There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human beings who have ever been born on earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable. … If we are committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.

Pema Chodron
The Wisdom of No Escape
And the Path of Lovingkindness

Hello friend,

I’m glad to see you here! This week’s newsletter comes on the heels of last week’s. At that time, we looked at the possibility that Monkey Mind – that incessant chatter we hear when we’re about to do something new or different – is our brain’s way of trying to protect us.

This week we carry that theme further. It’s about how to let discomfort be there, so that we might see the possibility of something unimaginably beautiful. 

Discomfort is something frequently experienced in nature. Take, for example, what happens to an oyster to produce a pearl. A grain of sand slips inside the oyster, landing on its soft skin.  This resulting irritation or discomfort causes the oyster to secrete a substance that produces an outstanding result. 

The result is exquisite for us! Hardly so for the oyster!  The pearl keeps the discomfort away. However, it increases the possibility of being opened by those looking for pearls. Not an exquisite outcome at all!

Whatever is a potent force in your life…whatever can create discomfort…can also be used for your personal transformation. First, however, you must be willing to stay with this discomfort long enough to see what’s on the other side of it. 

Most discomfort doesn’t last forever. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, when we’re in the middle of it, we imagine it will last forever!  And that’s when we begin to struggle to get away from it.

About twenty-five years ago, I remember listening to a woman who was the leader of a local bank. She was an astute businesswoman, having owned multiple businesses until she left them all to accept this position. I”ll call her Suzanne. She once told me the following: 

Suzanne: “There were times when we just started this bank, in which there was a difficult situation where I didn’t know what to do! I felt immobilized. I was @#&* uncomfortable! Then, one day, I figured something out: when you’re in the middle of difficulty, and feel stuck, find one thing to do that will improve your surroundings. Even if it amounts to straightening out a desk drawer or cleaning the office window shades, just do something that clears away a bit of unfinished business.  Clearing those small things up gave me that little jolt of energy to face the discomfort and ask for support from a friend who’d just gone through a situation almost exactly like mine. And here I thought I was the only one around who ever felt this way!

Another entrepreneur, who I’ll call Penny, put it this way:

Penny: Last year, I had a 30% drop in business for three months. It may have lasted longer than that, but I did something that I think helped turn the company around. It looked like this:

  • I made up something I called my “Discomfort-O-Meter.” It ranged from 1-10, with ten being “Absolutely the most awful I could ever feel,” and one being “Minimally Uncomfortable.” I asked myself: “Where do I fall on this meter?”  It was an “8”… pretty high.
  • I thought about three people I admire for their creativity, integrity, and leadership ability. They were Dee Hock, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Oprah Winfrey. 
  • I cut out pictures of these three people, images printed from some articles/stories I’d read about them. I pasted these three pictures on a piece of cardboard paper.
  • I sat myself down in front of the pictures and, looking at each one, in turn, I asked: “How would you handle this situation?” And I wrote down whatever came to me. Sometimes I needed to ask that question two or three times, but answers never failed to come to me. Each solution had, in part, to do with handling a specific business process that had gone unattended for six months – someplace where we’d taken our eye off of the ball.
  • Before taking a step, I took the answers from these pictures to a trusted friend and talked over what I found.
  • Sure enough, an answer emerged that had elements from each person!
  • Then, I took action! It is now six months past that downturn, and we have regained most of the monthly revenue that we’d lost. 

Life becomes easier when you dare to face the initial discomfort and discern the truth about a given situation. You find that you’re more robust, intelligent, and creative than ever before.

I hope this has provided you with some strategies for staying with your discomfort until the answers emerge that are just right for you. After all, they just may have come from your very own Voice of Wisdom!

Wishing you all my best,

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