Tama Kieves describes how staying present and “riding the train” of discomfort when facing challenges can help us lead a happier, more fulfilling life.
A true, brilliant life makes demands of us. It asks us to face uncomfortable things. As a career and success coach, I want you to face challenges with radical kindness for yourself. I want you to win. I don’t want you to have one great week of discipline. I want you to crack something open. I want you to learn ways that allow you to keep walking forward, no matter what, into the arms of your destiny.
If you wish to “follow your bliss,” it helps to know how to face pain and make great choices from a place of love. For me, success has come when I’ve boldly faced my own fears with conscious tenderness. I make exquisite deals with myself. I encourage myself to dare. And I show great compassion for myself all along the way. Because I give myself permission to take a step backward when I need it, I’m willing to take a step forward. And then I’m in the flow of moving in the right direction. Let me give you an example.
I am part claustrophobic, part control-freak, and the owner of one finely tuned overactive mind. Last summer, I was in New York City on a day that felt like 200 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, and I was riding the subway. Packed into an Uptown 3 train, in which the air conditioner had quit working, I felt walled in by the heat. Naturally, it crossed my mind that I was in a tunnel under a city of more than eight million people. “Normal” commuters might read the newspaper or listen to their iPods. This is where “intelligence” is overrated. My insanity is articulate and plausible, although missing the obvious point of being self-destructive.
Here’s how I worked with myself. I did not say, “Buck up—no one else here needs a paper bag to breathe into and a therapist, now do they?” And I also didn’t say, “Okay, break the window, hurl yourself out, get to freedom, now, now, now!” I chose a sane voice within that simply asked: “Can you be with this discomfort right now?” It continued with rationality and compassion. “You can get off at the next stop, if necessary. You can take a cab. I’ll do anything you need, even if it’s expensive. But can you go a little farther? Would that be okay?”
The crazy part of me settled down, knowing she was loved and that she could have a definitive say. “Yes, I can ride a little longer,” she said in a ragged breath. And so it went. I kept it up for the next six stops, until I reached my station.
I walked out of that train like an Olympic athlete who had just won the Gold. I had turned a knee-jerk situation into a series of mountaintop shamanic experiences. I had moved beyond black and white, either/or, to venture into the realm of a thousand possibilities. I had flexed new emotional muscles and discovered the wonder of staying honest, present, and kind.
It’s astounding to become your own deliverance in an uncomfortable situation. You can expand your comfort zone, your world, and your choices.
I have learned to “ride the train” of many of my discomforts. I have stayed with writing, when I wanted to burn everything, and spontaneously run to the hills and yodel. I have shown up at speaking engagements where some part of me might rather have shown up for brain surgery, with at least the hope of anesthesia. I’ve shown up for “my bliss” over and over again, paused before the illusion of terror, and then walked into larger possibilities. Part of me died every time. Part of me was born every single time.
When I work with clients, I tell them: “We’re not here to prove anything. We’re not here to force growth. We’re here to stay honest about what is possible in any given moment. So sit down and write or paint or make some sales calls for your business.” Resistance will kick in. “I’m bored. I’m hungry. I suck at this. This isn’t fun,” the complainer will prattle.
Just as with my clients, I’ll ask you to turn this into a holy encounter with yourself, a meditation or active quest. Stay with the activity your true self really wants to do. Stay a little longer. One day you will hear that complaining prattle as some habitual songbird in the forest. For now, it still grips you. So, when you hear it, can you stay honest with yourself? Ask yourself—not with sarcasm, but with play and availability: “Can I stay with this activity a little longer? Will this boredom kill me? Will hunger really waste my bones, if I don’t rush to that brownie? Or is this too much for me right now?”
I want you to go beyond, even a little, where you have gone before. I want you to walk past that demon of automatic reaction. It’s worth staying present. You can discover an untapped well, a spring of generosity, your inner atman or inner goddess. Ask yourself, will it hurt more to stay with this—or will it hurt more to not stay with this? Slow down, breathe, and make a conscious choice.
I want you to have a world of ten thousand opportunities and choose from love instead of fear. I want you to meet your authentic self, the one who can breathe through anything, and walk you through any circumstance, in this or any lifetime. I want you to meet yourself—instead of avoid yourself. I want you to experience all of your unique gifts and I want you to be unstoppable, unflappable, invincible, and at ease in your soul. I want you to commit to making all your choices from a place of being centered, alive, and attuned to what you really want. And I want you to ride this train, no matter how hot—or beautiful—it gets.
© 2012 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies