You Don’t Have to Get Rid of Your Discomfort

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Since the election many people have reported feeling edgy, angry, unsettled and uncomfortable and the feelings are not going away. Most of us have been taught since childhood that these are not good feelings and we should try and get rid of them. Even as meditation practitioners, we may feel that these feelings are something to “meditate away.” But that’s not a skillful outlook.

It’s ok to feel uncomfortable right now, it’s a completely appropriate response that doesn’t need to be assuaged or mitigated. The problem comes when we are at odds with it, when we feel we are “wrong” in some way for these feelings or if we act out in harmful ways to ourselves or others because we don’t know what to do.

Since the election, I have felt acutely uneasy for over a week. I had to avoid the mindset that I should be at peace and at ease. Growing up I experienced a significant amount of trauma and it stayed with me many years into adulthood. My father was an alcoholic and when he drank he was often violent and engaged in bullying, sexual abuse. and body shaming. After the election this trauma reemerged. But having spent years in therapy and with a meditation practice, I have the capacity to recognize and meet old trauma so that it doesn’t engulf me. I spent time with this response until it eased. Some may not have this capacity and discerning that is important. If you are continuing to feel traumatic discomfort, you may need to get help.

The discomfort I feel now is not traumatic but it brings me to an edge where I need to be awake to it, to continue cultivating my willingness to be present in the midst of it and not tell myself I should change the feelings in some way, or that there is something wrong with me. This is all about changing my relationship to what’s arising, not getting rid of it. This discomfort keeps me from feeling complacent; it keeps me awake. It is an edge that I have come to welcome and trust. When I have a welcoming relationship to the discomfort, I am in a better position to discern wise and compassionate action that is in alignment with my values.

I invite you to welcome your discomfort and let it be a teacher to you.

How Do You Digest Broken Glass?

In this dharma talk I explore the fallout from the election, how to practice with groundlessness and loss and finding the balance of meditation, self care and wise action.

Election Fallout Reflections

The election is over but for many the fallout continues. Many have shed tears, have experienced anger and fear and have shared their voices and mobilized into action. Just after the election, Leonard Cohen died, a great voice of love, loss and dharma. His words and songs have rung out over the last several days as people have listened to and shared their favorite songs and quotes. Many are so applicable to where we find ourselves at this time, and his words are also timeless. One that particularly resonated for me at the moment is “if you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be drowning every day.” This is not an easy practice, but in one sentence it brilliantly sums up dukkha and freedom from dukkha.

The day after the election I was heartened by a spontaneous act of love and kindness in our old neighborhood, the 12 South area, at the Islamic Center of Nashville. I have known the Islamic Center to be a wonderful part of the community. President Rashed Fakhruddin in particular has been a strong organizer for shared community, Interfaith connections and events. He has also been an outspoken voice for prevention of abuse against women.

A mother and son in the neighborhood took their chalk and wrote on the sidewalks in front of the Islamic Center. In her words: “This morning Hudson and I took our chalk down to the Islamic Community Center on 12th. We wanted to tell our neighbors that we love them and stand with them. A lot of folks stopped by and added their own messages of love. It was great to meet people and work together. To my Muslim friends and community members: I stand with you now, and if things do get worse, I will stand with you then too.” May we all stand with those who need our support.

Over the last month or so, my dharma talks have largely reflected my experience of the political climate. These talks have been focused on finding a skillful response to the situation, internally and externally. It is not always easy. Some of us may have to ask ourselves, “how do I digest broken glass?” “How do I stand where there is no ground?” When we truly experience groundlessness, new ground emerges. But even then we can’t cling. As the ground shifts, the appropriate response may change as well, it is not fixed. This fluidity, the recognition of impermanence, is vital to clear seeing in each moment and wise action.

My talks and blog posts over the last month have reflected the unfolding of events as I saw them. I’m not one to simply hand out cookies or bromides of hope (even though many of you know I do give out chocolate chip cookies after daylong retreats). I do suggest we do our best to take a courageous, no blinders look at what’s going on both internally and externally and to the extent we can, find a way to contribute and to keep compassion and kindness alive in our hearts.