Kindness & Discomfort in Manhattan

You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and find a community that supports you in it because the moment you are comfortable, you have stopped growing and progressing. So yes. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and find a community that supports you in that.
-Diana Castle

I was sitting in a small teaching theater in New York City about two and a half years ago, listening to Diana Castle teach us her practice and technique of being an artist with the intention of creating transformative work in the world. Art as a brave and essential and integral part of a well humanity. A pair of artists were in the middle of “acting out a scene” as most acting classes would call it. You couldn’t say such nonsense in Diana’s classes. She wasn’t interested in actors “acting out scenes.” She wanted to see real humans, being, fully, boldy, and honestly, within real circumstances, being the story instead of telling it. There were no characters or parts. Everyone was a part of the one, whole human truth. So these two artists are up there before the rest of us, living in some pretty heavy and painful circumstances. Diana was pushing the woman further and further into the truth of the circumstance until we saw the woman crash through the protective wall that kept her separate from the “character” she was “playing” and allowed herself to BE her, collapsing into tears and sorrow. It was like watching a liberation. Like when you fight and fight back tears and then they finally come and you wonder why you fought them because the fight was the painful part, the tears were the healing part.
When the moment was over, Diana went and stood next to the woman and held her hand and looked at her and said, “How do you feel?”
The thin, blonde, irish woman, flushed, tear-streaked face, replied, “I feel really really uncomfortable.”
It was a spark for Diana’s wildfire. She grabbed the woman’s hand tighter, pulled her close, and looked each of us in the eyes.
“GOOD! Yes! I want you all to listen very closely. You need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and find a community that supports you in it because the moment you are comfortable, you have stopped growing and progressing. So yes. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and find a community that supports you in that.”
There were probably 15, maybe 20 of us sitting in that room and yet it felt like the world fell away and it was just Diana, standing on the blank stage of life, the field of play, staring into my soul and telling me exactly the guiding words that would come to instruct me every day of my life in the journey that lie ahead.

Many moons later, that feels like a lifetime ago. Everything has changed. Everything always changes, and maybe I just wasn’t as aware of it then. But for real…EVERYTHING has changed. Where I live. How I live. How I view the world. What I eat. What I wear. What I value. How I see myself. How I know myself. And on the road, in new places where there lies little to no familiarity to me, it is so very simple to live in this present and seemingly forget the road that led to here. But to come back to the places one once called home, to come back to the places I once called home…this city that was a beacon of light to me when I moved here as an 18 year old boy…this city that held me and roughed me up and inspired me and chewed me up and forged me and made me cry and bleed and laugh and dance and love. Here, the ghosts of my past are still spinning around. The old versions. Greg 1.8 through 2.5. And I’ve updated my operating system to Greg 2.7. And came back. And 2.7 processes New York City differently. And here, Greg 2.7 doesn’t have a choice but to address Greg 1.8 – 2.7. Because somewhere in this tapestry, all those old dreams and hopes and desires and expectations and imagined certainties of the old operating systems still float around. And as they float, they invite me to pick them up again. To believe they are real again. To come back to them. But there is no going back and they don’t work anymore.

Open hands.
Open head.
Open heart.
Where will I be led?
What do I have to share?
How do I serve?
What will be offered to me with which to build my life?

So much of my past was about deciding what kind of life I wanted and finding the best means through which to achieve it.
Now, I am being asked to offer myself as freely and simply as I can and gratefully accept whatever kind of life is given to me as a result.
Some days, trust and surrender feel easy and I feel free. These days are in very tight correlation to the days in which I feel like I know how to offer myself to the elevation of the larger community.
And other days, I forget I have everything I need. I forget that I am enough. And I get scared. And feel alone. And think, “What the fuck am I doing?” I start to forget that what I have to offer is valuable and has a place here.

