Ruth Landstrom,Ph.D.                                                                                                                         

October 2007                                             Volume 1, Number 3
"Be in the moment."   We hear that advice a lot these days.  But what if the moment is uncomfortable?   Trying to get rid of discomfort is a deeply ingrained habit for all of us.  This issue explores how that habit can interfere with our contentment.

A Bigger Contentment 
What is contentment anyway?  The word contentment conjures up napping cats and peaceful beaches, five-star meals and perfect sunsets.   We imagine ourselves relaxed and unruffled.  
I'd like to suggest that contentment can be bigger.  What if we can learn to be content even when we're uncomfortable and agitated?  
We don't usually question the need to alleviate discomfort ASAP: without thinking, we immediately cast about for a way to get rid of it.  At the slightest sign of unpleasantness -- bam, all these habits kick in. The trouble is, a typical day contains multiple moments of slight discomfort: hunger, tiredness, minor aches and pains, worries, irritations, losses.  If we're scrambling to get rid of these experiences all the time, we're letting our discomforts lead us around by the nose. 
Even though this may sound crazy, it can be so relaxing to stop squirming around trying to get comfortable!   It can feel like a huge weight has just been lifted off your mind.  Wow, you can take a break from fixing your pain/ your bad habits/ your spouse/ your child/ your Mom/ your boss! 
It can be such a relief to turn off that inner monitor that keeps asking, "Am I comfortable?  How about now?"   That inner voice is a lot like a kid asking, "Are we there yet?" 
No, we're not there, we're here. 
Contentment a Habit
This kind of contentment doesn't just appear in our lives.  Like all habits, the habit of rushing to comfort is not easy to kick.
You can begin by trying to notice whenever you are having an experience you dislike. Then, instead of doing anything right away, just pause and feel.  You might even muster up some curiosity.  What does tiredness really feel like?  hunger? sadness?  anger?  What habits have you built up to avoid these experiences?
More formally, meditation offers lots of opportunities to sit with discomfort without doing anything about it.   
Now, meditation is not masochism.  It's not toughing it out for the sake of toughing it out.  Meditation involves sitting with discomfort for the purpose of getting to know what our experience really is.  The intention is kindness to ourselves, not self-sacrifice or self-denial.
While we sit with our discomfort, for instance, we can notice how it changes.  We often assume that  pain will remain the same until we do something about it.  Is that true this time?   What is the effect of just relaxing and doing nothing?
We can also notice how our thoughts tend to fixate on the pain.  What about the rest of our experience?  Or we may notice thoughts like, "I can't stand this," or "How much longer is this going to last?"  Don't such thoughts just exacerbate the unpleasantness by making it seem bigger, more solid, and more permanent than it is? 
We may still choose to take action to relieve pain and sorrow.  But we can best know what to do when we allow ourselves to know these states intimately, without rushing to get rid of them.  And there is an ease that can emerge -- a bigger contentment --when we learn how to settle in to whatever experience comes our way.



Day to Day

When we picture contentment, we x out a lot of daily life.  Like the dentist. 
There I was this morning, writing this newsletter, and  I had to go to the dentist.  Okay, I thought, can I practice contentment in the dentist's chair?  
In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you I'm not particularly scared of the dentist.  You get to lie down at the dentist, after all.  (One of my best memories from law school is of lying down in the dentist's office after final exams.)  So going to the dentist was only stretching my contentment a little bit. 
In the dentist's chair, I practiced mindfulness.  I practiced tuning in to physical sensations, not only that whole circus of stuff that happened around my mouth, but also the parts of my body that felt just fine.  I listened to the layers of sounds: drilling over radio over fishtank.   
I also noticed some of my thoughts, especially that pesky one, "Isn't this almost over?"  I felt a lot worse when I paid attention to that thought than when I just turned my mind back to the feel of my body against the chair.
"When we practice meditation we are strengthening our ability to be steadfast with ourselves.  No matter what comes up -- aching bones, boredom, falling asleep, or the wildest thoughts and emotions -- we develop a loyalty to our experience.  Although plenty of meditators consider it, we don't run screaming out of the room.  Instead we acknowledge that impulse as thinking, without labeling it right or wrong. 
This is no small task.  Never underestimate our inclination to bolt when we hurt."
Pema Chodron,
The Places That Scare You, p. 34


New!!  Habits and Happiness workshops!

Mindful Body, Quiet Mind
Friday, November 9, 2007, 7 - 9 p.m.
Yoga for Well-Being
Ruth is beginning a series of monthly "Habits and Happiness" workshops at Yoga for Well-Being, in Florida, NY, for those who want to bring the ideas of this newsletter to life.  These workshops will take place on the second Friday of each month.   Each workshop will include a talk, meditation, and discussion.
Meditation class moving to Thursday
Beginning November 1, Ruth's weekly meditation class at Yoga for Well-Being, Florida, NY, will be changing time.  The new time will be every Thursday from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m. 
New office!!
Ruth has just opened a new office at 28 Railroad Avenue in Warwick, New York, where she will be available for  both coaching and psychotherapy. 

I'd love to hear from you!  Please e-mail me your comments, questions and requests.  If you or someone you know would like to explore coaching or meditation, you can contact me for a free phone consultation at 1-866-788-4526 (1-866-RUTHLAN) or