Taking a human incarnation is a challenging thing. Whether we’re born into challenging circumstances that make it a struggle to stay alive, or comfortable circumstances that we’re determined to keep in place.
How long can we stay happy for? How much comfort can we give ourselves? How long can we stay without the things that we really desire to have in our lives?
I was on the subway and there was a homeless man sleeping. There was the light scent of feet in the air and everyone crowded to the other side of the train so they could get away from him, the smell, the discomfort. I decided to sit down across from him, not because i fashioned myself better than everyone else, but just to see how I felt to take in everything that was happening. What was my discomfort? The smell made me uncomfortable. The fact that everyone else was huddled on the other side of the train on their phones made me even more uncomfortable. The police officers that came onto the train and banged on the seat to try to get him to sit up made me tremendously uncomfortable. The fact that the subway car was stalled in the station was very uncomfortable.
So I tried to shift my awareness to the man. His discomfort, that was so overwhelming his only comfort came from trying to sleep on a crowded subway car, unshowered, under dressed, hungry, in some physical pain. The discomfort of everyone just trying to get to work without having to take in this man’s pain or sad situation. The discomfort of the police trying to do their job without knowing how to really help the man, and then just leaving him there in the end so the train could leave the station.
We can’t get out of our human situation. But are we going to live a life trying to stay as comfortable as possible until it kills us? Or step into a space of discomfort where we allow ourselves to compassionately feel the pain of what’s happening. The minute we turn it off, dive into our phones, drink, screw, binge, medicate, we take away the pain but at what cost? We don’t desire for anything to change. We don’t allow ourselves to wake up and connect to what’s around us. To allow our compassion for ourselves, for others to make us desire to shift the way we live to support each other.
The police on the subway were a reminder to all that it’s illegal for that man to live as he was. To not fall in line, have a job, pay taxes, be “productive” in the ways we value as a society. To produce and consume and stay within the lines. (Regardless of whether or not he’d like that possibility) A fear of his position is enough to make anyone think that he’s the one that needs to change, and not the other way around.
To live a life of caliber means to not just have the faculties to be your best for yourself, but that you are strong enough to step into the flames of discomfort as a means of developing your ability to express compassion. That is the only way that we will evolve. When something affects us enough to not just identify and experience the collective suffering, but to have the strength and courage (to be uncomfortable enough) to step up and help.