For the Love of Comfort

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 12, 2022

I must confess: I like my comfort; I love my comfort. For lotsa reasons. And here, I’m not just talking about creature comforts. I’m talking about comfort, pure and simple ~ physical and psychological.

Have you ever been accosted by a stranger in the street without apparent reason? Not comfortable. Have you ever been told by meat puppets in the media to “take one for the team” when you knew you’d be playing Russian Roulette with your health if you did? As I said, not comfortable.

The inalienable right to life includes the right to comfort.

And so, what are we to make of those who advocate aggressively, like they’re wearing a badge of honor, that you stretch, stretch, stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone? And do so in ways that make it seem like comfort doesn’t matter, or doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think?

Comfort matters! A lot. Perhaps more than we know, but with this caveat: that we also be willing to experience (even endure) a little discomfort now and then, which might sound a little contradictory until you realize that any appreciation of comfort includes discomfort by contrast.

I guess what I’m saying here is “don’t go looking for discomfort!”

Be comfortable, physically and emotionally, but don’t resist any discomfort for long when it comes; rather, find time and space to feel it fully, and then, when you find yourself in your comfort zone again, offer deep praise for those feelings of comfort: “ahhh, at last ~ comfort.”

If it suits you, be conscious about it, all the more to appreciate it.

Too Much Comfort : Dangerous?

We’ve all heard stories of couples, families, and groups (social and political) who got too comfortable for their own good, so much so that they conspired, knowingly or unknowingly, to “keep it comfy at all costs,” only to have the universe paint targets on the sources of their comfort.

Truth be told, comfort can be dangerous when it becomes a controlling desire.

Too much attention paid to comfort can become dangerous when discomfort is habitually bypassed or suppressed, for is it not true that energy flows where attention goes? If I keep resisting discomfort in the name of comfort, I inadvertently pay too much attention to discomfort.

The solution, however, is not to seek discomfort (remember: energy flows where attention goes!). The solution is actually quite elegant: give yourself over to a controlling desire that is win-win-win: a win for you, a win for others, and a win for life, the universe, and everything.

Here are a few examples: harmony, wisdom, compassion.

As a dynamic worthy of being pressed into service to one of these higher order desires, the duality of comfort and discomfort can then be taken under the wing of this higher order desire and given its due, preferably with keen discernment, not to mention a keen a sense of balance.

Put simply, let comfort serve a higher order desire.

Ultimate Comfort = Contentment + Fulfillment

Without comfort, how would we ever know contentment, and without contentment, how would we ever know fulfillment vis à vis a sense of completion, and without fulfillment vis à vis a sense of completion, how would we ever know just how capable and deserving we are?

Let’s face it: within reason, the comfort zone is a beautiful, honorable thing.

Do we not dishonor the comfort zone when we diss it and dismiss it with “stretch, stretch, stretch”? Do we not relegate the comfort zone to a perpetual forbidden zone when we keep pushing or pulling others to “stretch, stretch, stretch” regardless of their own unique place in life?

Beware of those who admonish others to “stretch, stretch, stretch!” This admonition is also a confession: “Because I put so much pressure on myself to “stretch, stretch, stretch,” I must relieve said pressure by having others ‘stretch, stretch, stretch.’ Ahhh, I am now duly relieved.”

Seriously, I think this is an ideal place to explain why I so love my comfort.

I’ve already touched briefly on the intimate (and rather obvious) link between comfort and contentment as it relates to fulfillment, but an even more vital link for a life lived well and good and wise is the one between comfort and fulfillment vis à vis a keen sense of execution.

If we can get past the dark connotation that pollutes the term execution, we can bring comfort to a continual (or virtually continuous, if we’re especially fortunate) sense of execution, both keen and fine.

Fulfillment as execution (“this is fulfilling!”) is a more daring (yet more satisfying) proposition than fulfillment as completion (“mmm, that was fulfilling”), and so, how does one begin to bring a keen sense of comfort to a keen sense of fulfillment vis à vis a keen sense of execution?