I’ve had a lot of the latter as of late. It is part of New York’s gift to me. Push all my discomfort buttons. Pull at me from 1000 directions. Distract me. Tempt me. Seduce me. And my head is screaming, “Get the fuck out of here! It is too cold and too urban and too chaotic to for van living here. For simple living. Run!”

And yet, my gut and my heart know that I need to be here. My gut and my heart know that simplicity and honesty and presence are not an impossibility in New York City. My gut and my heart know that true simplicity and honesty and presence are sourced from the center that is right here, right now always, no matter where one stands on the earth. And lucky for me, even if my head were to overhaul my system, with all of its “get out” message, I cannot leave. I am playing a wonderful gig here in Manhattan one week from today on November 1st, and I am being asked to be firm as well as patient, to persevere and be present, to be uncomfortable until then. This is the work part, that is the offering part. I had been having so much fun for the past year van living that I forgot that one of it’s main purposes is discomfort, not fun. That doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive by any means, but it’s not just about enjoying it. There is much to not enjoy, in fact. Strip away the comfort of a stable, consistent location to call home. Strip away the comfort of space. Strip away the comfort of television. Strip away the comfort of stuff. Strip away the comfort of a kitchen. Strip away the comfort of a bathroom. Strip away the comfort of a bed. And out of discomfort, deeper presence arises. In discomfort I begin to really learn about needs vs. wants. To b alert and awake and aware and present. To be resourceful.


Without a kitchen or a bathroom, when the kindness of community offers me warm food or a chance to bathe, I know what profound blessings those things are. A bowl of soup can silence me, a warm shower can bring me to tears. So when I awoke this morning and I could see my breath and I had to pee like a racehorse, whatever that expression means, and I thought, “What the fuck am I still doing here? I gotta get the hell out,” I remembered that it’s purposeful. It is shaping me. It is reseting my baseline gratitude by recalibrating my ideas about necessities. It is preparing me for what lies ahead, and I will be here until the exact moment I am both no longer needed here and I no longer need to be here.

That leaves me with one week left here in the Big Apple. And there are no mistakes. The Universe always gives what is needed, and the medicine I needed most to get me through the week arrived on Wednesday evening. Her name is Anna Pope and she is a dear friend/sister/tribeswoman from my community in Austin, Texas. About a month ago, she sent me a message saying she wanted to come visit me while I was in New York. Explore the city and get a taste of gypsy van life. I had told her she always had an open invitation wherever I was, so the idea of her visiting was wonderful. But I have also extended that invitation to many tribespeople scattered in many places over this fair land and while many have wanted to come, the only person that ever really has come along was Skye, so I wasn’t holding my breath. But here she is. And right at the time I need her. Because she is a Texas girl in New York City on her own for the first time. And she has the wonder eyes. The “holy shit this place is crazy and awesome and nuts and magical” eyes. And she is right. Because this place is all those things. And I was getting lost in the discomfort for a minute. Was indulging some of my ego’s bullshit about how I was so uncomfortable and didn’t want to be here and woe is me yadda yadda bullshit. I was getting ready to hide out until it was time to roll out.

Life happens in community.
Healing happens in community.
She came and forced me to be in community, and I could bow at her feet I’m so grateful. Last night, as we were dejectedly waiting at the end of a block-long line for The Moth Story Slam she was so hoping to see, and a woman approached us and said she had two extra pre-sale tickets to the tune of $36 that she was hoping to gift to the right people, I was renewed through Anna’s eyes. The magic was happening and being offered to her, to us, and we just had to show up and say yes. As we sat behind our new friends and hosts for the evening, Kim and Suzanna, Anna looked over at me, shook her head slowly and with tiny tears in her eyes said, “The kindness of people, man.”
Amen, sister.
Comfort is nice sometimes. Essential sometimes. And yet, comfort and luxuries don’t make a rich life. Friends do. Community does. Kindness does. Love does.
Grateful to be rich.
Grateful to have wealth that only expands as its shared.
Peace and discomfort to all.


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