The Year of Yes, ep. 9: YES to FEELING PRICKLY.

The prickly seed pod pictured below surrounds a growing, glossy chestnut. The spiny covering that protects the nut while immature, called a burr, opens wide when the seed is ripe (Paillet 2005). This beautiful creation of mother nature is a good metaphor for our growth experiences in life.

It’s just so darn easy to get stuck into routine, to let inertia overtake you. Many folks avoid stepping out of their comfort zones - like meeting a relationship trouble head on, traveling to a new place, or quitting a job for a more stimulating but challenging opportunity - because it can feel terribly frightening, possibly paralyzing. As we begin to step out into a wild unknown, we can feel alone, lost, uncomfortable, complicated, annoyed … prickly.

So why bother ever trying something new? It is vital to put ourselves in the discomfort of uncertainty and take risks in life so that we grow as humans, exploring our true potential. Being on this path of uncomfortable awakening can bear amazing outcomes, like a prickly chestnut seed pod, opening up to reveal a delicious, smooth, shiny, nutritious, beautiful fruit.


How, then, do we say YES to the unpleasant feelings that will inevitably emerge on the road of new experiences? How do we allow these feelings to show up without resisting them, perceiving them fully, and then letting them pass without getting bogged down?

I’ve been learning a great meditation tool from masters such as Tara Brach and Jeff Warren that anyone can use in these rough moments. It can help you to work with the intense or difficult feelings you’re encountering, facing them head on, allowing you to work through them. In fact, this tool works well in pleasant, calm moments too, though we're less apt to need help experiencing "the good stuff."

The tool is called RAIN, an acronym that stands for:

  • R – Recognize what is happening

  • A – Accept / allow life to be just as it is

  • I – Investigate inner experience with kindness

  • N – Non-Identification.

Here's a 10-minute free meditation exercise by Tara Brach to learn how to use it.

This mindfulness tool takes a bit of effort to remember and have ready when you need it, but it can be deeply helpful when you’re stuck in a prickly place. A little practice goes a long way.

Check out these great articles to further explore and learn more about this great tool: Tara Brach's website, Mindful Magazine article by Tara Brach, article by Susie HarringtonJeff Warren for the 10% Happier app

Now let's crack open and let the beauty emerge! ♡

The Year of Yes is a weekly photo-and-word installment by Dr. Shah written with the purpose of evoking hope, resilience, and a gentle movement toward healthy change in all of us.