Being in the Discomfort

The primary essence of the Sacred Feminine is being-ness.

Not in a passive way. In a state of heightened awareness…actively noticing everything in and around yourself…only taking responsibility for yourself and holding space and compassion for others.

That sounds easy.

It’s not.

It’s exhausting.

I’ve been told it gets easier.

I’ll let you know.

I had an excellent opportunity to put this being-ness into practice in light of what I had read from Pema Chodron‘s book, “The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness.”

There’s a common misunderstanding among all the human begins who have ever been born on the earth that the best way to live is to try to avoid pain and just try to get comfortable…A much more interesting, kind, adventurous, and joyful approach to life is to begin to develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet. To lead a life that goes beyond pettiness and prejudice and always wanting to make sure that everything turns out on our own terms, to lead a more passionate, full, and delightful life than that, we must realize that we can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is, how we tick and how our world ticks, how the whole thing just is. If we’re committed to comfort at any cost, as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we’re going to run; we’ll never know what’s beyond that particular barrier or wall or fearful thing.

“You have to be kind,” he told me. “We just can’t have this kind of tension.”

I’m sitting in a meeting with administration and human resources. There have been at least a dozen of these meetings so far, and things are getting worse at work…not better.

I look at this man and watch him squirm.

“That last meeting was just so uncomfortable. It was so difficult to watch and to be in the room.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Because you were so upset and it was just so obvious. And your boss was trying to connect with you but you kept dismissing her.”

“Because she was lying,” I reply. “You were uncomfortable with the fact that I wasn’t willing to go along with her lies?”

He squirms. “It just isn’t kind,” he says.

“And allowing a lie to continue is?” I ask.

He squirms again. “It’s just so uncomfortable. We just can’t have that.”

The above passage flashes through my mind and in that moment, I feel compassion for this man. Oh! You poor man. You really aren’t used to facing difficulties in your life. You really want to avoid pain at any cost. This must be so difficult for you.

“I don’t think you realize,” I begin slowly, “that the level of discomfort that you felt in that meeting is nothing compared to the level of discomfort I’ve been carrying around inside as a result of my boss’s lack of integrity. I am no longer willing to silently carry it all just so that you and everyone else can feel comfortable. The discomfort is there. Ignoring it or running away from it accomplishes nothing.”

He shifts in his chair and looks out the window. He sighs a big sigh.

I do too.

“I know,” I continue. “It’s hard. It’s unpleasant. I know. I’ve been carrying this around inside of me for two years. And I know kindness is important to you, but what about kindness towards me? I’m not being kind to myself by allowing this to continue to hurt me just because it might not be kind to tell the truth to another person.”

“This last meeting was just so different,” he finally says. “It was just so obvious that you were upset, and it just created so much tension in the room. We just can’t have that here.”

“The meeting was only different because I spoke my truth. I didn’t create the tension…I simply exposed it. Your words indicate that you want me to keep silent and ignore my upset. That ignoring problems is being kind and the only way to do business. Is that true?”

I squirms. “I don’t know,” he whispers. “It’s just so uncomfortable.”

He’s right. It is. I haven’t enjoyed a single one of these meetings. My heart has pounded as I walk to the meeting, requiring me to do a walking meditation and request people in my social circle to hold space for me at the appointed meeting time. Watching my mouth speak words that I’ve felt and thought for so long has been gut-wrenching…and freeing. I hadn’t realized how much of my energy has been tied up in keeping quiet…in keeping all of these things repressed…stomped down…ignored…controlled…all in the name of kindness and getting along with people.

The clarity has come. I know what I have to do.

“I don’t want to work for my boss any longer,” I say quietly.

A pained look crosses his face. I look at the other face and see the same thing reflected there. I feel compassion again for everyone’s discomfort with the discomfort. And then, a funny thing happens…I feel freedom…and peace…and a realignment with my soul. It’s definitely been an uncomfortable process. Yet, I’ve learned a lot…about the institution…about my boss…about the administration…about myself.

Most importantly, I know I am now back in integrity with myself.

And I know in that moment, that’s all that matters.

The Honesty of Discomfort

At the suggestion of a friend, I’ve begun reading “The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness” by Pema Chodron. From the very first page, my world was rocked:

During the dathun (as always at the abbey), the participants kept the five monastic vows: not to lie, not to steal, not to engage in sexual activity, not to take life, and not to use alcohol or drugs.

Ok. I roll my eyes. Blah, blah, blah.

The resulting collaboration of nature, solitude, meditation, and vows made an alternatingly painful and delightful “no exit” situation. With nowhere to hide…

Woah! I put down the book. Nowhere to hide?! And it’s “delightful?”

I squirm.

Why am I so uncomfortable with this thought? What do I have to hide?

You couldn’t lie.

I squirm.

Are you kidding me? One of the character traits I prize most is my honesty and integrity…to the point of brutality, I’ve been told. I would always rather someone told me the truth, even if it’s hard and painful to hear because that’s the only way I know someone is trustworthy and worth having in my life. I look down on people who struggle with honesty and judge them for being less trustworthy than I…less honorable than I…less than I.

So…why am I squirming? Particularly over something that I know I do not do?

Except, that you DO. 

What?! When?!

At work. 

Seriously? How?

By not speaking up when you know someone’s lack of integrity upsets you.

But it’s my boss! How do I tell my boss that she’s lacking integrity without losing my job?! I have to pretend I don’t notice it if I want to keep my job!

Why do you want this job if you have to lie to keep it?

I’m stumped. I have absolutely no good reason. From the outside, I have the perfect life. I live in an ideal and quiet beach town in Southern California. I have my dream job and have fabulous benefits. My office has a stunning view, and I have yet to drive to work without expressing gratitude at the scenery. I have access to all kinds of circles and events and have made excellent connections. But, over the past two years, I have become increasingly miserable despite all of the magnificence of my life…of my dreams coming true. Why?!

Because of the lying.

You’re asking me to tell the truth even though I know it will mean I will lose my job.

I’m not asking you to do this…YOU’RE asking you to do this. You’re miserable. How long will you continue to ignore your heart? 

But how come no one else is bothered by this?

Lots of reasons. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it bothers you and you’re pretending that it doesn’t. And for what?

I then notice my body…full of aches, lethargic, anxious, teeth deteriorating, canker sores, digestive issues, food cravings. How did this happen? Why didn’t I notice before?

Lying. You have been lying to yourself. And, your body is reaping the rewards of that. The lack of integrity within you is being reflected in your body and your outer world.

Crap.

Now what.

Tell the truth. 

No matter what?!

No matter what. 

To sit in a room and tell the truth about my boss to her face and to administration? I’ll have to defend myself. I’ll have to provide examples. Can I do that? I realize that I can indeed…I realize that I have lots of examples. I realize I’m angry. I realize I’m frustrated. I realize just how miserable I am each day.

I squirm again.

To sit in that room and tell the truth and not back down? To tell the truth to people I know personally as well as professionally? To tell the truth and face ridicule? To tell the truth and experience even more harassment from my boss? To tell the truth and risk everything?

Do you really have any other options at this point?

I squirm. Again.

No. I don’t.

I squirm…and send an email to administration requesting a meeting.

It’s time to tell the truth.