The stench of iced tea was literally making me nauseous, and her hair swept too close to my face. Sitting in the audience at an inspirational conference in Tampa, I felt anything but inspired. I tried to gently scoot away from this stranger, but some kind of torture mechanism locked the chairs together.
I need to leave.
Fight or flight? Hi 👋 I am Amelia Earhart reincarnate.
I didn't care that I traveled 900 miles to be there or that the first speaker hadn't even gone on stage yet. Nothing mattered except changing my current state and making myself feel better. Nothing mattered but finding a way to escape. Because at the first sign of a minor inconvenience or slight twinge of discomfort, BYE.
After a few minutes of fidgeting, I closed my eyes, loosened my jaw, and took a deep breath. I pulled out my phone and texted away my grievances, letting others know of my dire situation. I received a text back, "Stay focused and present. Don't let external forces affect you."
He was right. His message reminded me that anytime I am uncomfortable, it is not because of anything anyone else is doing. As much as I wanted to blame poor innocent Tamra to my left, for her unfortunate drink of choice and frizzy hair, my internal state was a reflection of my own mind. (Though during that Brazilian last week, it really felt like external forces were to blame...so riddle me that.)
Back to the conference.
Something said, Stay in the room, Lindsey.
The thing is, I constantly experience the urge to get the eff out of Dodge.
To get the eff out of myself.
We all do it one way or another. Some habits are obvious like drinking alcohol and using drugs, while others are more subtle—frantically checking our cell phones, reaching for a cigarette, refreshing our email inboxes hundreds of time a day. Anything to change our circumstances or to get out of our present state.
My yoga teacher says, “Notice when you are looking for your exit doors.” In other words, to observe where in my practice I reach for a water bottle or wipe myself off with a towel or redo my hair. My exit door light flashes the brightest when he calls "Utkatasana" (chair pose). Even the phonetics cut like a knife. "Utakasana." In my panicked state, as though trained by Pavlov’s bell, I automatically reach for something. Anything.
It is a completely different feeling when we are magically consumed by the present, entranced by momentary bliss and completely in flow. We get lost in a time vortex that transcends thirst and sweat and hair arrangements. The need for an exit door is eliminated.
Our job here is to maintain clarity and become aware of all experiences and sit with them. Witness these states from a nonjudgmental perspective of neutrality. Don't try to distract yourself or change anything. Don't fight the moment.
When we think about self-improvement and personal growth and transformation, we often feel the need to take some revolutionary action in order to heal. In order to do the work. In order to dig deep. But what if we could do the work by staying exactly where we are? And by being exactly who we are.
In those uncomfortable moments, check in with yourself. Pay attention to your feelings, even the negative ones—envy, discomfort, anger, rage, confusion—they are signals. Guideposts. Indicators. Messages. Meet them where they are, sit with them. Don't work through them. Let them work through you.
The digging deep is staying in the room. Literally and figuratively.
Where are the exit doors in your day-to-day life?
When are you most likely to run for the escape hatch?
Figure out what is going on inside to trigger that upset.
What is initiating that pronounced disruption to the nervous system?
Be attentive to each unfolding moment of the miracle that is your life.
Show up right where you are without resistance.
Your presence is your power.
All in all,
When the hard feelings come, stay.
When you don't know the answer, stay.
When you are cripplingly uncomfortable, stay.
When you are in pain, stay.
Stay in the meditation.
Stay with the experience of wanting to leave.
Stay in the yoga pose.
Stay in the moment.
And yes, stay even for the Brazilian.
Stay, stay, stay.
As I am writing this, I just learned that my flight was delayed from 2:30pm to 7:30pm. I have been in Tampa airport since 12:30pm.
What can I do but stay?
P.S. Listen to my five-minute meditation on insight timer: A Brief Pause