It seems I'm reminded of these words all too often lately, as if there's some lesson the universe wants me to get. This lesson seems tied to the fact that I'm currently writing this in a moldy, dilapidated hotel in the recently flooded city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay, India).
If it's not the visions I see here, it's news of the recent disasters in Iraq or New Orleans that ask me again and again why we're so often asked to look at our own relatively mild discomforts against the backdrop of literally millions in the world with actual needs. Perhaps we're repeatedly put to ponder because we repeatedly don't ponder but rather react. And it seems the usual thoughtless reaction we have is an ever increasing sense of need to secure greater and greater security despite the fact that unavoidable insecurity is all around us.
Perhaps this usual reaction is the opposite of something that needs to be done deep inside. For in stressing the need for greater security and comfort, one actually becomes less comfortable and secured, not to mention more vulnerable to the agonies of loss. And in regularly pursuing and satisfying desires and comforts, one is more inclined to grow an addiction to them.
When we no longer have a steadfast flow of comforts, we experience symptoms of withdrawal. What was before just easily attainable desires can quickly become intense needs. The intensity is based on the fear of being unable to support the level of addiction/desire we've had and the discomfort of withdrawing from that addiction.
At some point the task of ensuring everlasting comfort should become realized as an absolutely moot one, and from there the brave and/or faithful might finally surmise: "Do I continue to run, ignore or avoid reality, or do I finally look into it?" But what is there to look into?
Religions say to look within oneself. To "know thyself" is basically a yoga practice, experiencing that all discomfort/disease comes from a state of separation/lack of integration with inner spiritual power. It is mastering the body and mind so that it no longer habitually avoids experiences that otherwise would get one deeply in touch with their noble inner self.
Letting go of outer comforts allows one to concentrate more deeply on burning away the veils to our inner flame. Though painful at first, as this fire gets deeper so does a true sense of peace and security, for fire can't hurt the flame, it can only merge with it.
Likewise, giving up comforts is difficult, but upon no longer hankering for them one immediately becomes more comfortable and peaceful. Deep peace doesn't depend upon comforts, but rather freedom from the need of them.
WILLIAM BRASHEAR, owner of Cincinnati Yoga School in Blue Ash, is a Thai Yoga Masseur who has practiced Vipassana Meditation for 18 years. Contact him at Will@cincyoga.com.