Finding Comfort in Discomfort

As a mindful hedonist, I understand the value of presence and purpose, but I naturally default to passionately pursuing life’s greatest pleasures. Documented in many of the stories I’ve shared on, even as a hedonist, I have grown to appreciate the challenges and adversities I’ve faced, as they have led me to many of my best moments — spiritually, personally, and professionally. While teaching, I frequently say, “find comfort in your discomfort”, as students practice deep hip-openers and other challenging postures, like savasana

A few years ago, I read Viktor Frankl’s, A Man’s Search for Meaning; his story brought “find comfort in discomfort” to life. The book begins with his arrival to and indoctrination at Auschwitz and emerges as an inspiring tale of a man who keeps his hope and in return, his life. He said: 

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes - within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.” 

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Through his recollections, Frankl shared the small pleasures he enjoyed as he experienced torture and abysmal living conditions. He reminisced over happy memories and daydreamed of a positive future. Above all, he found comfort in discomfort. Frankl found freedom in his choices, his thoughts. In his own words, “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

Last night’s Super Moon reminded me of Frankl’s story — even when his world was completely covered in darkness, he remembered the light was still there. For those of us who had the pleasure of watching the breathtaking lunar eclipse, it acted as a visualization of how discomfort can feel. Initial discomfort appears as a small shadow, slowly shifting to complete darkness as the pain builds. It our responsibility to remember the light is there and stay on our axis, so to speak, as things rotate and shift. 

Fortunately, unlike my cosmic example, our free will gives us the ability to make choices that can realign us with our light. In the end, it is not our conditions that produce our decision but our decisions that produce our conditions, choose wisely*. 

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” 

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning