I am contemplating ‘comfort’ and pondering the many ways it may or may not influence our choices and behaviors.
How does each of us create and move towards or away from comfort in our lives? What role, if any, does predictability/the familiar play in this? To what lengths will we go to maintain and sustain our ideas of comfort?
That last question in particular really feels significant to me. I find myself so curious about what comfort means to us and the affect each of our own personal choices for comfort has on one another and the world…..the simultaneous blessing and challenge of it.
Comfort and creating patterns of predictability in our lives can be a way to create security perhaps especially in times when we feel a lack of it. This can take many shapes but some of the more obvious ways we design it is through the work we choose, the friends we keep, choices we sustain or emotional reactions and scenarios we play out. (We can also see within groups of people and communities how they seek to maintain the familiar and levels of comfort…..sometimes at the expense of others)
I think we have developed many different ways of how we relate to and design comfort for ourselves and it is truly a vast and nuanced realm. I feel our human condition strives for comfort and quite often we have found and maintained through more easily accessible and perhaps culturally conditioned patterns. We choose the familiar on many levels even when it might not nourish us on the whole. Along with this, I also believe our concepts of comfort are deeply informed by societal ‘norms’ and status quo in ways that are both obvious and imperceptible.
In what ways do you maintain your own level of comfort? Can you notice any ways that your ideas are shaped by society and social environment?
Comfort and the familiar somehow allow us to feel safe and offer stability (think of the phrase ‘going outside your comfort zone”). The flipside of this I find interesting…..it is the place of feeling discomfort or insecurity and it is not a place we like to linger. We generally find ways to move away from these experiences, sometimes by extreme measures and many times by maintaining patterns of familiar and predictable behaviors. Again, even when they might not nourish the whole.
(And sincerely I am always amazed at how resourceful and brilliant we each are in our ability to create a sense of safety and ‘survival’ through different techniques both conscious and unconscious.)
Generally speaking, I don’t see people consciously seeking out and moving eagerly towards ideas, emotions or places that might bring their world into question or put them in a place of discomfort. This makes sense as I think there can be a certain amount of fear that accompanies change. We like to rest assured that some things are ‘matter of fact’ and cannot be questioned. We count on these things as our foundation to build upon since we believe our foundation needs to be unshakeable. We learn that change, permeability and sometimes not having any answers are not typically desirable qualities of basic human security and comfort. These things are not synonymous with comfort.
But life and being human is truly filled with mystery and discomfort ……by nature they are inseparable. And to be honest I think we have given ‘discomfort’ a bad reputation, perhaps overlooking the potential within it if we can meet it with curiosity and openness.
We will all have times in our lives where we find ourselves in uncomfortable circumstances of upheaval or change without knowingly inviting any of it. Sometimes these are small blips on the radar and we can push through by holding steadfast to our patterns…..but other times they really wallop us and cast us into deep waters. During these more oceanic events, each of us will have our own unique experience. But the journey will likely include variations of trying to stay above water, finding familiar shores and returning to our pre-existing ideas of comfort.
Have you ever experienced something like this? Can you relate this to different times in your own life? How did you meet these events and where did the journey take you?
I know what it was like for myself during the most potent time of upheaval in my life many years ago. I felt like I was drowning and I would have grabbed at anything to stay above water and hold on to my designed concepts of safety and comfort……ideas of ‘me’ and life. But circumstances (and my unconscious self) conspired to challenge me on every level. I fought hard for my constructed ideals and at a certain point I realized I needed to try something radical. I had to surrender to the unknown. I had to stop clinging and allow something truly new to emerge. At first I was afraid of drowning….but the surrender that came gave permission to let the waters transform me and to make ‘peace’ with the unknown. The darkness of this unknown felt like ‘death’ but sometimes that darkness or what might feel like a ‘death’ is simply some part of us changing or evolving…..shifting.
(And just to be honest……while I was in this process it was unbelievably uncomfortable and not easy by any means. But through practice and time it has gotten easier to be with discomfort and the inevitability of accepting the unfamiliar.)
Those shifts are not always comfortable and quite often we are eager to get out of this sensation and jump to the next landmass or stable concept of self and life. We very quickly construct a new familiar and fill it with answers more often than questions. We sidestep the ‘void’ or mystery in our intricate map of creating ‘safety’ and avoiding vulnerability.
I know that if my circumstances hadn’t been a ‘perfect storm’ I would have gladly sidestepped and played it ‘safe’……probably not even gotten my toes wet. I would have totally chosen ‘comfort’ and the familiar……
………and I would be living a perfectly lovely life right now……just a different one. But there was no choosing at the time as I was thrown into the middle of an ocean with no land in sight. So here I am now and what unfolded for me was a new relationship to mystery and the unknown…..a personal landscape of questioning and being present with both elements of comfort and discomfort equally.
Which is what brings me to wonder……what would happen if each of us chose not to avoid discomfort or feelings of insecurity? What would happen if we chose to move towards our fear and simply be with our discomfort and the unknown? What if we moved towards vulnerability?
Well, it would simply be a different way of living our lives……not better or worse….. but different.
In many ways it is easier to continue with what you already know……to create and maintain comfort and a sense of security through holding on to what is familiar. We are quite skilled at distracting ourselves just enough to avoid addressing things that question the familiar and perhaps invite discomfort, insecurity or vulnerability
The interesting thing in taking this route is that we cannot deny the ever-changing nature of the world around us and the evolving nature of the self. When we try to maintain and stay attached, not allowing space for change, this resistance can create a tension that ironically generates more discomfort even though we were trying to avoid it.
So I have become curious as to how we might create core comfort……the comfort of being You in the world (and in your own skin), a relationship to the unknown and having a sense of fundamental security within yourself. This is a comfort and security that is not based on anything tangible since we know that all things change and are permeable. This different form of ‘comfort’ might actually allow us to simultaneously be with discomfort and the unfamiliar as we realize they too have something to offer us.
Questions and curiosities…..
In what ways do you notice you might avoid discomfort?
What would be some practical ways to move towards discomfort or invite change or the unfamiliar as a path of nourishing yourself?
Perhaps a place to start is to gently take a look at some of the ways we create comfort and security in our daily lives as a means for avoiding change and vulnerability. Can you meet these with curiosity and non-judgment?
Whatever the circumstance or unique quality of you, how does this self -awareness and un-conditioned love offer even more possibilities in this amazing journey of the self?
Thanks for connecting…..