July 31, 2013

How to Lean into Discomfort (& Unstick Your Stuck Karma).


This is a blog post in three acts:

Act 1: A reader’s question

Act 2: My answer

Act 3: Her results


ACT 1: The Question


Can you give some direction and guidance about how one goes about leaning into the discomfort? There are some places in my life I’m okay with discomfort and I guess I lean into it. There are other areas or calls that the discomfort stops me short and I quit following the call to awaken.

But I’m not sure what’s different or how I’m different. How does one (especially me) lean into that discomfort?

Wisdom Heart guidance appreciated,


Act 2: The Answer

Hi Theresa,

Thank you for your great question.

Your focus on discovering the difference in your experience between being okay and freezing up is the key to liberation.

Whether you freeze the mind or free it pivots on a moment of awareness.

When you meet discomfort with loving awareness, that very discomfort opens into a deeper level of freedom.

Meeting is an activity of awareness. When you truly meet an experience, you infuse it with awareness.

But when the mind reacts, there is no true meeting.

Reactivity is the unconscious perpetuation of the past. It is an automatic self-protective reaction of the mind that precludes meeting.

Rather than meet what arises, the mind recoils, contracts, and protects itself. In this reactive stance, there is no freedom, only the preservation and perpetuation of the patterns of the past.

The place to practice is right at the pivot point. The pivot point is that “place” in consciousness where the reactive tendency arises.

By becoming a student of your pivot point, you discover the answer to your question about what’s different.

How to practice?

Use your memory.

Go back to an experience of freezing.

Find in your memory a moment when you approached that pivot point and froze.

But—and here is part of the secret—go back to before you froze.

Rewind your memory to a few moments before the pivotal moment. And then slowly, slowly, let the movie play forward and observe the point at which the freezing kicks in.

Unfold the experience very, very slowly. Because you’re not trying to fix anything. You’re learning, seeking to be aware, to observe, and discover the difference that makes the difference between freedom and freezing.

You do this by studying the process of freezing.

Be aware of how the mind freezes.

Notice—in slow motion—how body sensations and internal dialogue and images arise. Be aware of the movement of the mind from awareness to freezing and contraction.

Go slowly and be aware. Then take a nice deep breath and shake off that memory.

Now you can do the same process with a non-freezing experience.

You can study an experience where you met discomfort in a way that promoted growth, openness and freedom.

You do the same practice with this non-freezing experience. Rewind and then slowly play forward.

This gives you a comparison. It’s likely that you won’t need to compare. Studying the reactive process is often enough.

All you’ll probably need to do is to rewind and the slowly play the freezing experience forward.

By going very, very slowly, you will discover the dynamics of the pivot point—the way that the freezing occurs.

  • Having observed the unfolding of the freezing reaction once . . . do it again.
  • Rewind just a tiny bit and slowly, slowly go forward to the freezing point again.
  • Now, rewind once again—and with even more ease and loving awareness—play it forward.
  • Do this more quickly, but comfortably. Then do it again.
  • Notice how your experience of the freezing changes . . .

As you infuse the memory with loving awareness the dynamics change.

Reactivity subsides. Insight and freedom dawn. Why?

Because, awareness is the healing agent.

Take some time to experience and enjoy the shift that awareness has brought you.

Spend time experiencing the shift that awareness brings. By experiencing the shift in awareness you will:

  • Continue to transform freezing into freedom
  • Gain insight into the difference that makes the difference for you.

Act 3: The Result

In her own words:


Here’s what I discovered.

  • Discomfort is okay.  I’m approaching it with curiosity and wonder and a sense of learning something about myself.  There’s a growing edge to it that’s kind of exciting even though uncertain and a little uncomfortable.
  • Discomfort is paralyzing when I’m afraid of disapproval or rejection. I freeze when I want to do it right, be approved of and accepted, praised, and valued by someone.

The difference is internal or external focus.

When my focus is internal: on my learning growing and exploring it’s okay.

When my focus is on what an external response might be it’s not okay. I don’t feel safe to “lean into the discomfort” and move forward.

Now I have both understanding and a way to move forward when I become frozen and stuck.

I am very grateful for your “doodles” and inspirational words in my inbox each week.  


Now it’s your turn.

What’s the difference for you?

  • What makes your mind freeze?
  • What frees it?

Post your experiences in the comments below.



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Ed: B. Bemel

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