Mindful Meditation Project, Day 9: Sitting With Discomfort

As it turned out (unbeknownst to me), this morning’s regularly scheduled 30 minute practice was a continuation of yesterday’s theme of giving ourselves grace.

I woke up later than usual, again due to not sleeping well, but made up my mind that I’d get back on the cushion despite a gnawing headache. I am a huge fan of exploring dark emotions and limiting beliefs in my meditation practice, so I chose to sit with and explore my headache in the same way. I figured if the pain took me out of flow, I could always breathe into and come back, which is the M.O. of meditation.

In retrospect, it’s interesting how despite the headache still lingering now, a solid 90 minutes after my practice ended, it really didn’t pull me out the way I thought. What it did was give me the intention of exploring discomfort as it relates to meditation, and our meditation practices.

Often in meditation, I get images. Sometimes they’re quick, brief flashes, sometimes they’re little mini movies that play. Sometimes they’re on a fuzzy black and white screen and sometimes they simply filter by as though they’re butterflies on a breeze. (Unintended poetry, I promise). Today, as I contemplated discomfort and the reality of encountering discomfort on our meditative journey, I was treated to an image of Serena Williams in action on a tennis court. Immediately I knew that this connected the idea of practice despite discomfort. I cannot imagine Serena simply gives up on her practice routine because she doesn’t feel well, or she’s had a disagreement with someone, or she’s battling self-worth issues in her personal lives. I imagine that at the level of competition she faces that she maintains her practice despite these discomforts. In other words, the thread of her practice pulls her forward when momentary discomfort threatens to derail her.

I’m not comparing our development of a meditation practice to a world-class athlete. I’m connecting the importance of developing a relationship with discomfort to sustaining ourselves and the self we discover through our meditation practice.

I feel that there are teeth to this idea of sitting through discomfort that need more exploration, so I’m planning to investigate further in my practice, but I’m curious about your experiences with discomfort. Have you learned to allow discomfort into your practice? How does it affect you? I’d love to hear in the comments and even have you share ways to stay connected to self despite discomfort. In the meantime…