Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
I have a beef with anger. And that beef is simply this: I really don't like it. I don't like it when someone raises their voice, yells, or in some way shows their displeasure. This, in turn, has made me a peacemaker. I'll go out of my way to make sure all is well in the world, just to avoid the discomfort of being with another's anger. It's prickly and unsettling, and because of this I have, no doubt, unconsciously created a whole host of evasive tactics that I use when I feel threatened by this emotion. Ironically, I might even get mad at the person expressing their anger, because I really don't like how all this feels. Sound familiar?
It might not be anger that presses your buttons, but experiencing another's sadness, depression or negativity. It could even be someone else's success or happiness that makes you feel uncomfortable in some way. Or maybe it's their grief, their hurt. Who knows? And the normal human reaction to all that is unsettling or disturbing for us is to make it go away. We want the pain and the tears to stop. We want our friend to be happy if they're depressed. We might even want that guy at the office to fail for once so we can feel better about ourselves. We want to take away our own or another's hurt, or sometimes inflict pain so that we don't have to feel it ourselves. It may all seem twisted, but it's also all a normal part of being human.
If you get to the heart of the matter, isn't all this a result of being uncomfortable with sensations of discomfort? At it's base, I don't like how another's anger makes me feel. I want to take their pain or sadness away because I don't like how this discomfort expresses within me. So we try to make our own or another's anger, fear, grief, depression or discomfort go away. But life continually shows us that this doesn't work. As hard as I try to make depression leave, or really wish the world would be at peace, the world is not at peace and depression is still here. Avoidance doesn't work. As Henry Miller said, everything we deny, run away from or despise comes back to bite us in the end. So the question becomes: Can I make friends with discomfort? Can I learn to be comfortable with what makes me squirm - build up antibodies to the "discomfort virus ", so to speak, and learn to be ok with it as just another sensation arising within me? Can I learn to accept life unquestioningly, no matter what it brings?
Making friends with discomfort doesn't mean we don't occasionally set boundaries and say no to abusive or inappropriate behaviour (after all, sometimes discomfort is a messenger telling us that we need to act to help ourselves out). Part of this is learning to discriminate between the need to set appropriate boundaries versus the use of avoidance strategies. I see it as getting very familiar with our own reactions to life and how we act in our relationships with self and others. We might be unconsciously engaging in patterns of behaviour that push away the people in our lives, or even deny parts of ourselves- sending signals like "I can't accept you when you're angry or depressed, or sad or overwhelmed because I don't like the sensation of discomfort it creates for me." "I don't like tears, so go away!"
The truth is, sometimes we need to feel sad and sometimes we get angry. Life happens in waves and ups and downs, never stationary. It can be a real roller coaster ride we didn't actually ask to get on. But, if we sit in meditation, we can feel into this deeper ground of Being that is always the same, always welcoming whatever arises - a deep ground of stillness and love that is always here, even when discomfort is present. We can have a greater capacity to be with unease, distress, unhappiness when we move through life from this centred, grounded place and see the emotions and sensations of discomfort as movements within the unchanging field of Being that we are. And this, in turn, allows us to simply be unconditionally with ourselves, the people in our lives, and whatever life brings.