Wednesday, January 19, 2011

That's What Change Feels Like

Changing Leaves, MN, September 30, 2010

Quote of the Month:
That's how it's supposed to feel!
That's what change feels like!
-Marilee, Boot Camp

The leaves changed again in Minnesota....  that always seems to make me feel like writing about change!  Truth is, they changed, fell to the ground, froze, were snowed on.... snowed on some more..... and yes.... months later, I still have a hard time writing about change.    This post has not been easy for me to write, but I won't post anything that I do not feel is Truth for me.... and truth be told.... change can be challenging... but I will attempt to put my "simple" spin on it!  

My boot camp instructor recently uttered some of the most profound words I had ever heard, "That's what change feels like" ....a post was born! No, I didn't join the army! Boot camp is a class at my local gym and true to its name, is quite challenging!!!!

I wrote about my own methods of change during Year 1 of this blog. Posts such as December 2008, Change is in the Air and January 2009, True Colors are some examples. Something I did not previously cover is that most of the time, in order to make changes in our lives, we may have some discomfort.

We WANT to lose weight, we WANT a new job, we WANT to get in shape, we WANT to get our finances in order, we WANT to ______________ (fill in the blank with your own "WANT to!") We have lots of "WANT to's" but very often do not follow through on getting what it is we say that we want. Why is that? I believe that one reason is we humans, by nature, tend to avoid discomfort.

We are a society that wants things fast and easy. I remember a time when I did not own a microwave. I also remember when there were no drive throughs at restaurants, banks, the pharmacy and dry cleaners. Maybe even I've come to enjoy these conveniences over the years...... but today things have become SO instant that one does not even have to get in the car to go to the drive through at the bank any more. Most everything can be done right on line.  Even shopping can be done on line, as well as your taxes, and registering for a class. All things we used to have to GO somewhere to do.

In "the old days," if I wanted to have my own copy of a song that I enjoyed and wanted to listen to, I actually used to have to get in the car, drive to a store, buy the record, (ok...showing my age here!) drive home, put it on the record player....  and THEN I could listen to it whenever I wanted to.  With the advent of tapes and CD's, I could at least, listen in the car on the way home. 

 TODAY, one can decide to buy, download, listen to and become tired of a song all in less time than the original drive to the store.... and all from the convenience of one's own computer, cell phone, I-pod, etc....  anywhere one can connect to the Internet.  It does make one stop and question, if we spent a little more time on our purchases, would buy quite as many things?  (But I suppose that is another post for another day.)  The point here, is that we like things to be quick and easy, myself included. This whole blog is about even making Spirituality easy.

The truth is, some changes take a bit more effort.  Most of us do not WANT to be uncomfortable.  I want to suggest that a bit of discomfort may not be the worst thing in the world and that the pay off is great!  

So maybe the key is....
to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

There are at least two major types of change and the ensuing discomfort.  There is the type of change that comes at you from the outside.  The type that you do not choose.... I call it the "rug pulled out from under you" change.  Your spouse wants a divorce, you suddenly have to move out of your apartment, Hurricane Katrina hits or a life threatening illness.  While I believe on some level this applies to these types of changes, that is not specifically the type of change this post is addressing.  

Then there are those changes that come from the inside.  The changes you choose to make, want to make or maybe have been trying to make for years.....  possibly even the New Year's Resolutions you made on January 1st this year.  This blog never tells you what you "should" or "shouldn't" do.... but if there are some changes you want to make, but have had difficulty making, then keep reading....

So.... how do we become comfortable with being uncomfortable?
My first suggestion is to acknowledge that you are uncomfortable.  Just let yourself BE uncomfortable. 

Next, do not add anything else to that such as "Uncomfortable is 'bad.'" or "Uncomfortable is 'not fun.' "  This is just a thought.  When you attach the thought to the uncomfortable-ness, soon after (so soon you won't even realize it as a separate event) it will create a feeling.  Generally after the feeling will come some sort of behavior to avoid that feeling. (For additional reading on "un-velcroing" the thought and the feeling, see the post titled, I got a Worm for my Birthday.) 

