Compassion after the Discomfort

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“People often ask me, “How do we know whether to refrain from something or go toward it?” My answer is, just practice what comes naturally at the time. If the first commitment, refraining, seems like it would be the most helpful, do that. But if you feel that you can keep your heart and mind open a little longer to someone who’s irritating you or triggering your impatience, then follow your instinct and do that. Then maybe, based on having been able to stay open a little longer in that situation, you’ll begin to get a sense of what it would mean to not turn away at all.”
(Pema Chodron, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change)

There is always an after. Even when facing an ending, there is always an after…especially when that ending does not result in turning away. But that after is never the same from one end to another. So, no matter how many afters one experiences, the only thing that can be assured is that “this too will pass.”

But what do you do in that space between the end and the passing of the “this?”

Be.

With Compassion.

For self.

Usually the after indicates some kind of previous struggle…and often, for quite a while. A lengthy struggle can result in many things…depletion, depression, exhaustion, sorrow, grief, resentment, fury, vulnerability, fear, relief, expansion, and many, many more.

These emotions swirled through me after I made my decision to leave. And, they didn’t stop. It’s been three weeks since that decision, and there are still waves that catch me in unsuspecting moments.

Those first few days after the decision were the hardest…trying to wrap up projects, writing up documentation, visiting all my rituals for the last time, still working and keeping a cheerful face even the presence of those who wished me ill. But the most difficult was the goodbyes. I would swing from holding an energetic protective stance with my co-workers to a gut-wrenching sorrow as a student’s eyes welled up with tears.

After a couple days, and many nights of asking for help from the Higher Realms, I re-learned something beautiful…it can all co-exist. I don’t have to swing from one emotion to the other, exhausting myself in the perpetual pendulum. Instead, I can just hold space for me to simply BE in the wash of it all…all at once…all at the same time…immersed…present.

In that understanding, a huge energy of compassion engulfed me, and I opened to receive it…the teary, frustrated, angry, hurt, sad, tender, vulnerable didn’t go away. Instead, I recognized the potentials this force carried if I harnessed it. So, I just rode the wave. And in riding the wave, I allowed myself to fully experience all that the emotion had to offer me. By not resisting it, it carried me forward and up to a higher frequency…and a tiny piece of that emotion fell away…completed.

Breathe.

Hold Compassion.

Ride.

Repeat.

 

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.