How does one begin to embrace what I call “going and growing with the knowing and flowing?”

Here, I can only drop a few hints, as the relevant subject matter is quite vast.

I Love My Comfort ~ Here’s Why

I know I’m losing the plot of my life when too many potholes and speedbumps start showing up: from day to day, things get bumpy; things slow down; things are no longer as smooth as they were ~ all of which present fair indicators that something new and fresh is clearly called for.

Although I welcome novelty and variety in my experience, with an easy balance of inner and outer experience that feels good and right for me (that feels significant and relevant for me), I nevertheless endeavor to find and/or keep this balance with and through my love of comfort.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “comfort,” I think of beds, chairs, and sofas (among other things) that contain and carry the promise of comfort. These obvious (physical) sources of comfort, however, are not all that I have in mind when I speak of a love of comfort.

Herewith, I invite you to look within yourself for other sources of comfort that are . . . how can I put this? . . . free of charge ~ and here, I’m not just talking about “free of monetary charge;” I’m talking about “free of emotional charge.” To wit: “free of negative emotional charge.”

When a negative mood or state of mind strikes, it feels natural to seek out comfort. As an act of love and care, we tend to seek, find, and drive along any one or more avenues of comfort ~ primarily, that which brings forth a robust sense of peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease.

Nine Avenues to Comfort

For the love of comfort, here are nine avenues to comfort:

relax: assume the savasana
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

breathe: inhale deeply, exhale slowly; follow the breath with sacred intent
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

meditate: empty the mind or focus the mind (with or without the use of breath)
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

walk: take a leisurely stroll in nature; follow your bliss on a trail or a beach
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

talk ‘n tap (aka prayer): talk to the Source and tap its immense intelligence
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

contemplate: be wholly present with some one, some place, or some thing
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

process: dialogue or converse to explore/examine feelings in a diary or journal
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

imagine: enter the fictive dream with a favorite movie or story; write your own story
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

immerse: lose yourself in your favorite sounds or music
invite peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, and/or ease

The beauty and wonder of these nine avenues to comfort is that I can follow them all by my lonesome, while leaving open the door to having others join me for some loving, lasting comfort and joy.

Feel free to tweak this list to completion and make it your own.

Draw on your intuition and imagination: feel free to mix and match your own tried and true avenues to comfort in ways that please you, that surprise you, that enlighten you, that make sense to you, and do step outside your comfort zone to find more or better avenues to comfort.

Keep it Casual and Comfortable

Comfortable interactions with others you know might seem like an overly complex (and potentially complicated) proposition, but what if there was a quick and easy way to draw more and more of this type of interaction into your life? Would you at least be willing to give it a try?

Truth be told, I’ve already given you more than enough wise counsel in this post for you to figure this out for yourself, but just in case you’re looking for more answers, let me spell it out for you: you need only master the duality between magical curiosity and tyrannical certainty.

I wrote about these two mortal enemies in my post, So Curious, So Magical.

So let me ask you this: how comfortable are you with being consciously and tyrannically certain? Here, I invite you to set aside how you think tyrannical certainty looks or sounds to others, and instead, focus on feeling how tyrannical certainty looks and sounds to you for you.

Believe it or not, to the extent to which you can be comfortable exercising this type of certainty consciously (without guilt or shame) is the extent to which you can be consciously and magically curious about what inspires, transpires, and expires in your exchanges and interactions.

Psst, here’s a little secret: you get to choose the scope, range, and extent of your tyrannical certainty based on your choice of controlling desire, with comfort as your guide, by insisting (with due certainty) on living up to your choice of controlling desire, with comfort as your guide.

Let’s say you choose to have harmony be your one controlling desire, with comfort as your guide. Now just how ready, willing, and able would you be to take ownership of your perceived patterns and problems in relation to others? A little? A lot? Not at all? How about full ownership?

Yes I know, I’m going out on a limb here. Mea culpa.

Paradoxically, this would mean insisting (while resisting, more or less consciously and tyrannically ~ preferably more consciously, and less tyrannically) on (a) pure reflections (as givers of care), and (b) no projections given (as receivers of care), with less and less resistance.

We do the first with active listening; we do the second with “I” messaging.

Find the Edge of Your Comfort Zone with Active Listening

From a first person perspective, the contrast between tyranny and curiosity is stark: whenever I try to force someone into compliance with the power of my authority, I deny someone the chance to exercise discipline and be more responsible. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is a prescription for budding tyrants and rebels. The simple alternative? I see you, I hear you, and I care.

Just not right now (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more).

It pays to be aware of budgetary constraints, in terms of time earned and time saved, for addressing and assessing (and blessing) inveterate naggers and complainers those who seem wholly inclined to nag and complain more often than not, i.e., much if not most of the time.

We can either teach/learn this lesson ~ acquire power over others so that we can force them to do our bidding ~ or we can teach/learn this lesson: acquire power with and through others, so as to discipline and encourage each other kindly to do no one’s tyrannical bidding.

We teach/learn the latter lesson by playing a game called “Who Owns the Problem?”

If I own the problem, I get to try a solution and live with the consequences; if you own the problem, you get to try a solution and live with the consequences; but if we own the problem, we get to negotiate a deal for a solution and live with the consequences. Easy as 1, 2, 3, yes?

Well, no. It’s . . . how can I put this? . . . complicated.

I have needs, you have needs, we have needs: if we have a need in common and I suggest a solution to meeting this need, you can either approve or revise, as required, and if you suggest a solution to meeting this need, I can either approve or revise, as required, but what if either one of us suddenly feels compelled to bring up and bring out “the inner wounded child?”

If the relationship is worthy of investment, someone has to play the role of parent, to bear responsibility for the problem, and pose the question: “who owns the problem?” If we both realize that the inner child can own the problem, then the inner parent can apply active listening, the worm at the core of which can be captured thus: “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Let the inner wounded child speak, all the better to feel heard (hint: “acceptance does not imply agreement”). To wit: “tell me more” or “this sounds important to you.” Remember to identify or clarify ownership for the problem and then stay focused on feelings: “it seems like you’re miffed about this.” But what if the one playing the role of parent owns the problem?

Find the Edge of Your Comfort Zone with “I” Messaging

The magical child does not buy into the “you” messaging of tyrannical parents, advising as follows: “you and I both know that I am you and you are me, and so, when I say ‘you disappoint me when you talk over me,’ I could just as easily say ‘I disappoint myself when you talk over me.'”

The message is clear to the magical child: in conflict, a “you” message laced with blame is meant to be taken as a slight, if not an attack. Too many of these messages have the magical child in wonder: “when adults open their mouths, they seem to want bad things to happen.”

The magical child wonders: “could you not relay your message without blame or shame, and without having to play “the shame game” with threats or insults? Yes? That is so awesome. Thank you. I really, really appreciate it. You know what? I’m making you parent of the year.”

The magical child knows that the accusatory judgment, “you annoy me when you do that,” could just as easily be delivered as a neutral (and neutralizing) statement of fact: “I annoy myself when you do that.” Of course, a bratty, brazen child would rejoin: “then don’t annoy yourself.”

A robust “I” message, however, is a little more complex than a simple “I annoy myself when you do that.” Here’s a cat lover talking to a beloved cat: “I annoy myself when you keep walking on my keyboard because it distracts me from my work.” Cat: “okay then, I’ll just sit here. Meow.”

Effective “I” messages have three ingredients baked into them:

(1) a neutral description of feeling (“I annoy myself . . .”); (2) a neutral description of conduct deemed inappropriate or unacceptable (“. . . when you keep walking on my keyboard . . .”); and (3) a neutral description of consequence (“. . . because it distracts me from doing my work”).

A well-crafted “I” message is the moral equivalent of “not suffering the karmic consequences of slighting or being slighted, of attacking or being attacked.” So be sure to get a clue: “I feel very strongly that you’ve been annoying me this whole time” is not a bona fide “I” message.

By placing emphasis on feeling, we invite empathy; by remaining neutral about conduct, we invite sympathetic resonance; and by confessing a concrete effect, we invite compliance. With just three postures of neutrality, we move skillfully from giving orders to giving statements.

So, just how patient can one be at bearing the heat of hate with magical curiosity?

I’m Okay; Are You Okay?

Active listening and “I” messaging are the paddles of choice for playing that game known as “Who Owns the Problem?” to soften up tyrannical certainty with just a little practice in being curious and magical.

when the inner child owns the problem, apply active listening;
when the inner parent owns the problem, apply “I” messaging

when both inner child and parent own the problem, negotiate!

To feel really and truly comfortable with magical curiosity, however, one would do well to foster a keen awareness of parent, child, and adult dynamics: Am I feeling compelled to be a parent? Do I feel safe enough to be an agreeable child? Or am I feeling called to be an adult?

As a working hypothesis, I would suggest that the degree to which one can move nimbly between these roles is the degree to which one can exercise magical curiosity in the face of tyrannical certainty.

The thing about tyrannical certainty is that it’s infused with shame, so let’s have “playing dictator” be a measure of last resort. Aim for moments of influence, rather than harsh commands or demands.

As “benevolent” tyrants, we have far too many tyrannical weapons at our disposal: we fall back all too easily on dismissals and denials, lectures and judgments, threats and insults, blaming and shaming ~ stamping jackboots, shaking fists, and giving orders. And yes, the list goes on.

For far too long, these clown acts have been all the rage for a tyrannical humanity.

Not comfortable, and . . . not very meaningful.

So let’s close out this deep dive with a perspective on comfort as it relates to meaning.

Or should that be a perspective on meaning as it relates to comfort?

For the Love of (Meaningful) Comfort

In late 2017, I published three consecutive posts on the Hikikomori phenomenon, beginning with a deep dive into The Depths of Hikikomori, a post that opened my eyes to a way of life that was far more common than I realized ~ and a way of life that intrigues me to this very day.

The more I delved into this phenomenon, the more I wondered about the stereotype that tried (but failed) to capture its essence and to contain its growth. I pondered the possibility of treating Hikikomori as a legitimate lifestyle for those who love to live their lives on their own terms.

The dark side of this phenomenon was equally fascinating: picture, if you will, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people of all ages from all walks of life having the wherewithal to retreat into their homes or bedrooms and, with enablers, turning them into living spaces 24/7/365.

Potentially, for the right people, for the right reasons, with the right resources, this picture of daily life could very well represent the ultimate in physical and psychological comfort, but would it be meaningful? More to the point, would it (eventually) cease to have any meaning?

Agents in the investigatory field of counterintelligence articulated five tried and true methods to foster trust and extract intelligence, and I say “articulated” rather than “discovered” only because they seem rather intuitively obvious and common sensical when I see them listed:

suspend the ego (deference)
surrender judgment (acceptance)
value the experience (validation)
exercise restraint (rationality)
give generously (generosity)

For someone (like a parent or a caregiver) looking to get through to a Hikikomori on a daily basis, this mosaic of methods seem like the way to go, but what I find interesting about them is that they can be applied to another context altogether, namely, to the experience of comfort itself.

Suppose we make comfort our default setting in life; that is, we take comfort in knowing that comfort itself can be the norm, rather than the exception, which is not to say that we bypass or dismiss discomfort ~ only that we respond to discomfort, not unlike an agent in the field.

I have a moment of discomfort in my sleep. I defer to the experience, not making it about me or anyone else. I surrender judgment and accept that this is my experience in the moment. For what it’s worth, I see the value: I respond rather than react; I adjust rather than complain.

In view of this posture, might the meaning of life only ever be realized in the comfort zone of knowing and feeling that one is capable of countless moments of fulfillment through negotiating and navigating, mindfully and skillfully, endless pearls of discomfort in and out of comfort?

For the love of comfort, I’ll leave this question for readers to answer.

Previous post:

Next post: