Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort. Peter McWilliams
That quote comes near the end of one of my favorite Yin Yoga dvds (Deep Stretch with Mimi Solaire). I am lying on my back, breathing into a hamstring stretch that brings my left leg inching closer to my face. I am trying to control the breathing and the shaking of my muscles, conscious that being aware of what feels the most tense is getting the most benefit.
I know the stretch sequence so well that I usually tune out the narration, focusing instead on how far I can go with a stretch. In fact, most of the time I only hear what I need in a particular moment. For instance, when I catch the instructor telling me to relax my face I think, “I am relaxed!” And then her reminders about the brow and the eyes and the jaw help me find a little more tension that I can release.
But no matter what the day or the aches, the comfort/discomfort line always resonates through me. I never miss it.
Now, I am not afraid to try things on a physical level. We are back to using 20 lb dumbbells and 25 lb plates for most of my moves at the gym. I love the challenge and the focus of making movement a little bit harder each time and the tremendous satisfaction when I am done.
Emotionally, however, I am not so keen on discomfort and the result is that I’ve walked many extra mental miles in order to avoid what I perceive to be hard or scary or sad or mundane rather than fun. The mental contortions would put any physical stretch to shame, but I have yet to fully translate that the lessons I learn on a physical plane can be applied to the emotional one.
All of which is not to say that I don’t get served regularly on the physical level. Last Sunday as I went through the routine, I thought that I was getting my legs stretched almost as much as Becca did when we work out together. So the next day I showed her. She watched me for a bit standing to the side, then put her hand on the leg I had stretched over my head and pushed – an inch. Then she told me to move the leg on the floor in the opposite direction – an inch.
Those two inches reduced me for 30 agonizingly long seconds into a red-faced floor pounding, whiny virago. Then she made me switch sides.
And you know what? I felt great when I walked out the door. Lesson truly learned.
So, I’ve put “discomfort = comfort” at eye level on my desk – next to my small painting that tells me to connect – to serve as a more constant, shorthand reminder to stop going around the emotional chaos in front of me and embrace it, enter it, experience it and come out the other side.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.
If you liked this post, I think you’ll enjoy the free weekly Special Delivery eZine. Just sign up here and it will delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!