Comfort, that stealthy thing that enters your house as a guest, then becomes a host, and then a masterKhalil Gilbran
I paid attention to the stories my mother-in law used to tell, on how little everybody had during and just after WWII. On her birthday, during the last winter of the war, she got one tea bag as a present and she stated it was the best present she ever got. In the first package they got after the war, there was a bar of soap. A rough, brown thing. She was really clean for the first time in months and months. She said the feeling was unforgettable.
Everybody worked hard. Nobody had much. Getting together to sing or dance or talk was high entertainment. Having salt or sugar, a rare luxury. Comfort was a guest, that came by at very special occasions and never stayed for long.
I know the trap of believing that everything was better then but really, that is not my point. WWII is not my definition of good times. Nevertheless, the scarcity of comfort made the quality of life be measured by different scales. Discomfort was the norm. There was nothing to complain about. Comfort was celebrated for the wonderful guest it was, and then it was back to the normal discomfort that life is.
Cut to our times. Comfort has become the master; we measure the success of our lives by it. The more comfort you have, the more successful you are. The more appliances, the bigger the house, the better the meals, the number of friends, the amount of entertainment. We believe a good life is a comfortable one, and comfort is the only measure we have to give purpose to what we do. Job you hate? It doesn’t matter as long as it gives you money. Job without meaning? Life without love? It’s all ok if you can numb the pain with another glass of wine, another dinner appointment, another gourmet cuisine. We are so addicted to comfort that we only want to hang out and talk to or read people that think like us. Any challenge, any difference, is uncomfortable by definition. And we avoid it as much as we can.
We are asked to wear masks to help halt spreading a deadly virus (by the way, if you still believe this is a hoax, you are incredibly lucky. It means you have not been confronted with this disease in any serious way). We are asked to not go out for dinner as often, to not socialize as much. And within one day we are protesting and kicking and screaming. Comfort has become our host. And if even a little bit of it is taken away from us – it doesn’t even matter why – we feel this is an attack on our freedom. If we cannot do everything we want, if we cannot do that which brings us comfort, we go crazy and unreasonable. We fail to see that it is not our freedom but our slavery to our habits and our senses that has been challenged, and we have become the best kind of slaves: the ones who don’t know they are imprisoned. The ones that purchase their own slavery every day, gladly, blindly, again and again.
We recently asked our community this question: what is freedom? And we’ve had the most amazing answers. And nobody, NOBODY said that freedom was being able to go out for dinner whenever we want. Or do whatever we want, for that matter. Because if you stop to think about it even for a moment, you see how flawed that thought is. The answers we got were all about deeper, inner choices: freedom to choose what is right, even when that isn’t easy. Freedom to study, to learn, even if that means recognizing you don’t know everything. Freedom is understanding that life will always be uncomfortable and limiting, but we can always choose how we will deal with this. Freedom is to be able to not have your desires fulfilled and still feel fine. Freedom is recognizing that where you are right now is perfectly alright. Freedom is to understand that all this is play, and we have a role, and also that will end one day. Freedom is to be able to care for myself and others every day. To make my little corner of the universe a little bit better for everybody who is in it.
Yoga states it clearly: freedom means that our likes and dislikes, our winning and losing, our circumstances in general no longer dictate the quality of our well-being. When we see that all this is passing, and that what brings us real joy is not the comforts but our inner state and inner life, that we can have nothing and feel blessed or have everything and live in fear, that is where freedom starts to really show its glorious head.