Should we Stay Where it’s Uncomfortable? Or Move to Maui Instead?

by Sweets and Sweaters

People everywhere are like… “Quit my job and moved to Maui.” “Selling my house and I’m moving to Israel.” “Moved to Portland and live in a Tiny House.” The articles are all over the internet.

At first, these stories seemed so radical. Remember how Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love awakened everyone’s secret desire to just leave it all behind and find serenity/authenticity? How amazing and courageous and unconventional of her to just leave what wasn’t working and go seek better lands. And now she has this book and she’s hangin’ with Oprah and like… WHY DON’T WE ALL DO THAT? Elizabeth and others like her are the heros of our society. They’re the role models, the ones who did what we all want to do. Leave. this. shit. behind.

It seems like the right thing to do. After all, “YOLO” and “Carpe diem” and “life is short,” and all that jazz. We MUST be happy. We must be comfortable. We must find and dwell in our bliss.

Or must we? And if we must, must we leave?

This morning I picked up Pema’s book When Things Fall Apart again and opened to the chapter titled “Not Causing Harm.” Pema discusses the practice of mindfulness, or noticing and refraining from responding to thoughts, feelings etc. impulsively. For example, when you’re sitting down and your nose starts to scratch- refrain from scratching. Let yourself be uncomfortable. Let your nose just itch.

Pema was given a meditation practice which combined mindfulness and restrain. She was instructed to notice the physical movements that arose when she was uncomfortable.  When her back was tight, she readjusted. When her nose itched, she scratched it. When her leg went numb, she moved it etc. Even if nothing itched, she scratched, too. In this meditation Pema realized that whenever she began to feel uncomfortable- she did things.

“Noticing how we try to avoid it is a way to get in touch with basic groundlessness. Refraining- not habitually acting out impulsively- has something to do with giving up entertainment mentality. Through refraining, we see that there’s something between the arising of the craving- or the aggression or the loneliness or whatever it might be- and whatever action we take as a result. There’s something there in us that we don’t want to experience, and we never do experience, because we’re so quick to act” (34). (lol I cited that like a school paper.)

Okay. So. Here’s the thing. We are a culture really attached to entertainment. When we’re bored we have a flashy phone to look at. When it’s quiet we have access to any song we want to hear. When we’re bored, we have chocolate in the pantry. When we’re lonely, we have Netflix. When we feel unsatisfied with our job… well, we always have Maui.

But what if we didn’t pick up our phone right away? And what if we didn’t find noise to fill the silence? What if we didn’t go straight for the chocolate? And what if we didn’t run off to Israel and Maui and Portland?

What if we let ourselves feel the space between loneliness and the attempt to avoid it?

What if we didn’t have to ease discomfort?

What if we could just notice our experience for one second, if that’s all we can manage, before avoiding it?

What if we let ourselves fucking feel?

What if anger was a volcano that didn’t destroy the village? What if emotions were passing clouds?
What if we were mountains allowing everything to happen around and on us, but we stayed still to just experience it all without fighting back?

What if leaving where we are wasn’t the answer? That includes our jobs. Our homes. Our feelings.

I’ll ask again for emphasis- what if leaving where we are wasn’t the answer?

I don’t have the answer, but like… I’m gonna chill with Pema for awhile and see.