How to Befriend the Discomfort of Change: Cultivating an Evolutionary Relationship to Life

Question:

You often refer to the discomfort that inevitably accompanies growth and evolution. But, if I’m honest, I have to admit that one of the reasons I’m meditating is to become more at ease and peaceful inside. So, the thought that my spiritual path is going to lead to greater discomfort is a bit unsettling.  Are you saying that if I’m really evolving, I will feel uncomfortable all the time? And if I feel calm and serene, does that mean I’m not evolving? 

Answer:

That’s a great question. And it leads to a very interesting contemplation about the nature of change. 

I think we can all agree that change is challenging. That’s because there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to change, even when we know the change we’re making is really positive. There’s a part of us that wants nothing to do with any kind of growth, even when that growth is clearly  good for us, and involves learning new things, developing new capacities, or awakening new dimensions of the self. There’s a part of us that just says a big “no.” So when we are really growing, evolving, and moving forward, this anti-change part of us will always tend to be a bit uncomfortable. 

One of the game-changing perspective shifts we can make on the path of evolutionary awakening is learning to befriend the discomfort that comes with change. If we can start to see this discomfort as something positive and realize that it’s a result of the fact that we’re growing, it changes everything. 

This is, of course, easier said than done. Let’s face it: we human beings are animals and we relate to discomfort as a negative thing. It’s part of how we’re wired. We’re deeply conditioned to believe that feeling bad is bad, and feeling good is good. It’s one of the most primary orientations to life that all of us have. And this makes sense. Who wants to feel bad? We all want to feel good. It’s natural. But it’s also natural that a lot of the good things in life—growth, development, and evolution—also come with some degree of feeling bad. 

If we want to evolve, we need to shift our perspective so that we can start to see this discomfort more as the natural growing pains that accompany any kind of positive change. 

When we shift our perspective on this positive discomfort, we begin to align with another dimension of who we are that I call “the evolutionary self.” There is a part of each of us that is not separate from  the very impulse of evolution itself.  This part of us doesn’t have any resistance to change. In fact, it thrives on it. It loves it. And when we learn to live from this evolutionary part of our self, we begin to love the feeling of evolutionary discomfort or tension, even though it might be uncomfortable. The tension becomes like nectar to us, because we know it means we’re evolving and moving forward. The evolutionary self lives for change, positive growth, and development.

I want to address another aspect of your question. You asked if feeling calm and serene means that you’re not evolving. The simple answer is “no.” Of course, it’s good to feel good. If we’re living a natural, healthy, evolving life, we’re going to experience all kinds of different things at different times, including peace and serenity. Sometimes, we’re going to feel ecstasy, joy, release, and liberation. At other times, we’re going to feel the tension, growth, and discomfort of evolution. 

The larger point I’m making here is that most of us need to make a broad shift in our orientation to life. Are you generally learning to befriend that positive feeling of discomfort that comes from growth, or are you shying away from it? I’m not talking about how you feel in any particular moment. I’m pointing to a general shift from a change-averse to a change-embracing orientation to life. Making this shift may be the most important step any one of us can take to accelerate our spiritual journey.

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