Are practices like meditation, mindfulness, and yoga meant to make you more happy?
I get asked this question a lot and I recently saw a similar question posted in a Facebook Group. In some ways the answer is both yes and no. As we become more self aware and choose our thoughts, we naturally will feel more happy because we are more aligned with what we want. However, expecting happiness all of the time can undermine the intentionality we have developed in our lives because the unexpected moments of discomfort are inevitable.
“Do you experience doubt?” One of my clients posed the question to me recently. “Of course,” I said. “What’s changed is I meet my doubt in an entirely different way. I relate to my mind and therefore the doubt differently.” The root of that change is a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute dedication to cultivating self-awareness and fueling my life with intentionality. Tools like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness support this dedication. However, the practice itself stretches beyond the times I for example meditate, coloring my everyday actions.
Dancing with doubt these days is an entirely new game. Yesterday while speaking to a fellow female entrepreneur she asked how things are going since my Lymes diagnosis. “Tough,” I say. “Challenging. I’m learning how to experience self doubt and move forward at the same time. Normally I can find the root of doubt, release the doubt and move forward without it playing in the background. However, the doubt I’m experiencing these days is a cognitive symptom of Lymes. So lately when it shows up and I find no root, I remind myself that this is the disease and then learn how to live with doubt running in the background of my mind. I focus my mind’s energy on the evidence of what I know to be true (always different than what doubt says) while I champion forward trusting that everything else I know is true. It’s kinda wild and difficult.” “That’s amazing,” she said. “You’re going to be a mind ninja.” I smiled to myself. She’s probably right. Even though being in the middle of the fire right now can feel like a lot sometimes it’s teaching me more than I can say.
Lymes has taught me how to hang out in discomfort with a new level of grace. All of the mindset skills and ninja warrior tools I have to dispel doubt, fear, or worry are like sending a band of brave warriors to capture clouds in their hands. The cognitive symptoms like doubt evaporate between your fingers and reform, unable to be captured or controlled. So I let go. I allow. Eventually it changes, but I never know when. I trust in the wisdom I have that’s underneath the doubt, fear, or worry and keep championing on.
While I’ve danced with a lot of discomfort in my life, this is the first time that I don’t have much say in what’s entirely happening in my mind as I go through phases of short-term memory loss, brain fog, slow mental processing, and a loss of words when I’m trying to explain something.
Sometimes tasks that normally take me an hour take 3, or maybe an entire day...or more. While I type this, I remember moments I’ve experienced over the last several months that included a time I had no idea where I was in a store. Standing in Nordstrom Rack, I looked around, completely unable to recognize where I was, or how I got there. But I didn’t panic. I knew it was Lymes. I knew everything would be alright...it always is. And I leaned on a faith that’s born from my practice that is greater than myself. I stood still for 5 minutes, waiting for recognition to come back. I let go...I allowed. Eventually, it came. The fruits of years of dedication to cultivating self-awareness and a resilience to be with discomfort is both surprising me and serving me well.
Dedication to a fulfilling life is not about experiencing happiness 100% of the time. Happiness is born with the ability to balance enjoying the best moments and resilience to be with those you wish would end.
I wonder, what would shift for you if you dedicated your life to happiness, knowing that happiness is born from learning how to be with discomfort? What expectations would you have to let go of? What possibilities would you unexpectedly let in?
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I want to invite us to explore the power of steadiness. Long-term dedication to a deeper happiness that teaches us how to be gracefully with ourselves, our feelings, and our thoughts when discomfort arises. I recommend you complete this practice as a written exploration. Approach your situation as much as possible from a place of wonder and interest versus judgement and fixing. There is nothing to be fixed. We’re just exploring more response options for meeting discomfort the next time it comes up. Because well...it will. Here’s how to begin:
Remember a recent experience where things didn’t go your way. Choose a moment where your needs were not met. When you didn’t get what you wanted. When you planned to go to a yoga class, but got stuck in traffic. When you planned to see a dear friend in town and they ran out of time and couldn’t meet up with you. A moment that does not consume you, but sparked some discomfort.
Notice how you handled the discomfort. Did you try to push the feelings away? Avoid a conversation? Numb them out with an overindulgence like food, TV, or reading 20 articles (information overload)? Did the feelings consume you and you said something you later regretted to someone you care about? Did you write an email or text message that wasn’t your best?
Regardless of how you handled things, let it go. Love yourself anyways. This awareness raising exercise is not about judging yourself. Only through an intention of learning and curiosity can insight be born. We’re simply uncovering wisdom to empower you to make more conscious choices in the future. Can you have compassion for how you met your discomfort? How could this more spacious holding of what happened via compassion allow you to meet any new discomfort born from clearly seeing what happened in a new way?
Reflect on the following questions: What would shift if you had been able to be with your discomfort that day? What would have been possible? What beliefs do you need to let go of to meet your discomfort with grace in the future? And finally, what could be the breakthrough if the next time around you are able to gracefully hold your discomfort?
Steadiness, a daily commitment, to learning how to be with our discomfort empowers us to take baby steps that lead to macro changes over time.
It wasn’t until recently as I’ve danced with the discomfort of Lymes, that I realized the impact of all the baby steps until now. No moment of being with discomfort is discounted. They all add up to create a softening. And in this softening self acceptance can finally be born, opening us up to the freedom so many of us crave and search for in the simplified story of happiness where discomfort does not live.