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Day 12: Celebrating Discomfort

Yesterday's CrossFit WOD was a long, slow 'burner,' aimed at increasing endurance over a longer time. SO IN MY WHEELHOUSE, even if 'slow and steady' is my bumper sticker that no one reads because everyone is faster than I am. Talking with a friend, Jim, afterwards led to a marvelous celebration of discomfort required for any kind of training growth. Got me to thinking...Where do we get to celebrate discomfort? Do we ever?

The pleasure principle originating in Freud's psychology suggests we don't. We seek pleasure and do everything we can to avoid pain. When that pattern is reversed, words like masochistic or sado-masochistic get bandied about. (Hint: don't Google that one without high firewalls, just sayin'). In this dual-end framework, discomfort is a middle-term. The trick, at least in CrossFit, is to train your weakness, train what you avoid. It may be more pleasurable for me to do longish, burner cardio workouts, in other words, but my level of fitness will increase only if I train at the edges of the sprint workouts. Bother, as Pooh would say.

On the drive home, I brainstormed about disciplines that celebrate discomfort, if any. Brene Brown speaks of social work's "lean into the discomfort." She hated it, we learned in her first TedTalk. "I'd rather beat it back with a measuring stick," she quipped. There are other disciplines similarly aligned with the "lean into it" approach, but I can't think of any positioned toward celebrating discomfort. Certainly not theology or the religious-traditional disciplines I'm most familiar with.

Decades here have shown me how very rarely churched/traditional people are willing to lean into discomfort, let alone celebrate it. The social forces of religious-belonging align with the powerful, the pastor, the patriarch, convincing the fearful that Godde is only where we feel good or comfortable. Mountain-top experiences, we call them. This may be true in the organization of the church--which does serve a holy purpose, remember--but the equation of Good and Godde certainly isn't the Godde outside our control, our ego's preferences, our collective habit. The only place the More of Godde lives, breathes, and invites is the cusp beyond ego, the vanishing we resist on the Emmaus Road.

Here's where synchronicity ties in for me. I'm so thoroughly traditioned that I can craft tools, practices, and stories best within my own tradition through my ego. Anything our minds can track can be holy ground, after all. Until we grasp it and replace Godde with our knowledge. Which all of us do. Me included. Synchronicity is the box-breaker, when we're open to it. If we never experience discomfort in our religious lives, we’ve domesticated Godde into god.

Many Christians today know Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I suggest here we need something more akin toThe Celebration of Discomfort. Growth only happens when you step into the edgy places--true in CrossFit, social work, spiritual maturity and more. Some of us would say that sucks, and maybe it does. There is also infinite relief, however, in the blessed discomfort of not being remotely in charge.

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