Getting Comfortable with Discomfort
Written October 01 2008
‘With enlightenment comes release from suffering!’
Now I am not sure I have the quote right, but somehow from my readings I managed to get the idea that to become enlightened means an end to suffering… as in no more suffering (which is logically an end is it not ?). Here I am, 8 years down my road to enlightenment (and who knows how many lifetimes away from finding it) and suffering is still very, very much present. OK, it is not there all the time like it used to be, but I was not looking for less suffering. I was looking for no suffering. A complete absence there-of, nothing….ever! I guess that if those lucky buggers who have attained enlightenment were to read this they would nod their heads sagely and look perplexed at my obvious confusion! In fact I have a suspicious feeling that I totally misinterpreted the saying and that they have grasped what I am only just starting to see the edges of! It is not about never having to suffer again, it is about never being suffering again! Suffering always will exist! Suffering is part of life.
What changes is not the suffering, but how I relate to it. Now you either saw a light bulb go off or as confused as I was/ am!
Let me start again … from a different direction!
When I think about my life what I see is not the happy or the good, or even the successes. What I see is a cloud of pain and misery. Or put another way, pure suffering. Somewhere in that cloud I decided I wanted out! I decided that I simply could not live one more day, one more breathe in this agony! I did not want to die (that sounded like giving up and I was danged if I was going to give ‘them’ the satisfaction), so I had to change the way I lived! I had to do whatever was required to never feel suffering again. So started my long exploration of texts by Dr Wayne Dyer (stunning books, helped a lot actually), the Dalai Lama, regular sessions with Oprah… you get the idea! It did all help! Slowly I managed to claw my way up from the bottom… but suffering was still always around me! It never disappeared! So I searched harder and harder! I knew that the only hope for my salvation was to not be sad! My only hope was to not be all those danged bad emotions – angry, depressed, jealous… you know.
I knew that I was supposed to be calm, joyful and forgiving! So I went on a drive to eradicate the bad side of me! I wanted to get rid of these annoying thoughts and emotions so I could be free, happy…enlightened! I was never going to be uncomfortable again, after all I would be enlightened.And I succeeded. To a point! Well, actually all I succeeded in doing was create a really good underground resistance movement of all the emotions I had labeled bad. A resistance movement that would regularly and with annoying persistence emerge and sabotage my life! Where was this danged enlightenment ? Did it really exist ?
It was during my Consciousness Coaching training that something finally shifted for me. We were asked to do a minute video presentation and as I watched it replay I came face to face with a part of me I can only call Olga, the Russian prison wardress (incidentally she is the leader of that resistance movement I was talking about earlier). I went home in a state! I did not like what I saw! To say I was uncomfortable is an understatement! I could no longer ignore a lifetime of feelings that I refused to feel because I had labeled them bad! Yet here they were.. .still… and irrevocably a part of me! I did not run away! I wanted to! I did not distract myself! I wanted to! I just sat! Sat with tears in my eyes and felt! Felt truly for the first time …without judgment!It dawned on me then, that enlightenment is not a destination! It is a lifetime of experience. That the truly enlightened do not hide any emotions! They feel! Everything! The difference is that they do not hold onto their feelings. They do not become their emotions. Their emotions are a part of them – there but not them. They just let them be… whatever they must be! And they exist, alongside.
In that moment I realized that I had spent a lifetime avoiding being uncomfortable, as if, should I ever allow myself to be uncomfortable, everything would stop…. end…abruptly. I had been looking for an enlightenment that would end my suffering and here it was! The end to suffering is not the cessation of suffering, rather ending the attachment to it. I am now curious to see what happens if I rather accept that there are times when I am going to feel uncomfortable and there are times that I will feel comfortable… I can not predict either, I can not change either…they are both part of the natural ebb and flow of life.So here is my challenge to you. What opens up for you when you allow yourself to experience all of your life, the stuff you label as bad as well as the stuff you label good ? What opens up for you if you stop resisting ? What becomes possible ?