At the recent Befriending Yourself: Spring Meditation Retreat (pictures here), I shared with participants that to me the characteristic sensation of the spring element in Chinese medicine is discomfort.
It’s not the discomfort of hurt exactly. Nor that of an ache per se. It’s more the discomfort of having outgrown where you’ve been without quite being ready for what’s next. Not yet.
Many of us are experiencing such discomfort right now. The temperature goes up, then down. The winter coat comes on, then off. When is spring coming? Have we outgrown winter yet? When can I go out and play? This is so uncomfortable!!!
Perhaps when the decision has to do with whether or not to grab that winter coat, the stakes are fairly low. But when you’re pondering leaving your job, going back to school, having another child, taking on some new role, starting a relationship, moving to a new home, making a career leap… well, the gains and losses feel quite significant then.
How do we know when is the right time to make a move? To grow in a new direction? To leave what we have come to know and spring into the next… unknown… uncharted… big big step?
When discomfort arises, I like to remind myself that it's natural. It's natural to feel agitated, restless, and uncomfortable. This is a feeling tone that pulsates with a desire for change, for growth, to blossom!
So next time you notice discomfort, sit with it for a moment if you can. Tell the feeling you wish to know what it’s about. Ask it, “What vision would you like to share with me? What decision do you wish for me to make? What action are you pointing me to?” Listen intently and together you may find exactly when and how you grow.
May discomfort reveal to you the unfolding of your greatness,
-- Shira Oz-Sinai
Our human bodies are brilliant mechanisms. When faced with imminent danger, they immediately react with a series of internal shifts and changes that prepare us to flee or fight for our survival. The "on" switch for this is, of course, the experience of fear.
Let's say you're walking outside and all of the sudden you see a poisonous snake, or you're pulling the door open to a coffee shop just as someone carrying an open mug of hot tea is pushing the door out. The fear of an injury or harm (or worse) will pump your body with enough force to take off at the sight of the snake (i.e. flee) or shove the arm that holds the mug to the side without any hot liquid burning you (i.e. fight).
I'll leave the detailed biological explanation of what exactly happens in the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system to the experts, but I would like to call our attention to the role fear plays in igniting these intricate and involuntary processes that keep us alive when we come up against a threat. If fear is what starts these survival processes, then fear is like a key that unlocks wise old instincts, impulses, and abilities that naturally remain unconscious, or dormant, until they're needed.
Perhaps it's easier to acknowledge the wisdom that fear unlocks when it allows us to run from a hazardous reptile or fend off a 3rd degree burn. But it's likely a lot harder to perceive the wisdom fear is pointing us to when it arises at the memory of a long-ago elementary school incident or an upcoming presidency.
In Chinese Medicine, the emotion of fear is related to the season of winter (more on this at THIS Sunday's workshop). Acupuncturist Debra Kaatz writes, "The Chinese say that fear is governed by our sense of ourself. When we trust, then this trust dissolves all fear" (Characters of Wisdom, 443).
In non-immediately-life-threatening situations, instead of attempting to defeat fear, push through it, or get rid of it somehow, you may want to turn your attention to fear and ask it what wisdom it can reveal to you today. If you take time to notice fear, see it as the wisdom-pointer that it is, and make it your ally, you may find yourself in agreement with the ancient Taoist text that suggests, "Whoever can see through all fear will always be safe" (Tao Te Ching, Ch. 46, Stephen Mitchell's Translation).
May you always see fear for the friend it is and feel safe in its midst,
P.S. Not sure what I mean? Want to inquire into this some more? Join me in an upcoming meditation or private session.
Could fear be a pointer to your own wisdom?
Shira Oz-Sinai is a spiritual teacher trained in iRest® Yoga Nidra meditation and Soul Lightening Acupressure®, two modalities that share the common principle of noticing what arises in awareness as the foundation to living life with ease and in deep and loving friendship with yourself. These are her musings.