How to Lean into Discomfort (& Unstick Your Stuck Karma).

Via Eric Klein
on Jul 31, 2013
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time to let go 650

This is a blog post in three acts:

Act 1: A reader’s question

Act 2: My answer

Act 3: Her results


ACT 1: The Question


Can you give some direction and guidance about how one goes about leaning into the discomfort? There are some places in my life I’m okay with discomfort and I guess I lean into it. There are other areas or calls that the discomfort stops me short and I quit following the call to awaken.

But I’m not sure what’s different or how I’m different. How does one (especially me) lean into that discomfort?

Wisdom Heart guidance appreciated,


Act 2: The Answer

Hi Theresa,

Thank you for your great question.

Your focus on discovering the difference in your experience between being okay and freezing up is the key to liberation.

Whether you freeze the mind or free it pivots on a moment of awareness.

When you meet discomfort with loving awareness, that very discomfort opens into a deeper level of freedom.

Meeting is an activity of awareness. When you truly meet an experience, you infuse it with awareness.

But when the mind reacts, there is no true meeting.

Reactivity is the unconscious perpetuation of the past. It is an automatic self-protective reaction of the mind that precludes meeting.

Rather than meet what arises, the mind recoils, contracts, and protects itself. In this reactive stance, there is no freedom, only the preservation and perpetuation of the patterns of the past.

The place to practice is right at the pivot point. The pivot point is that “place” in consciousness where the reactive tendency arises.

By becoming a student of your pivot point, you discover the answer to your question about what’s different.

How to practice?

Use your memory.

Go back to an experience of freezing.

Find in your memory a moment when you approached that pivot point and froze.

But—and here is part of the secret—go back to before you froze.

Rewind your memory to a few moments before the pivotal moment. And then slowly, slowly, let the movie play forward and observe the point at which the freezing kicks in.

Unfold the experience very, very slowly. Because you’re not trying to fix anything. You’re learning, seeking to be aware, to observe, and discover the difference that makes the difference between freedom and freezing.

You do this by studying the process of freezing.

Be aware of how the mind freezes.

Notice—in slow motion—how body sensations and internal dialogue and images arise. Be aware of the movement of the mind from awareness to freezing and contraction.

Go slowly and be aware. Then take a nice deep breath and shake off that memory.

Now you can do the same process with a non-freezing experience.

You can study an experience where you met discomfort in a way that promoted growth, openness and freedom.

You do the same practice with this non-freezing experience. Rewind and then slowly play forward.

This gives you a comparison. It’s likely that you won’t need to compare. Studying the reactive process is often enough.

All you’ll probably need to do is to rewind and the slowly play the freezing experience forward.

By going very, very slowly, you will discover the dynamics of the pivot point—the way that the freezing occurs.

  • Having observed the unfolding of the freezing reaction once . . . do it again.
  • Rewind just a tiny bit and slowly, slowly go forward to the freezing point again.
  • Now, rewind once again—and with even more ease and loving awareness—play it forward.
  • Do this more quickly, but comfortably. Then do it again.
  • Notice how your experience of the freezing changes . . .

As you infuse the memory with loving awareness the dynamics change.

Reactivity subsides. Insight and freedom dawn. Why?

Because, awareness is the healing agent.

Take some time to experience and enjoy the shift that awareness has brought you.

Spend time experiencing the shift that awareness brings. By experiencing the shift in awareness you will:

  • Continue to transform freezing into freedom
  • Gain insight into the difference that makes the difference for you.

Act 3: The Result

In her own words:


Here’s what I discovered.

  • Discomfort is okay.  I’m approaching it with curiosity and wonder and a sense of learning something about myself.  There’s a growing edge to it that’s kind of exciting even though uncertain and a little uncomfortable.
  • Discomfort is paralyzing when I’m afraid of disapproval or rejection. I freeze when I want to do it right, be approved of and accepted, praised, and valued by someone.

The difference is internal or external focus.

When my focus is internal: on my learning growing and exploring it’s okay.

When my focus is on what an external response might be it’s not okay. I don’t feel safe to “lean into the discomfort” and move forward.

Now I have both understanding and a way to move forward when I become frozen and stuck.

I am very grateful for your “doodles” and inspirational words in my inbox each week.  


Now it’s your turn.

What’s the difference for you?

  • What makes your mind freeze?
  • What frees it?

Post your experiences in the comments below.



