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How to Sit with Discomfort (and why your dance might thank you)

Discomfort. Yuck, right? Who needs it? It’s pretty normal to avoid pain or awkwardness or discomfort as much as possible. Or just ignore it. Pretend it isn’t there.

But sit with it? Look at it? Ewww, no.

I’ve had chronic pain for decades I just ignored as much as I could. It was always there and it hurt, so I just blocked it out and went on with my life. Of course, I also tended to avoid anything that aggravated it…. Which did kinda limit my connection to my body…

And then there’s emotional pain and discomfort.

Yeah, everyone’s favorite.

Even learning new skills causes discomfort.

So what is this about sitting with discomfort?


Because often, allowing ourselves to experience our own discomfort–in a gentle, curious, open way, without judging or pushing it away–helps it to resolve.

When we have pain, even emotional pain, we tend to cringe away from from it. Over time, that cringe, the tension around the hurt, the physical walling off of sensation, becomes habitual.

Softening our response to the pain helps it dissipate.

Even that chronic pain I mentioned above, allowing myself to feel it, to relax around it, helped it to ease. It came back, until the root causes were addressed, but it could be eased through practices such as Slow Movement. This was huge.

So many things agree!

As I got involved with Somatic Experiencing® (SE), I learned that sitting with the often uncomfortable physical sensations that arise as we approach a challenging memory, following them as they shift and travel–can dissolve the triggering that accosts us in the present. Permanently.

Learning Science shows that when people learn new skills–when we are really learning, not just amassing information–it feels immensely frustrating and uncomfortable. People often give up, believing that they are not smart enough to learn, all because they don’t know that frustration and difficulty are hallmarks of learning. As in, no frustration, no learning.

Our perfectionist culture expects us to be good at what we do and leaves little room for the messiness and pain of learning. Of life. The more we accept these things the better off we are.

Because with all that messiness comes the joy and beauty of life as well. Perfectionism drown that out, focused as it is on “improvement,” and its focus on what is wrong. Tension and avoidance drown that out too.

What important is what’s good, right, and joyful in our lives

In order to feel the joys of life, we also must sit with the downs. We focus on the good so we can traverse the challenges.

Dancemeditation taught me about Contraction, is the discomfort that precedes change and growth. It also taught me about Expansion, that joy of being in the new place. We need contraction (think of birth contractions), to get to Expansion–the new life, the new understanding, the expanded container that allows us to experience the world from a more grounded, stable perspective.

This is how I design my classes

Space to sit with discomfort

I make classes that explore essential elements of the dance that can be challenging–like improvisation. Attempting these dance elements can feel uncomfortable and frustrating–because there is so much learning available, so much opportunity for growth. It’s important to honor this challenge with compassion.

I bring a myriad of strategies to the table from a wide range of influences–because I’ve been a teacher for decades, I am curious, and I love learning, even though it hurts sometimes. So I make my classes effective and empowering, because I want us all to dance with feeling, variety, and joy.

Space for joy

Joy is vital. And times are hard, especially now. So wherever we can bring some joy into our lives let’s do that.

We have some really lovely classes coming up, opportunities to allow discomfort to pass through, and come to Joy. I invite you to have a look.

How to Dance (or Speak) for the Camera
July 13-Aug 28. Anyone feel anxious about dancing or speaking to the camera? This is for you. I am really looking forward to this class. It will be empowering and powerful. No days or time to post as our Small Group meeting times will be planned with the group. Bi-weekly one-hour small group meetings and two half-hour personal sessions. Registration closes July 12.

DreamBeat–Fun Drum Solo Improvisation
Five Weeks, July 28 – Aug 25. Tuesdays at 4-5 PM ET.
A five-week adventure into drum solo interpretation and intuitive movement. Drum solo structure, technique, and exploration of various rhythms. We will use Middle Eastern drum solos as well as fusion and surprises! Registration is now open.

Tuning In–Medicine for Modern Times
Five Weeks, August 7 – September 4.  Fridays, 4-4:30 PM ET
This half-hour class comes from a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) perspective. It’s is a half-hour chillout session focused on nervous system regulation. It is designed to ease anxiety and restore wellbeing. We use gentle movement, breath, and body-based strategies to bring calm in the here and now. These strategies can be used any time to help the body feel more relaxed and grounded. 

I look forward to dancing with you!
All my love,

PS remember, we have a coronavirus summer special on all Teachable courses.
Click the course you want. Click “Enroll in Course,”
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