I listened to a CSS talk yesterday and a questioner brought up the topic of comfort. By looking at her own choices and actions in daily life, she could see that her main priority is comfort. (We can find our priorities by looking at our actual choices in daily life and where we spend our time and energy.)
Is it an obstacle? Yes, it can be, in all the obvious ways. By seeking comfort we may engage in mindless entertainment instead of practice, distractions instead of allowing experience and inquiring into beliefs, and so on.
But it can also be a gateway, an invitation for inquiry.
I can clarify my motivation. My surface motivation may be for comfort in the conventional sense, but what is that motivation really about? What do I hope to get out of comfort? And what do I hope to get out of that? I can trace the motivation back to its essence. For me, I find that it is about avoiding suffering, and finding happiness.
Recognizing that, I can explore my strategies. When I act on my surface motivation in the ways I do, does it give me what I really want? Are there other strategies that may be more aligned with what I really want? What are those strategies? What happens if I try them out?
I can clarify the experience of comfort and discomfort. What is comfort and discomfort in immediate experience? How do they show up in each sense field? What is there without the label? Are they really as substantial, stable and clear-cut as they initially appear? When I explore comfort and discomfort in this way, I can really put those labels on them anymore?
I can clarify the effects of different strategies to find comfort and avoid discomfort. What happens when I act on this in habitual ways? Do I avoid being with certain experiences? Do I avoid looking more closely at the stories I take as true? Do I distract myself through movies, conversations, food, going for a walk, listening to spiritual talks and so on?
What happens when I resist certain experiences? What happens when I take a story as true? Does it lead to comfort or discomfort?
What happens when I allow experience, as it is, with kindness? What happens when I investigate my beliefs and find what is more true for me? Does it lead to comfort or discomfort?
Through these explorations, I may find that the motivation of comfort is completely innocent. It is about avoiding suffering and finding happiness. When I look at the immediate experience of comfort and discomfort, they are not nearly as substantial, lasting or easily labeled as they seemed initially. When I act on comfort in my habitual ways, which includes avoiding experience and not inquiring into my beliefs, there may be a brief relief, but underlying discomfort and certainly more discomfort in the long run. And when I allow experience as is, and inquire into my beliefs, there may be an initial discomfort in contemplating it, but an underlying comfort and a more honest comfort in the longer run.
In all of these ways, finding that comfort is my priority can be a support – if it is investigated and clarified. Seeking comfort – when I clarify that motivation and examine the strategies I use to find it – can be a wonderful guide to a full and rich human life, and also to what I am noticing itself.
After all, the ultimate comfort comes when what I am is awake to itself.
- comfort as priority
- obstacle? if take it that way
- but can also be a gate: clarify that intention, what is it really about? (may find that it is about living a full human life + awaken to what we are, b/c that is the real comfort)
- what is that intention/motivation really about? what is behind it? (follow the chain back)
- what is comfort/discomfort, in immediate experience (as it shows up in the sense fields etc.) what is it without the label?
- what happens when I resist experience + believe a story? does it lead to comfort or discomfort?
- what happens when I allow experience + inquire into beliefs? does it lead to comfort or discomfort?