We watched “The Princess Bride” with my daughter the other day, and I was struck by the wisdom of a famous line from Westley to Buttercup: “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” When I avoid uncomfortable feelings inside me, awkward conversations with my wife, disagreeing with friends, and so on, I suffer. The thing is, while pain is part of life, suffering is in our minds, optional, and often caused when we ignore or avoid inner pain.
During middle school I stayed with my uncle and, then, aunt for a month during summer vacation, and I remember him teaching me how to hold my breath for long periods of time under water by embracing and moving into the discomfort. After good instruction and practice, I went from NOT being able to swim underwater across an apartment complex type of pool (15-20 feet), to being able to go 75-100 feet.
I think flexing our “muscles” of vulnerability, courage, and wholeheartedness by jumping into the messy parts of life we often prefer to avoid is like holding your breath under water. You dive in and go for as long as you can, and then resurface to recover and catch your breath. Over time and with help from friends, as you repeat this you’ll become more resilient. a key component of aliveness. I wanted to share this to both encourage us with the reminder that however long we can metaphorically hold our breath, we’re fabulous and doing the best we can; while also inviting us to practice pushing our edge a bit by moving a little more into the uncomfortable stuff, and grow a little more awesome in the process!
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