Saturday, June 18, 2011


"In order to be happy I need [fill in the blank]."  Seriously, take a few minutes to fill in the blank.  We might know that the "ideal" answer is, "There is nothing I need in order to be happy in life."  Still, probably none of us can honestly give that response.  So think about it.  What are the things you need in life in order to be happy?  Here's my list:

*Family to love and who love me
*Friends to love and who love me
*A place to live
*Food to eat
*Clothes to wear
*A job

That's just the bare minimum!  If you were to ask me what I need in my life in order to be truly fulfilled the list would be a lot longer.

My list reveals something about me that I believe is true of many people; I equate happiness with comfort.  Comfort is defined as a state of ease or well being; relief from affliction, grief, etc.; physical ease; and contented well being.  I am happy when all of my physical and most of my emotional needs are consistently met -- when I am comfortable.  How I admire those people who have little but who always seem to be in good spirits.  Their happiness stems from being alive.  Would I be happy if I had to grow or kill everything I ate?  Would I be happy without running water, heat, and air conditioning?  Would I be happy if I couldn't find a job?  For me, the answer to these questions is a resounding NO!  That tells me just how far I have to go in terms of accepting whatever arises in the present moment.  It shows me just how attached I am to comfort.

The one thing I can say in my own defense is that I have a strong appreciation for just how fortunate and blessed I am.  I don't take anything or anyone in my life for granted.  Gratitude is not equanimity, but it is a virtue in itself.

I recently read a profound perspective on the pitfalls of living a comfortable life that really made me think.  It came from a website called from a user named "brain in a jar."  He defined comfort as the feeling of not having any urges that need to be satisfied; it is what we feel when we have no strong need for anything.  The problem with living a life of comfort is this: Pleasure is derived from satisfying a strong need.  Living a life of comfort means anticipating our needs and desires before they arise and satiating them before the desire to do so even arises.  In other words, comfort impedes pleasure.  Maybe that's why so many people seem bored and no longer find anything enjoyable.  This is what we mean by getting "too comfortable;" it takes all the pleasure out of life.

I don't have the answer; I'm definitely not ready to give up the comforts in my life. What do you guys think?

1 comment:

  1. I once asked a Tibetan Buddhist Lama who was in Canada teaching, "What struck him the most about North America?" He replied, "In Asia, many people have nothing, but they are happy. Here, you have everything, and still many people are unhappy." Lately I have been pondering the idea of 'craving', that insatiable feeling of always wanting something, always chasing after something to 'make me happy.' There is no end to craving, so I'm looking for an alternative way to be. Thanks for your insightful post, which is helping me understand more about this dilemma.


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