Kessuda Boonngamanong, Yosuda: Awakening Space
Can you think of a recent moment when you felt mentally or physically uncomfortable? Maybe you felt an unpleasant reaction when someone spoke to you. Maybe you experienced some pain in your body.
If we could choose, nobody would want to experience these sensations or face difficulty. We all grew up finding our own way to protect ourselves from physical hurt and uncomfortable feelings. But what if you can’t prevent or avoid discomfort? What can you do?
In this article, I will guide you through several ways to notice, sense and face uncomfortable feelings directly and accept them. Practicing these techniques will build healthy skills to take care of difficulty. You will develop acceptance, experience peace, have equanimity, feel relaxation, and enjoy liberation.
Developing the skill of the inner observer or the watcher (awareness or mindfulness) will increase your ability to be aware of thoughts, emotions, body sensations and the surrounding environment. It will help you to discover the truth that causes our discomfort. You will deeply understand the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and actions, whether our own or those of others. The most important thing is to be able to be gentle, to be kind to yourself and others, and not to get anxious about your discomfort. At the same time, you will be able to rest in difficulty, to stay with the reality, to believe in impermanence – that things arise, stay and disappear. This is a technique that I developed by integrating the wisdom from Vippasana Meditation, Buddhist Philosophy and Yoga.
Step by step practice
- Slow down, sit down, stop your movement or lie on the floor if you wish.
- Then acknowledge or observe the uncomfortable feelings, whether emotional or physical. Ask yourself: What is going on? What kind of feelings am I having? What kind of thoughts?
- Notice your body’s sensations. If you don’t feel any sensation, go through your body part by part. Spend 1-2 seconds with each part to fully sense how it feels.
- If you sense an uncomfortable feeling in any part of your body, notice and explore that area for ten seconds. Ask yourself, “How does my body feel?” Stay with this for 3-5 breaths.
- If you feel some part of your body is tight or you are holding on to it, adjust and relax it, if you can. Be sure that you allow yourself to feel comfortable and stable with your body, no matter what position you are in. Pause at this point for 3-5 breaths.
- Be aware of the other parts of your body that feel comfortable or light. Include them with the part that feels uncomfortable. Stay with this part for 5 breaths.
- Merge all of your sensations with your breaths. Gently breathe into your nose until your chest opens up. Hold your breath and count to three. Then slowly breathe out, relaxing chest, diaphragm, and abdomen. Practice this breathing 3 times.
- Then breathe in and feel your belly expand. Relax your whole body every time you breathe out. Do it for 5-10 breaths.
- Finally, just relax your breathing and maintain your normal breaths. Rest into your whole body whether it feels negative or positive. Keep those feelings with you for a while. Then be thankful and grateful for your ability to complete this practice.
The intention is not to get rid of physical discomfort or difficulty but to learn to accept it as it is occurring. Any mental or physical issues will need to be resolved with appropriate therapy. You will want to find the right way and right person to help you with this work.
There is no right or wrong
Don’t judge yourself. It is OK if you missed some parts or didn’t follow through. If you did, just simply let it go. There is no right or wrong way to think or feel. Simply allow or accept and watch arising thoughts, emotions and body feelings. If there are any thoughts or beliefs that have created negative emotions and sensations, note them and let them go.
You can practice anytime
For those who practice yoga or any kind of exercise, you can bring this technique into whatever you do. Rest in discomfort, whatever posture you are doing and whatever kind of sensation you are experiencing: stress and relaxation, lightness and tightness, warmth and cold, tenderness and roughness, like and dislike, comfort and discomfort, etc. All of these feelings are normal. They are a reality of life. We can learn to accept them the way they are. Then we can let them go. (See my article Being Grounded for more about this.)
What’s happening inside you
When you feel threatened, your sympathetic nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones which prepare the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens.
When the nervous system works too hard and the body has too much cortisol, it causes high blood pressure, too much sugar and fat in your bloodstream. This causes problems with the digestive system, depression of the important immune response, loss of muscle mass, increased fat accumulation, substantial loss of calcium from bones and even loss of cognitive function.
If you follow the practice I have outlined then your brain will be strengthened in several ways. It will no longer rehearse negative thoughts. When there are no negative thoughts, no negative emotions, existing stress or pain in the body will not be amplified.
Resting into your body and slowing your breaths, your body relaxes and the parasympathetic nervous system starts working. The body begins to secrete hormones to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, creating a relaxation response. Eventually, it reduces stress and helps your body system maintain normal functions, even if pain or tightness in the body still remains.
While the physical benefits are valuable, the most value you will gain is becoming a skillful person who can live with difficulty peacefully and serenely. I encourage you to practice I’ve shared here. You will discover that you have the power to deal with discomfort whenever you need to. Finally, you will be able to take appropriate and healthy actions that bring you confidence, tranquility and joy!
Author: Kessuda Boonngamanong
Life Coach, Mindfulness, Yoga and Enneagram instructor.
Certified Mindfulness and Enneagram Professional Coach, teaching Mindfulness and Yoga for more than 20 years.
Author of “Mindfulness Yoga” and founder of Yosuda: Awakening Space