to squash, perhaps I pick up my phone and distract myself with any number of options there, text someone, scroll a feed, find a video. Or I start looking at how stained the chair is and think about how I should clean it. Maybe I go looking for something to eat or drink, or a chore to do, a person to talk to or unfinished business to complete.
Anything to avoid this sensation welling up in me.
All of that from one experience which was (if I can take five minutes to be with it) is simply this: I want to be captivated and I am not captivated. I am wasting my day off. I am disappointed. And I don’t like feeling disappointed.
What a gift to recognize right then that this feeling is just disappointment. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with or for me. That it’s my day off and I wanted my day off to feel more satisfying than this. Why am I disappointed? I give it a bit more breath and time, I feel what is happening in my body. What does this feeling remind me of? I recognize a feeling and my mind instantly associates it with pleasing others. Oh. I am only reading this book because Joe told me too, and how, actually, from the moment I read the blurb I wondered if it was really a book for me. But I gave it a try. To please Joe and get closer to Joe.
And if I stay even a few seconds more, I realize, I am feeling disappointed because I did not really want to read this book, and I said I would. I did not listen to my own guidance. And this experience is to remind me how I feel when I override my own knowing.
This tiny sliver of discomfort is a message from my being reminding me to take a beat, consider things before I say yes to them. Because if I can’t hear that still small voice about a book, how can I possibly hear it when there is something significant at stake? This little experience is offering me clarity. And when I’m clear in my yes and no, those around me benefit too.
Next time, I can check in faster, and call up this feeling more readily when a similar situation occurs, and be able to say with love and humor, “Thanks for the recommendation but it doesn't sound like it’s for me.” Or alternately, it’s a big intuitive yes: “Thanks, that sounds like something I’d really enjoy.”
I do believe in going in to get out. Taking time with little slivers of discomfort allows me to start to see the beliefs I have built up and when I do so, they do shift and occasionally even dissolve.
If you want to try this for yourself, a few pieces of advice:
One, I suggest you avoid going after the big topics like illness, relationships or money. Take this discomfort work in micro bits - they will reveal enough truth for you to work with. Tiny discomforts give us plenty of opportunity to practice meditative listening.
Secondly, I encourage you not to view this as a self-improvement exercise. There's nothing wrong that needs fixing. In all of us already is the peace and freedom we seek, it’s just we need a little encouragement to remember that.
Thirdly, this is private work intended to show you to yourself. These realizations about intuition should come back to self. Write down what you discover and appreciate yourself for doing so. On some level, we are always only seeking own approval, so resist the pull to dilute it or pollute it by involving others.
Our discomfort is our whole system’s way of asking us to give ourselves what we seek. When we can be grateful for our discomfort, sliver by sliver, our whole experience of life will transform.