Slow & Dirty: An (almost) All-Encompassing Guide to Navigating Life’s Challenges.

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So often the most wonderful things in life are even better when we take the time to slow down and really savor them.

Food, moments of wonder and beauty, great sex—don’t you wish you could prolong these experiences of pleasure and experience them on a deeper level?

We have the opposite reaction to pain and suffering, of course. Almost always, the instinctual reaction to something uncomfortable is to get away from it, and if you can’t get away from it, let the pain be swift and fast. It’s like the old Band-Aid proverb: get through the pain as quickly as possible, rather than drawing it out.

Rationally, this makes sense; we are biologically wired to move away from pain, because pain often signals a danger to our well-being, and danger ultimately equals the possible threat of death. Our evolutionary impulse is to survive, so, we instinctively move away from pain and toward pleasure—things that help us (and our species) stay alive, like food, sex, and safety. Simple.

The problem is when we habitually move away from everything that is uncomfortable or painful, we are setting ourselves up for a very limited life—one that is divorced from at least 50 percent of experience. We become incredibly vulnerable to external events; if our sense of well-being and happiness is reliant on whether things go our way, the outside world looms as a scary and untrustworthy place.

We experience ourselves often as victims to our circumstance. The people we experience as difficult become our enemies and the ones who seem similar to us or make us feel good are our friends. Again, simple, though inherently problematic, for those of us who instinctively move toward growth and complexity, and who inherently distrust, blaming others for our internal experience when those thoughts and feelings arise.

What’s the solution? Get counter-instinctual. Start to develop a relationship with your pain, your discomfort, and your suffering. Notice your ability to stay present and tolerate the feelings of shame or anger without collapsing. Get curious about what intensity feels like on a sensational level—in your body as it is happening, rather than simply thinking about it. Slow the process down, and rather than running from the feelings, let yourself get a little messy, which I promise will almost always lead to a greater and deeper understanding of what’s going on.

Slow and dirty.

Because the heart is a muscle that doesn’t discriminate between good and bad, the more we practice opening to the challenging and painful moments in life, the more deeply and intimately we can experience the pleasurable ones. And perhaps, with enough practice, we can stop distinguishing so acutely between “good” and “bad,” and relate to the myriad forms and shapes and textures that life presents us with as wondrous.

Even if they hurt.

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Author: Sashi Gollub
Image: Instagram/elephant journal
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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Sashi Gerzon-Rose

Sashi Gerzon-Rose is a psychotherapist and yoga teacher in Boulder, Colorado, and serves as adjunct faculty in the Graduate School of Psychology at Naropa University. She is a Zen practitioner, and loves poetry, dance, sitting with unanswerable questions, and experiencing the magic that can occur in the most ordinary moments, with the simply remembrance of awareness. She is grateful to her dog and husband for the depth of love that they so willingly offer and receive. To contact her, please visit her website.

Carolyn Graham Oct 23, 2017 7:44pm

Sashi Etsudo Rose Yes, how true. How often is difficulty seen as a sign of failure. To me, this is part of the left-over limiting beliefs of the 'New Age' movement, where everyone denies anger or any negative emotion, and floats along on a plateau of so-called spirituality, feeling only gratitude, bliss and happiness. It's utter nonsense. Being 'spiritual' to me, is allowing myself to feel whatever it is I am feeling, observing myself during the process (hopefully) without judgement, and affording the same acceptance to others on their own respective journeys. Once the feeling is felt, noticed, observed, it usually dissipates anyway, unless there is a maintaining cause, in which case one has to just get down and dirty with it, as you said, and allow it to be.

Sashi Etsudo Rose Oct 23, 2017 2:33pm

Deanne, I am so glad this article spoke to you! Thanks for letting me know.

Sashi Etsudo Rose Oct 23, 2017 2:32pm

Carolyn, absolutely. I think often about how the idea that life being hard is somehow shocking in our culture- in fact, we often see difficulty as a sign of failure, rather than an unavoidable truth that other cultures know in an intimate, and probably more integrated way. Thank you for your response!

Sashi Etsudo Rose Oct 23, 2017 2:27pm

Thank you, Savannah- I am so glad it resonated!

Deanne Fouché Oct 23, 2017 11:54am

I really, really love this article! thank you :)

Carolyn Graham Oct 22, 2017 7:22pm

I agree with you Sashi. In our western culture, we have become averse to any form of pain, choosing to ignore it or numb it out completely by means of addiction to social media, cell phones, etc. or other addictions to distract us from feeling. In many other societies and cultures, pain is a daily occurrence, probably non-stop pain, such as those living in war torn countries or suffering from starvation. They live with it continuously in an almost opposite reality to that which we experience. But we somehow do ourselves a disservice by not allowing ourselves to go there in terms of feeling pain. We become shallow and one-dimensional. Nice article, thank you.

Savannah Robinson Oct 22, 2017 5:38pm

I love this. The last paragraph... Yes Yes Yes.