For the short month of February I gave up coffee, and I took on extended periods of seated meditation. Today is day 7 without coffee. All of the physical withdrawal has passed. Gone is the dull headache, and the desire to do absolutely nothing but sleep all day. The craving for coffee is gone too, mostly.
Yesterday, I was driving from my morning classes, and I found myself thinking that when I got home I’d brew a pot and enjoy a cup or two, or four. Then I remembered that I wasn’t going to do that.
Then I wondered why the thought even came up? Why did I want it? Addiction. Habit. Comfort.
We all have comfort seeking behaviors. In fact, the majority of our lives are spent pursuing these types of behaviors. We do all we can to keep ourselves comfortable at all times. To make things around us safe, right, okay, just-so. So that we can feel safe, right, okay, just-so. Controlled comfort. Comfort and control.
And whenever things aren’t right, or just-so, whenever we are stressed, we reach for the behaviors that comfort us the most. Some are good, some are bad. We reach for nicotine, alcohol, exercise, carbs, company, isolation, social media, intimacy, sex, sedatives, books, music, meditation, Netflix.
We attach these behaviors to relaxation.
‘I’ll have a cup of tea, and relax.
‘I’ll just watch some TV and relax.’
When people see that we are stressed, they tell us to relax by engaging in these behaviors.
‘Relaaaax. Have a beer.’
‘You really need to relax. Take a xanax!’
These are obvious examples of comfort seeking behaviors. But many things we do are less obvious. Like the ritual of brewing coffee, holding the warm mug in our hands, sipping. It’s not until we give them up that we realize how comforting they are. We mindlessly move through our rituals without even questioning the behaviors.
We choose to eat comfort foods instead of healthy foods. We choose passive activities over active ones. We choose social media over social interaction. We choose avoidance of life over engagement.
We fall into a comfortable cycle of moving mindlessly through our days, putting off, or completely avoiding anything that we deem as too much work, like washing and putting the coffee cup away immediately after we drink it. Or making a phone call instead of sending a text. Or dealing with our issues instead of escaping into the ethernet.
We seek out our comfortable patterns of behavior when we deal with other people. We ‘yes’ some people to death. We argue incessantly with others. We live comfortably in the same groove fulfilling our assumed roles, even if they are actually uncomfortable, painful, and toxic.
What are your comfort seeking behaviors? What do you think you might be seeking comfort from?
Meditation brings it all to the forefront. Every single uncomfortable, discomforting thing can and will come up when you sit perfectly still for prolonged periods of time. But you sit with those things, and you breathe through them, and you let them pass. Over and over and over again, you let them pass. Like a craving for a cigarette, a second cookie, a third beer… You simply say not now and you let it pass.
These thoughts that you believe you must continue to think, thoughts you believe are necessary, thoughts you believe are real and true, they are only thoughts. like clouds, they appear and they vanish.
But they don’t just materialize from thin air. They come from inside of you. You are the thinker. And you are the thoughts.
When you meditate you become the observer. And you realize that you are in control of your thoughts. You have the ability to choose which thoughts will be entertained or ignored. You are the thinker and all of the thoughts belong to you.
They belong only to you. They are yours to do with as you see fit. Just like the plate of food in front of you, the drink, the screen. You decide how much you will ingest, how much you will indulge, how much you will allow.
The more comfortable you become with yourself and your thoughts, the less you will seek the comfort of objects, habits, activities, other people. Your thoughts and your comfort is yours to control.
On the floor, or a cushion, or in a chair.
Breathe in and out of your nose.
Let your breaths get longer and slower.
Think to yourself
I am sitting and I am breathing.
My breath grounds me to this moment.
I am comfortable in this moment.
Do this for 1 minute, or 2, or 3…
The more you practice grounding yourself in the present moment, the more mindful your entire life will become. The more comfortable you become in silence and stillness, the more comfortable you will be in the world.