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Ed: B. Bemel


About Eric Klein

Eric Klein is one of the few people on the planet who is both a lineage holder in a 5,000-year-old yoga lineage and a best-selling business book author. You can get his free ebook & guided meditation audio "The 7 Reasons Meditation Doesn't Work (and how to fix them)" at Eric has worked with over 35,000 people to infuse greater meaning, awareness, and purpose into their work and lives. His book "You are the Leader You’ve Been Waiting For" won a 2008 Nautilus Book Award for being “a world-changing book promoting positive social change and responsible leadership.” With his wife and partner Devi, Eric is also the creator of the Healing Family Karma programs and The Meditation Habit. Eric and Devi have two adult sons, a ball-obsessed pup, and live in Encinitas, California. To learn more about their work (and access free teaching videos on meditation and mantra), go to


6 Responses to “How to Lean into Discomfort (& Unstick Your Stuck Karma).”

  1. amandabethsuutari says:

    Great process! It reminded me of what happens whenever I sense violence is about to happen either in real life or movies (luckily I'm exposed to it much more in movies than in real life, but sadly this is not the case for everyone in the world). I have an intense fear/phobia of gore or graphic violence, and whenever a violent scene starts in a movie I go into an intense anxiety reaction where I want to leave the room. I usually stay, but I cover my eyes. I don't want to become jaded to the frequency of casual graphic brutality we see nowadays in the media, but I do want to be able to watch it without my mind freezing in fear and resistance. I want to use this process to actually locate those moments when my mind switches from a generally relaxed state to one of near-panic, and to break it down to the tiny moments leading up to and through this switch.
    Thank you very much! It's a very deep part of my psychology and I've been working with it in different ways already. I know that nothing is a quick-fix, but this is a great tool to add to the kit.

  2. Renee says:

    This is really helpful to me today. I have a looping experience of this related to my work environment. I work for two people, co-founders of our small company. One is a hard working honest guy who wants to do good work and make the world a better place. The other has the perspective that "its all optics" and the objective is to get as much money as possible out of clients for doing as little as possible in return (This is how he himself describes it). So there is a constant friction that happens. Yesterday we were in a meeting and this came up. We were discussing whether to pitch a client for an additional contract. Boss #2 presented as, "we could get another $200K out of them for doing next to nothing." boss #1 countered with, "that doesnt feel like the right course to take" and listed a bunch of reasons why it wasnt the right path for us as a company or the relationship with our client. It went unheard by boss #2. This was my freeze up point. Because I felt a lack of control, as I always do. And at its core it feels like by my own standards, quite often the tactics that play out are not in alignment with right livelihood for me…and that feels really bad. The second piece is a sense of hopelessness – that these two mis-aligned objectives block any positive momentum from ever occurring. The effort of boss #1 (and the team) is constantly blocked by the antics of boss #2. My reaction is always a deep longing to get myself out of this story…

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    Undischarged emotions from the past, which has interrupted my ability to think in areas of discomfort. Which limits my life in many ways, by avoiding situations that remind me of my past.
    What frees iis having an aware presence giving me space to think and feel those old feelings from a former time that has nothing to do with the present. This opens and widens my perspective on having a larger life. The contradiction is to not to try to figure it out alone. But, I still have to do the work myself.

  4. Catherine says:

    Wow! I experience VERY similar feelings during violence in movies! I really, really, really, really HATE it and feel most of it is unnecessary. And I totally agree about not wanting to become jaded! Your comment helped me make the connection with this article and the issue.

  5. Hannah says:

    Like Theresa my mind freezes when I am faced with the opportunity that one may judge me and I may not deliver perfection, such as any public speaking forum. I am totally uncomfortable but I do it anyways. I am learning that I need to recognize the pivotal moments when I start to feel that anxiety or the overwhelming sense to abort mission. Once those moments are recognized, I practice deep breathing exercises and say, "I trust myself to do the best I can". I remember that I am providing a service for my audience and it is not about me, but them. I don't think I will truly be freed from the uncomfortableness of public speaking, but I can be aware of how my mind and body (stress hives) react and be there to soothe the nerves and embrace that I am not without flaw and that is OK. It's all about Acceptance.

  6. Francisca says:

    Deception (, lack of gratitud ,negativity but I just found that belive in a bigger power that I’m is operating to my own well being and by trust in that source I learn how to live in the moment letting go what I Don’t have control over and that teach me that attachments are an illusion so I’m not worry much about yesterday not what’s tomorrow will bring but just now embrace all that now is bringing and Lear from what in the moment is telling me and if I don’t understand that specific moment I will give it to the source to guide me in understanding and accomplishments