Managing Discomfort

Part of life is managing discomfort; be it mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, or even psychic.

The main way that most people manage discomfort is to kvetch, complain and vent about it. This can ease the sting and is sometimes a helpful part of the process; and yet, there are other ways to manage discomfort as well which my daughter has taught me; more graceful ways.

The first time my daughter was in a group situation where she felt the need to manage discomfort, children were making observational comparisons to one another. It was then that I first introduced her to the topic of ego.

I told her that the ego had a bad rep for the most part, but that the benefit of ego, is that it’s there for our survival, and part of survival is making comparisons and managing discomfort. And by survival I mean everything from the literal survival of life versus death, to survival of peer pressure. Survival of the personality, the spirit, and the core of who we are in the face of society, at times, pressuring us to be someone or something other than who we are.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
e. e. cummings

The question the ego asks most is, “Am I safe?” Everything that follows, that gives ego a bad name, usually comes from poorly devised attempts at safety.

I shared with her that it was the job of the ego to compare, but the job of the spirit to see past all that could be measured. She took this to heart.

We have recently moved to a new city. A city that from a global perspective isn’t that different from the last one we lived in, but from a highly sensitive person’s individual perspective is drastically, almost diametrically opposed to the one from which we came from both socially, and politically. It’s a culture shock to be certain.

My daughter went to a summer program to make new friends. When given the chance to socialize, the children, ages 8-11, played Minecraft on their cell phones instead. My daughter was disappointed.

When I asked her what she did to manage her disappointment, she said,

“I inhaled the feeling of discomfort and embraced it.”

“Wow!” I said with genuine awe, “What a masterful example of managing discomfort.”

My daughter is my inspiration. I take no credit for her “old soul” wisdom.

She likes to read Pema Chödrön. Yes, it’s true, that I introduced her to Pema Chödrön, but so too to Shakespeare, The Bhagavadgītā, parts of the Talmud, The Holy Bible, Dr. Seuss, Rainbow Fish, Tolstoy, Epictetus, the words of Gautama Buddha and a bevy of poets. But it has been Pema Chödrön who she has been drawn to most, as her 10-year-old self.

My daughter supported herself by supporting her feelings. She sat with the uncomfortable feelings like she would sit with an arm around a friend who was sad. Then the feeling dissolved and left. In essence, she loved discomfort away by accepting it, by breathing it in, and breathing it out.

How much easier and more elegant is this approach compared to being in denial, defensive, resistant or in reactive mode? It’s a life time easier.

Why can’t we all just do that whenever we are in discomfort? Can we try? Because it’s a pretty amazing and transformative practice that could end a lot of suffering.

She was able to change her own feelings and perspective through self-compassion and acceptance.

However, this did not change the people or problems around her.

“We can’t change the people around us but we can change the people around us.”

The challenge of being surrounded by children who would rather be on a device than play, still remained. Yet, she found a graceful and loving way to handle that situation as well.

Each morning before camp, we would do a grounding meditation. Sometimes it was as simple as a loving embrace facing each other heart to heart while setting a five minute meditation timer and just focusing on breathing together and really feeling each other’s unconditional love.

Sometimes I would guide her in a meditation in the parking lot of the school where the camp was located before she got out of the car. Neither practice took more than a few minutes. We’d focus on tuning her frequency to her highest self, those characteristics she feels make her who she is: a joyful heart, a conscientious spirit, and a curious mind all wrapped in a soft, playful, sensitive blanket.

I was taught that to have a friend, you have to be a friend. This can be good advice, but I feel it needs a little instruction. I became a friend to others, often by losing parts of myself in the process and I didn’t want to see my daughter sacrifice herself in the same way.

I wanted to encourage her in being more of who she was, to draw out and support anyone in the group who might share those same qualities; instead of encouraging her to be less of herself, just to fit in with the strongest common denominator which was the least like her truest self.

The challenge with group dynamics is remaining who you are, trusting that like-minded peers will come forth with support; and not allowing the mob mentality to mold you or your child into something you or they are not.

I really love who my daughter is and I don’t want her to lose her beautiful nature in the name of not feeling alone. This is part of why we homeschool, to support our child in being her true self. There’s a big difference between being able to blend into any community and having to change your core values to fit into the community you feel situationally forced to due to school, work, religion, etc.

At some point in our lives, we have each likely found ourselves letting pieces of us be chipped away in the name of acceptance by others. In the end, we often find that those who want to change us or need us to change in order to be accepted by them, will never be satisfied. I maintain that there is a more loving way to be in the world and connect with others, but it requires mindfulness and practice.

