rituals: sitting with discomfort (cara strickland).

Rituals, rituals!  Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Exclamation point, exclamation point!  As usual, you are in for a treat this morning with one of my favorites, Cara Strickland.  We’ve only met once in person, but she’s become a real-life friend who asks the hard questions and invites others into her journey.  And that is exactly what her writing today does, so enter in and enjoy!  

Flickr Creative Commons: Chuck Patch.
Flickr Creative Commons: Chuck Patch.

“Why?” is my favorite question.

Long before I knew what it meant to be contrary, I was questioning everything, wondering why it was done one way rather than another, or why I had to do it (or couldn’t). I wanted to know about the exceptions to the rule. I wanted to push against truth and make sure it would hold my weight.

As a child, my questions were about the world and how I functioned in it. There is a story which has become a favorite of mine as an adult. My grandfather had passed away, and I had Heaven on my mind. I began to think about what I would pack to take with me when I went to join my Poppa. My mother had to break it to me that I couldn’t take my clothes with me.

I still wonder about this. I think Heaven might be better with my cozy, familiar red velour robe, or my maxi dress that feels like a nightgown. I knew that clothes were necessary for life on earth, and I had my favorites then: the sleeveless jersey dress with the seashells on it (which I would wear again in a second if it was still my size). Why couldn’t I bring a suitcase?

I’ve always thought that it is this relentless curiosity which turned me into a writer. I’ve always written, like Joan Didion, to find out what I think. The words on the page are the adult equivalents of the questions of my childhood.

Some time ago, I read a book called Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown. It’s a piece of fiction, married to a spiritual retreat. While it has compelling characters and an interesting story, I found myself following along on the spiritual journey and asking along with the characters: “what bothers you?” This has become my refrain in the months since. I am learning to pay attention to my discomfort, whether it’s about a relationship, a position I hold, or my environment. I am learning that discomfort is one of the first gentle teachers, holding hands with those who are willing to ask why.

In my early morning yoga classes, we often begin with a scan of our minds, before moving on to our bodies. We look for anything that seems different from the last time we practiced, any areas of tension or stiffness. When I feel a tight hip, or my back isn’t quite comfortable laying on the floor, I think back over the time between practices, trying to pinpoint the cause. I can’t always figure out why my balance is off or my foot is inflexible, I’m not sure that is always the point. But as I move through my hour, I move from asking “why?” to asking “what now?” or “how about this?”

In this same way, I have learned to move through my life, like a sun salutation. I pay attention, refusing to push through questions or injury. As I sit with my discomfort, breathing through the tightness, and scattered thoughts, I begin to discern the outlines, not of an answer, but of the next question.

CaraStricklandAuthorCara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know.  Come say hi to her on Twitter or Facebook. She likes making new friends.  Don’t you love Cara’s “outside the box” ritual?  How does asking questions further lead you to finding an answer?  Encourage our friend today, and leave a comment below!

4 thoughts on “rituals: sitting with discomfort (cara strickland).

  1. The question “why” is always helpful for the question “and what do I do next”, Cara. How to connect from one to the next can be tricky, though. It’s easy to get stuck on the “why” and never move off of it – paralyzing self-pity can result if we’re not careful.

    Your way of handling it all seems to avoid that problem. Thanks for laying it out. (A little yoga pun there, see? Because people lie down on Yoga mats and … never mind.)

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