The Dinner Party

By: Tory  |  Published: July 19th, 2011   |  Category: Buddhism, pema chodron, Tory Shulman News, women

After reading an article in “Self” magazine, I changed my morning routine. The article claimed that in order to have the most efficient day, one should wake up relatively early, get in the shower right away and make the bed before leaving the house. This leaves you with a clean and fresh space from which to start your 24 hours. Turns out this routine also gives you more time in the morning to take care of other duties…such as dog doodies. I have found a pleasant four block walk with my rescue mutts Barnaby and Josie Rose really gets the blood flowing. I wear a big floppy straw sun hat, plug in my snazzy new headphones and start my walking meditation by listening to my favorite Buddhist nun Pema Chodron.

Lately, I’ve been listening to Pema teach on how to “reframe one’s attitude towards discomfort.” Now, like most people, I find that the feeling of “discomfort” generally feels “discomforting.” I would rather not have it. But according to Pema, I am doin’ it all wrong. In fact, the one way to ensure consistent suffering and pain is to constantly try and escape “discomfort.” The more we run away, the more the unpleasant feelings will find us. The more power and fear we give “discomfort” the bigger and scarier it gets. Sort of like Voldemort.

The practice that Pema suggests is revolutionary. Instead of running away from “discomfort,” she instructs you to turn around and head directly towards the “discomfort.” She presses on even further. Not only should you walk towards the pain but you should get to know it intimately. Easier said than done right? Luckily Pema is a master of metaphors and the “dinner party” metaphor is one of my all time favorites.

Imagine life is like a dinner party that you are hosting. The guest list consists of different emotions you will experience in your life. Obviously, if you are hosting the party, you would think to immediately invite “humor” and “happiness” and “contentment” and “satisfaction” over and get to know them all extremely well. It would be an amazing party–filled with everything just the way you want it. However, when “low self-esteem” and “anxiety” decide to crash the party and knock on the door–you freeze, shut the lights off and pretend no one is home. Why would you want to get to know those guys?? BECAUSE those guys are part of life too. You will never ever ever go through life just bumping into “contentment” and “happiness” since that is not how the world works. And if you spend your life TRYING to only bump into the “feel good” emotions than you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of suffering.

So the next time you run into “discomfort,” try reframing your attitude towards it. Be brave and walk your ass towards it. Invite it over. Sit down and get to know it as well as you know “love” and “laughter.” What does it feel like? How does your stomach clench? Do you get headaches? Which part of your back tenses up? Does your jaw lock when “discomfort” comes around? Don’t judge how it makes you feel, just notice it. Just observe it. By doing this mindfulness work, you essentially take the power away from the emotion. You turn the “terrifying monster under your bed” into a a simple, hungry dinner party guest that just wants some hors d’oeuvres.