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The Zen of Uncomfortable Emotions
The Zen of Uncomfortable Emotions

The Zen of Uncomfortable Emotions

The zen of uncomfortable emotions seems like a strange way to look at feelings and experiences such as anger, despair, envy, and resentment, but in fact, that is what I am proposing that we do; see the zen of these emotions.

Dualism is the idea that items are always distinct and separate. The word “Duel” is similar in that it is two specific parts at odds, such as a violent challenge between two people.

In the zen of uncomfortable emotions that I propose is that we stop seeing our emotions and feelings as a duel, a war within ourselves but rather as a dual, simply an interconnectedness of our body and mind, and break away from the illusion that we are ragged fragments.

We have been taught to chase happiness or any emotion viewed as positive, in an unhealthy, irrational and impossible manner. We have been taught to squash any feelings that surface that might be experienced as negative.

The absurdity and ignorance of that is astounding, yet we have been conditioned to behave this way.

We are told from a young age to:

  • Be nice
  • Don’t make others mad
  • Be quiet
  • Don’t whine
  • Don’t rock the boat

We have been taught that love is about self-sacrifice, then we wonder why we are so unhappy, although we are “in love,” whatever that means in that dynamic.

We look around and see so many people living our struggles that we think that this is how life is supposed to be.

The zen of uncomfortable emotions has been lost in the race to happiness. Interestingly, more people would feel content if they become friends with their feelings.

We have been taught to neglect parts of ourselves; imagine if your feelings were a family and only some feelings were lucky enough to get your attention and adoration while others were ignored, neglected, and downright abused. You’d have a miserable family.

This is often what we do to ourselves every day.

A Zen Buddhist practice, unlike most psychology, is based upon non-dualism. There is no need to deny or struggle with your full range of feelings because they are equally valid and helpful.

Your feelings of love are as important and telling of your life path as your feelings of hate.

Yet, it is common to have expression shaming such as “oh, hate is such a strong word.”

What nonsense!

Do you know what other word is a strong word and thrown around like superficial confetti?


I’ve never heard anyone shamed for using the word love to describe anything.

When we experience any feeling deemed positive or acceptable by society, we have been taught to be so comfortable with it that we don’t even notice how we flow with the emotions.

For instance, the last time you felt happy or excited, did you stop what you were doing, retreat into your room and ruminate on why you were pleased? Wrack your brain to understand what led you to that experience? Try to figure out if you did something right to make that happen?

Did you stop being present in your life to figure this out and stop the experience of joy?

Probably not – (barring those of you who might be self-sabotaging, and that’s another article.)

We might assume that we don’t deserve to be happy or that it must be some higher power gracing us, or that somehow we landed in luck.

While we don’t fully understand it, we still flow with it; not many of us, for instance, are turning our backs on something we quite enjoy.

Yet, when we feel irritation, we retreat because we were taught that feelings like anger, resentment, or even jealousy were “weak” or flawed, when in fact, they are very much human experiences, and to deny them is to deny our truth.

When dealing with uncomfortable feelings and emotions like anger, resentment, sadness, or irritation, you can treat them as you experience joy, happiness, or serenity; with non-dualism and equanimity.

The Zen of uncomfortable emotions is to be at peace with yourself. Unlearn the nonsense of filtering your feelings in a way that keeps them trapped and painful. By accessing the Zen of uncomfortable emotions, we can release from neglecting ourselves, being violent towards our heart and soul, and respecting every facet of our interconnectedness with ourselves and the world around us.

When we become more comfortable with uncomfortable feelings, we can recognize in others that these feelings and expressions are not “evil” vs. “good” but just a part of themselves that they are expressing. We might want to pay attention to it.

For us to heal traumas or discomfort, we have to be able to face minor discomfort in the day-to-day.

A common mantra in the therapy world is “feel the feelings,” which is lovely, except how can someone do that even in many therapy rooms? There is a protocol for what is “positive” even within psychology, which is why I believe therapy sometimes doesn’t “work” for everyone. Note that many excellent therapists do not abide by these norms and allow a full range of truth in their sessions.

Be it in some therapy rooms, in corporate offices, across the kitchen table, the social networking post, comment section, or bedroom, we are in this battle to be seen as accommodating, agreeable, cheerful, and sacrifice-driven.

Essentially, we have to protect others from our truth. They are also doing this to us, which means there’s a lot of hidden truth in our relationships.

The only way to have deeper intimacy with others and ourselves is to create the Zen of uncomfortable feelings.

One way to practice this is to sit with yourself in silence a bit. Breathe and allow any emotions to surface; be tender with them.

Respect your emotions and feelings and gently inquire about what they might show you; without over-analyzing them.

Breathe deeply and imagine all of your feelings and emotions as a garden. They provide the compost that grows your life experiences.

By embracing a Zen approach, you can be the gardener of your emotions and feelings and the tourist, observing your transformation as it evolves.

Don’t be at war with yourself, nor hold shame for anything you feel.

Your love and hate lead you and every other emotion and feeling that are singular but interconnected.

As you sit with this practice, you will find less discrimination in how you feel in meditation and the world.

The Zen of uncomfortable emotions is that we can see that even the painful emotions serve a purpose and bring us comfort, sooner or later.

Breathing in the Zen of stability and acceptance, you exhale the discrimination and loathing that you thought was a way of life; in that flow of breathing, you find your new path and Zen.

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