My challenge to you is a challenge to myself. To stop being comfortable.
Reject your comfort zones, cushy seats, and lavish luxury. Reject lazy thinking, emotional leaps of logic, and quit complaining. Instead seek out ways to experience discomfort… maybe even some pain. Learn to love it and say not a word of protest about it. Make your body, mind and spirit strong.
Love yourself by becoming a self-improving, self-mastering masochist (I mean that in a good way, don’t go and get all weird on me). Try to find your blind spots, question your fears, confront your beliefs and remove what limits you. Meet the real you and hand your ego some humble pie.
Hormesis is a biological phenomenon where by providing small doses of a stressor provides a positive benefit. Examples of this include sun exposure, exercise, or even gravity. In a nutshell, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Our bodies are amazing in that they can adapt and develop tolerance to stress, toxic substances, radiation, etc.
Everyday our bodies are exposed to bacterial and viral agents in small doses. These small exposures causes an immune response to deal with the foreign invaders. After the invasion is repelled, the immune system will remember the pathogen that it can provide a stronger and faster response should be the body come across that pathogen again.
Because we live in a technological age, where everything is made easy and comfortable. We don’t provide our bodies or minds the kind of healthy stress that allows us to grow and overcome challenges. By design we are meant to grow through challenge and adversity. Consider that some of your best work and best moments probably came under stress and affliction.
I remember since a young age I have been afflicted with severe asthma. My asthma would get inflamed with exercise, strong emotions and allergic triggers. Up until using diet and supplements like iodine to control or eliminate my asthma, I have “rehearsed death” to quote Seneca. My family and a few friends have seen my asthma take me pretty close to my last breath while waiting for treatment or my inhaler.
I do not look at my experiences with asthma negatively as I think they only made me stronger. That is not to say I want to have asthma attacks. The asthma attacks I have had all contributed to making me more resolved and resilient. The times that I thought asthma was going to end me, it helped strengthen my mind to put things in their proper perspective.
People often confuse Stoicism with being emotionally cold or void, which it is not. Stoicism in part is about adopting or accepting adversity as a means of training to be resilient, to banish fear and release negative emotions.
You could say practicing Stoic principles is a form of hormesis for the mind. The goal being to find true and deep seated joy that is present every day and in everything we do or endure.
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials. ~Seneca
Practicing Stoics advocated removing oneself from life’s luxuries from time to time as a means of controlling desire, removing fear of loss and loosing temporary attachments to this world. Stoics were known for things like sleeping on the floor once in a while instead of their bed, or bathing regularly in cold water.
EXPERIENCES WITH ACCEPTING PAIN
A goal in Systema training is learning to relax when accepting pain from body strikes. If you are not familiar with body conditioning in martial arts, this may seem strange or shocking to you. But it is not as bad as it sounds or looks.
Striking in Systema is very different, relaxed when compared with other martial arts. To most outsiders it looks too loose to cause pain or damage. Let me assure you as someone who has received strikes from Sonny Puzikas and my fellow peers, Systema striking is very effective and painful.
Receiving strikes against the body has a toughening effect on the body that is more a result of mental state that accepts and feels relaxed with things like receiving punches. I learned to relax more as time went by despite the fact I knew I would receive more powerful strikes. Through regular conditioning and learning to accept strikes, I started to bruise less and feel more energized after class was over.
There were days I went into training after a hard day feeling blue and tired. Because I love the training, I put forth my best and start to feel better as a result. What really puts me over the top was at the end of class we would practice striking on each other working our way up to some painfully hard strikes.
Body strikes never feet pleasant in the moment, but when it was all done I walked away feeling warm and peaceful inside. It sounds completely counter intuitive, but that has been a consistent experience for me.
SEVEN UNCOMFORTABLE THINGS TO TRY
Stop procrastinating- There are so many things we put off because of fear, laziness or from just being comfortable. Get up and just get it done, resolve to get moving and do it. Sharpen those dull knives, clean up your desk, break a few routines to get other things accomplished. Maybe you have someone you need to apologize to. Do it and mean it. Is your house cluttered? Clean that stuff up- get that two week backlog of dirty dishes done. Clearing up the things you have procrastinated over is a mind cleansing experience and it is definitely a step in the right direction in getting out of your comfy place. Read Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek for inspiration in this area.
Adopt simple eating- Break your psychological attachments to food. Stop running to food to comfort yourself or as a form of reward. Eat simply, eat less. Develop a hunger. Find motivation in hunger. Experiment and notice how your body can do more with less. Try out the eating lifestyle Ori Hofmekler recommends in his book, The Warrior Diet.
Do something new- A tired old cliche, I know. After all how many times how many times have you heard that? But this piece of advice holds true still and it keeps popping up because people don’t take this seriously. Do something outside your comfort zone. Learn a hobby and that could one day be a business. Volunteer your time to a cause you care about. Go to network groups, learn to speak in front of people, and develop new relationships.
Fasting- Fasting is very uncomfortable, and most people avoid it like the plague. But there is nothing quite like over coming the psychological chain food has on our minds. Fasting allows you to break the routine of getting and eating food which makes more time for other things. I have had many different experiences with fasting from lousy to great. I have done biblical fasts of 3 days with no food or water and 7 day fasts of no food allowing myself water only. If you decide to fast, but never have done it- go slow and build up. The point is not to end up in the hospital. Start small at 6 hours or so and build from there. Listen to your body and mind, and be aware of any medical conditions you may have. Combine fasting with mindful meditation and prayer to get more from the experience.
Dump the negativity- Consider the sources of negativity in your life. Negative influences are everywhere: people, places, thoughts, etc. Many of us hold onto these negative influences because they are familiar and predictable. Sometimes we may not even see it until someone points it out. Seek out positive people and influences while quietly distancing or removing yourself from the negative sources in your life. This will be a very uncomfortable thing to do and it does take a spine of steel, especially if sources of negativity include people you are close to or have to work with.
Minimize distractions and time wasters- Look around and remove or minimize physical and mental comforts that distract, stagnate or hamper your growth. Consider trappings like TV, internet surfing, games, hanging at the local sports bar, etc.
Find a mentor- Finding a mentor who has been successful in their life and has something in their life you want can be a bold and powerful move. It is more than being accountable to someone, which is uncomfortable enough. But it is also having someone teaching you and pushing you to do more than you want to. There is a reason why athletes have coaches and military recruits have drill sergeants. Most of us are not self-starters and we are not nearly as critical of ourselves as we need to be. More importantly we need someone who can see into our blind spots.
These are just a few suggestions of the many things you can attempt to do that will push your boundaries and rouse you from your comfy places. Don’t doubt the power of adopting yourself to being or doing uncomfortable or painful things. More importantly, don’t sell yourself short. You can do more than you give yourself credit for. The only way you will know is to accept that anything worth doing is not easy and then go about doing it.
- Letters from a Stoic
- A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine
Image credit: I P O X s t u d i o s