Friday, February 22, 2013

The Wisdom of Discomfort

Buddha welcomes us to Wisdom 2.0

"Of all of the skills I have learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out: Learning to be comfortable with discomfort." -- Leo Babauta, zenhabits

Tonight was the opening session of Wisdom 2.0 at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.  The center is decorated with art, inspirational quotes and sacred images.  In addition to the large hall where the main programs will be held, there are special places for meditation, yoga and small group gatherings.  We learned at the opening session that almost 1700 people are attending the conference (compared with 600 last year) from places all over the globe.  Most people, including me, are here for the first time.

As I sat and listened to the conference founder and organizer Soren Gordhamer welcome us and  facilitate a conversation with Jon Kabat-Zinn, Congressman Tim Ryan and Marianne Williamson, I thought of Leo Babauta's recent post at zenhabits titled "Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe."  I was feeling uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because I'm always uncomfortable around 1700 people I don't know in a setting that has symbols and practices that I'm not familiar with.  Uncomfortable because when I read through many of the profiles of the people in attendance I thought to myself, "I'm a technological kindergartener amongst a group of graduate students."

Since the speakers on the stage were encouraging us to be present and conscious this weekend, I did my best to breathe and feel my uncomfortableness.  It wasn't comfortable.  Which is why I thought of Leo's counsel:  "Master your fear of discomfort and you can master the universe."  I'm not all that interested in mastering the universe this weekend, or probably even this lifetime, but it would be nice to meet some new people, learn a few things and get a little more wisdom - or at least an insight or two on what might lead to wisdom.

Perhaps I got a little tonight.  One of the reasons I have the picture of the mural of St. Francis standing naked before God at the top of this blog is to remind me, and maybe even you, what it means to live a called life.  It is like being naked before our beloved for the first time, we feel both nervous and excited.   Maybe even uncomfortable.  But being uncomfortable isn't the worst thing we can feel.  Especially when it opens the door to doing and learning something new.  Becoming comfortable with discomfort.  A radical notion - perhaps - that can change a life, or at least a weekend.

One of the many quotes posted throughout the Exhibition Center at Wisdom 2.0

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