My daughter remained committed to a daily practice of being present and focused on the tuning of her frequency to the vibration that served her. The mantra and prayer was, “May my frequency honor and protect me so that I may strengthen the frequency of any kindred spirits among me and only attract other children who are vibrating with a joyful heart, a kind soul, and a conscientious spirit.”

I believe that we teach by example. We need not draw to us people who seem inherently different with a desire to change them (i.e. Bullies). We only need be more of ourselves and give others permission to do the same. For truly, if we are one, our core values which are expressions of love, will rise to the surface in each of us; if only we create a safe and inviting place for love to shine.

This is not just a lesson for a child, but for adults as well in work, family, and community dynamics. We can find peaceful and effective ways to manage discomfort through acceptance of what is and mindfulness of what can be.

My daughter is patient. She set an intention to make new friends and was prepared to be flexible and make space for that to happen. For several days, she sat with mindful presence demonstrating an interest and availability to play with the children, should they choose to stop playing Minecraft.

During that time she observed which children went out of their way to be kind to others and which went out of their way to be cruel. Fragments of conversations floated abundantly and gave insight into the moral compass of those around her. She noticed the mannerisms and quirks of teachers and administrators; people watching is in our blood. She radiated kindness to all and remained joyful and willing to make a new friend or friends during the entire process.

Eventually, after a week had passed, she decided that she would bring a book to read while other children played on their phones. Just as she was about to reach for her book, a few children, some new, began to put their phones away and play with her instead. She was thrilled.

She could have applied the “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” concept, or even the “If you can’t beat them, join them” philosophy. Instead, she chose to remain loyal to her integrity and values and her desire to connect with people directly and not via the video game.

We have no beliefs about the video game or video games in general either positive or negative, per say. In fact, Minecraft is very popular in the homeschool community and we have heard wonderful things about it. But that was simply not how she wanted to exchange her energy with others. She said, “I’d rather interact directly with children through playing pretend games and using our imaginations or spend time with myself reading a book. I’m not interested in Minecraft.”

It wasn’t a judgement against others, rather a choice for herself. That’s the irony about people who take things personally; it is personal, about the person making the choice for themselves, not about the one who actually takes it personally.

She did not succumb to lowering her vibration in order to make new friends. She believed in herself and focused on raising her vibration and trusting the process of life, and in the end, she was rewarded for that choice, and that faith. She may not have made lifetime friends in the summer camp environment, but she made seasonal friends.

These children were not like the children from the earthy, hippie community we had come from. They asked questions about what store my daughter planned to buy her costume from, and were inordinately focused on what kind of car their parents drove and the zip code each lived in.

These children played pranks on each other, older kids turned off the bathroom lights on younger kids and told them the bathroom was haunted. Some might argue that this is just an example of kids being kids; and maybe it is. But my daughter is an empath and when she saw how upset it made some of the children she had empathy for their feelings. She took it upon herself to use her height and courage and block the path of the lights when she could and assure the younger children that the bathroom was not haunted and that she would wait with them if they were frightened.

There were only two boys in the class of 30 and the day they were absent, the greater majority of the class began gossiping about them. When girls came to gossip with my daughter she asked them to stop. She said, “How would you feel if people were gossiping about you?” They walked away and my daughter got her first taste of what it feels like to stand up for the right thing but pay the price by standing alone.

At the end of the five week summer program, she walked away not having made any lasting friendships. Her father and I seemed more sad for her than she was for herself. She said, “It’s ok. It would have been too much work to bend myself to their ways or want them to bend themselves to my ways. Sometimes it’s just not a good fit but there will be other people and places and opportunities to make new friends.”

And there were. She met someone she connected with at Chemistry Camp and she’s become friends with the next door neighbor. Eventually, we may even get plugged into the homeschool community in our new town and maybe make more connections there.

For now, she has the friends she’s always had, she just sees them less. And truly, we don’t need a ton of friends, just a few really good ones. I’m proud of her for not falling into desperation and lowering her standards. It gives me hope for her future dating life.

We do not need to lower our vibration in order to find meaningful connections with others, no matter where we are in the world. We merely need to remain present, patient, and trusting that our tribe will find us or others will raise their vibrations to match ours if only we can remain grounded in our frequency, our integrity, and make our vibration strong enough to stay centered in it. We must keep being true to ourselves.

When we allow our inner light to shine and give ourselves permission to be who we are and like what we like, and heed the call of our spirit, and allow others to do the same, we all shine.

When we shine our light, we have the power to strengthen the light of others. The greater the light, the greater the vision and clarity for all concerned and the more effortless it is to manage our discomfort.