I learned from a friend of mine to understand that being uncomfortable does not cause us any harm.  Also, not to attach any extra thoughts or feelings to it, it is not depression, not even sadness, it is not anxiety....  Just to "sit with it" and allow ourselves to feel it.  Next - ask yourself if you can manage what you feeling right NOW.  Not 30 seconds from now .....  or 5 minutes from NOW, but RIGHT NOW.  Staying in the NOW is an important part.  Unless there is a lion in front of you right now, it is almost always a future event we fear not being able to handle.    

Another reminder - according to Jill Bolte Taylor, in My Stroke of Insight, it only takes 90 seconds for an emotion/feeling to physically move through your body.  It is like a wave, with a beginning, a crest and an end.  Initially, it washes over you, the way a wave does, but it also then recedes, which leads to my next suggestion.

TRUST!  Trust that this is a temporary state and it will not last forever.  We humans tend to have a fear of the unknown.  Things like how will this turn out?  How long will this last?  What will happen 5 minutes from now?  What will it feel like if I don't spend this money?  eat these chips?  Or what will a new job be like?  A little secret.... there is an awful lot each of us does not know.  If we accept that, then it is much easier to be with the discomfort or the fear of the unknown.  It is simply NOT knowing!!!!!!  That's it!  It is OK not to know exactly what will happen, especially in a situation like this.  Trust that the uncomfortable feeling will not last forever and Trust that you can handle it. 

If you have made it through all of these steps... my guess is that the uncomfortable-ness is starting to pass.....?  Is it?  As always, my suggestion is to try this out with something small - something that is not your biggest challenge.  This allows you to develop some spiritual muscle, much like the physical muscle from boot camp!

So..... back to boot camp.... in this particular day in class, we spent extra time on the mat on the floor. We were doing what felt like about the 1000th leg lift and the outside of my right hip and thigh were trembling as I struggled to lift it for number 1001 (OK, maybe I am exaggerating a little tiny bit!) As Marilee walked around the room and lovingly encouraged us with "10 more!" She must have noticed that we were all in a bit of pain.... which is when she announced those profound words....

That's how it's supposed to feel!
That's what change feels like!

She later followed up with, "This is when you are doing the most good and making the most change!"  (Did I mention I recently found out that she is 62!?!?!?  AND given how long it took me to complete this post, she is probably 63 by now!  She does most of the exercises with us!!!  She is incredible!)

I want to clarify here - this is not about overdoing a workout or pushing ourselves too hard that we get hurt.  I want to introduce the concept of "pushing ones edge." This is a concept from Yoga. In order to push ones edge, one must know where their edge is. This involves being present in your body and listening to what your body is telling you - sometimes moment by moment.  This is especially true for physical activities. When one is doing a triangle pose in Yoga, for example, one must know how far to reach and when to stop. When the edge is reached, this concept suggests that one simply and gently push that edge. Push to do just a little bit more. Yes, it may be uncomfortable - it should NOT hurt.

This concept can be applied more broadly to nearly every aspect of our lives. For example, if one "WANTS to" get a new job, one must first make sure their skills are up to date, then have a resume prepared along with letters of recommendation, etc. This involves getting out of one's daily comfort zone and doing something differently than they have in the past, which may involve being somewhat uncomfortable for a while AND THAT IS OK!  It is do-able!  In fact, it may be a very "GOOD" thing and maybe even more "simple" than you thought it might be!

My challenge to each of you this month is to try being comfortable with being "uncomfortable" once in a while in safe ways.  Push your edge just a bit and see what happens.  See if it pays off in the long run. As always, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.  What works for you?  How do you deal with change?  Did any of the above resonate with you in your own process?

Until next month....
Keep it simple,


Mark & Laura Anderson said...

As everything you wrote. Some great things to think about. I have shared your blog with a good friend of mine. I hope she enjoys it as much as I do. Hugs to you and the family! Laura

Jess said...

Wonderful post! I wrote more but then something happened and it erased my comment. Know though that your suggestions will be used in my life!

Love, Jess

Penelope said...

Laura - Thank you! Both for your comments and for sharing the blog with your friend! I appreciate it!

Penelope said...

Jess - It seems a few people had trouble leaving comments. I will have to look into it - thanks for letting me know. I am glad to know you found the post useful!!! I appreciate knowing that too!

Kent said...

'Acknowledge that you are uncomfortable. Just let yourself BE uncomfortable.'

Simple. (as the blog title says)

Thank you.

Penelope said...

I found someone else suggesting becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable...