Where is a never-failing source of comfort (ease, solace, peacefulness)?
You may already understand. It can be helpful to imagine yourself in extreme situations wondering how to calm down.
All appeals exhausted, you are being led to the execution room for your capital crime.
Your car is disabled on a back road in the middle of winter. It’s nearly dark and you face a very long, cold night alone.
Something awakens you in the middle of the night in your second floor bedroom. Though you live alone, you hear strange, creaky sounds from downstairs as though someone is moving around carefully.
You are fishing in the middle of a large northern lake just after ice out. You gash the underside of your boat on a sharp rock just under the surface of the water.
Don’t you already know to take a deep breath?
You might instead try to comfort yourself by saying a short prayer, but neither words nor thinking will have any real effect unless you deliberately pay attention to your breath. (The Latin ‘spiritus’ from which we derive ‘spiritual’ means ‘breath’ or ‘wind.’)
Notice that it’s not really awareness of breathing that helps; instead, it’s awareness of this breath. Breathing takes time; this breath is now. Just as you can only take one step at a time, so you can only take one breath at a time.
This breath fills the present moment. It is – thus!
Why does this work? Focusing on a breath immediately gets you out of your thoughts. It immediately and naturally brings you right back to the present moment. Although there can be pain in the present moment, without time there is no suffering.
Without distracting thoughts, it’s natural to accept the present moment just as it is. Accepting it just as it is instantly conditions you to dealing effectively with it.
Focusing on anything natural works to promote greater comfort.
Just intently observe a cloud or a lake or a stone or a tree.
Do not label what you perceive; just perceive it without conceptualizing it or verbalizing it. In other words, do not think: just observe or witness.
If you do, the cloud or lake or stone or tree will teach you Being [click here for the important Being / Becoming distinction].
From the Flower Ornament Scripture: “Beings teach, lands teach, all things in all times teach, constantly, without interruption.”
If, as I have argued in many of these posts in the spiritual well-being category, your real home is in Being, the comfort you feel when focusing on anything natural is the comfort of homecoming.
Let’s turn this around: what happens when you disconnect from what is natural and are incessantly focused on human-made artifacts?
Could anything be more uncomfortable? Could you be any more ill at ease?
Just look at how most people live. For example, observe them walking across a campus or down a street: in addition to their ordinary minds incessantly filled with noisy thoughts, many today carry with them mobile technology with speakers that creates even more noise! It’s as astounding as it is foolish.
Our ancestors of 20,000 or 50,000 years ago would consider them mad, and they would be correct.
Nietzsche: “Be like the tree that you love with its wide branches: silently listening, it hangs over the sea.” [From Thus Spoke Zarathustra, W. Kaufmann, tr.]
Silence and natural sounds are a great comfort. Human-made sounds usually create discomfort, and they cumulatively create great discomfort.
This is why a good way to torture people is simply to make them endure human-made noise for hours on end.
This is why getting away from civilization by vacationing in more natural surroundings is so relaxing. You don’t need a loud hair dryer to dry your hair.
Comfort decreases as the sale of mobile gadgets increases. We buy more and more mobile gadgets and make ourselves more and more uncomfortable. Boy, are we wise!
When the mind is purified, silence is more relaxing than entertainment.
If silence decreases your comfort level, that’s because your thoughts are out of control.
The more you require entertainment, the more your thoughts are out of control. You are using entertainment like a drug to obtain some quasi-relief from your thoughts.
The best way to obtain that relief is by purifying the mind.
The lesson is simple: if you want to enjoy more comfort and ease, decrease noise, increase silence, and get much better control of your thoughts.