The Gift of Discomfort: Receiving Your Present (Moment) with Joy

Shoppers search for last-minute gifts at a Christkindlmarkt in Berlin, Germany (2017). Photo by me.

“Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” —Matthew‬ ‭6:34‬ ‭TPT‬‬

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness. This state is then no longer dependent upon things being in a certain way, good or bad. It seems almost paradoxical, yet when your inner dependency on form is gone, the general conditions of your life, the outer forms, tend to improve greatly.”—Eckhart Tolle

The holiday season presents us with a unique challenge. We love receiving gifts during this festive time, but often we don’t end up getting what we wanted or asked for. Especially when it’s a gift from “that” relative. You know, the one: that maverick auntie or cousin who has absolutely no sense of what you really like.

For many of us, the present moment can also be one of those unwanted gifts.

God, it would seem, has about us much taste in gifts as eccentric Aunt Sue when it comes to designing our reality. (Or so we like to think.)

There are always things you will want to change about our present experience. Especially if your present is still full of past pain, it easily can become a place you don’t want to inhabit. So you do anything you can to be somewhere else. 

But the present is where your life is. 

It’s the only place where you can experience freedom.

It’s the only place you receive genuine love and acceptance. 

It’s the only place the Holy Spirit can whisper a word of healing into your life. 

Every moment you spend somewhere else—the past, the future, or someone else’s present moment—is one moment less you have to fully live your life.

The present you’ve got might not be the gift you were hoping for… but its discomfort serves a purpose that will ultimately bring you closer to everything you want.

It’s time to claim the gift of the present, and here’s how to do so, from one reluctant receiver to another:

1) End the war against yourself.

Much of our frustration with the present starts with our frustration with ourselves.

We often speak of being “in a battle” against ourselves or against parts of ourselves or our lives that we just don’t like. Verses about spiritual warfare, most notably from Ephesians 6, come up at this time. But battle—by its very definition—involves resistance. And isn’t the battle supposed to be the Lord’s, anyway? (2 Chronicles 20:15; Ps 56:9, 115:9

Are you tired of fighting a war? Are you tired of forcing yourself to do the “things you should” or crusading in your own spirit to make lifestyle changes? 

Perhaps its time to release the battle, and trust it to the One who has already won the war.

Often times, the war (as we understand it) is a kind of distraction. As long as we think we are battling hard against our weaknesses and challenges, then we reason that we must be “doing faith right.” In reality, all this crusading against ourselves might very well be a way of distracting ourselves from the painful thoughts, emotions, and memories that inevitably surface when we actually sit still.

After all, if you’re busy fighting, you don’t have to think too much, feel too much, remember too much. It’s safer that way. War actually can feel much safer than peace—because what would you do with all the pain if you stopped long enough to feel it?

When our bodies, minds and heart are full of undealt-with emotions from the traumatic experiences of our past, the present can seem like the most un-safe place to be. Exhausting ourselves with constant attempts to fix ourselves and crusade against our failings feels preferable to becoming quiet enough to simply observe the pain.

The only way to end the exhaustion of the battle, and find true rest, is to stop fighting yourself so hard. Stop resisting that you and your life feel or look a certain way right now. 

God specializes in fighting battles on your behalf while you watch Him.

2) Embrace time in your physical body.

Trauma pushes us out of our bodies. This is an insidious consequence that typically goes undetected. Very often the violation or the pain occurred in our inhabited being. So now that we’re over the shock of it (even years afterward), we tend to avoid spending any time in the place where we were wounded: right here, inside our skin.

Overthinking. Constant flashbacks to the traumatic event. Emotions spinning out of control when someone triggers us with their behavior. Resorting to addictive practices such as media bingeing, emotional eating, or substance abuse to numb the pain: all of these habits serve one purpose, and one purpose only…

To keep us out of the place where the pain is: right in this moment, in this body. 

To heal the pain, you must reside alongside the pain within the physical body.

Once you are truly “back” in your body, you can release the pain.

There are healthy ways to be in your physical body: contemplative physical exercise (gentle yoga or nature walks), meditation, resting, engaging in therapeutic art or creative hobbies, breathing, taking time to savor a comforting activity such as sipping a cup of tea by a sunny window. All of these focus you on what is happening, right now, which pulls you out of spinning thoughts and whirling emotions, back into your body.

It will be painful to live in the body at first, because the body is full of emotional pain. Every sinew and tissue carries that pain. But as come back into your body, you will find that pain is not the only thing you feel. There is pleasure too in the present moment. There is joy.

Your life is right here, right now, in this body.

3) Entertain the discomfort of full sensation.

Emotions reside in our bodies. Painful or pleasurable sensations happen as a result. 

Did you know that research has suggested the painful emotions, sensations and memories you feel deliberately for up to 90 seconds will depart from your body, never to return? Make it a practice to fully feel your emotions, and you’ll be able to release them much faster.

A coach shared this practice with me when I was healing from my divorce. It literally save my life. In most areas of daily life, I can speak about that experience, write about it, and counsel women from it without any sense of emotional pain. Because I’ve felt it and fully released it, the pain no longer resides in my body.

Today, I still find some areas where residual trauma and emotion bubbles up from that experience. But now I know what to do: fully feel it and let it be. It flies away on its own and in the future, I don’t experience that same trigger. 

90 seconds of discomfort could release you from a lifetime of pain around a particular memory. We spend a lifetime avoiding those 90 seconds.

In the process, we miss all the seconds of our lives. 

Releasing pain also has the wonderful side benefit of opening us up to fabulous new sensations in the body that we have either never experienced, or that have been suppressed due to pain. 

Discomfort is fleeting. What it breaks open inside us will last a lifetime. 

4) Experience God’s unconditional love.

This is my favorite one of all—so I saved the best for last! 

I’ve found in my own life that the deepest challenge with my present moment is always the lack of love I feel right now. I retreat to the past, where I was loved by someone (or where love was first withheld from me.) I advance into the future, where I dream of a world with more love and acceptance. 

But God is here in the present moment, wanting to “love on me,” (as they would say in the southern USA). This is not about loving others more, but allowing ourselves to be fully loved. 

One of the best ways I’ve found to feel fully loved is through meditation. This is a practice where I don’t need to do anything in order to prove myself further. I can simply sit in silence and be with God. This mirrors a really good human relationship, where both parties don’t always feel they need to be talking. When you learn to sit in silence with God, you recognize that if you are His child, He is not judging you. He is simply being with you.

Eventually, He might begin to speak to you more clearly and directly in the silence. But you’ll never hear that voice if you don’t get quiet enough to listen.

So much of our doubt, so much our wrestling, has to do with feeling deeply unloved. No one can empower you to feel loved like God can. But if you remain too busy, or too distracted, to spend this time… you’ll likely miss out on the joy and beauty of pure connection.

Out of that connection, a deep sense of loved-ness arises. You stop wondering if you’re good enough and start reveling in companionship.

Nothing says “love” more than quality time spent together.

You must show up, heart open, in order to receive.

– – –

You might not be able to change your present, but you can deeply receive it as a gift. Discomfort has been designed right into your present—mostly because what you really seek is only possible by stepping right toward discomfort and embracing it.

When you stop fighting what is, you allow the changes you wanted anyway to naturally flow in. 

This holiday season, I invite you to end the war against yourself by dropping all the “shoulds” off how things ought to be, and instead give yourself the gift of accepting what is. In doing so, the present will change on its own. 

I also invite you to return to your physical body. Fully feel, fully taste, fully see, fully hear, fully sense all that happening around you. Let the site of your former trauma become a site of grace. Reclaim your inhabited being. 

Finall, I invite you fully feel the emotions you have been stuffing down inside your body. You might be shocked at how physical healing opens up for you, as well, when you take this approach. 

The present moment might not always be comfortable, but when you embrace it you will find the comfort you were seeking all along. 

* * *

What do you think? Share your thoughts below.

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