I had a really restless sitting yesterday. I kept shuffling around on the cushion trying to find a comfortable seat. I never found it. The one thought I remember having was "Nobody's looking... ". When I sit in the temple, I'm much less likely to shift around or try to move... perhaps because I don't want to call attention to myself. I try to be still, like a good zen soldier. But sometimes at home the sitting gets a lazy quality to it. But nobody's looking, I tell myself. You can be gentle with yourself. Isn't it a little crazy to sit still when you're so uncomfortable? Isn't that a good time for some metta (lovingkindness) practice?
Yesterday was such a nice day I turned the heat off. Lingering in bed this morning avoiding the chill of the apartment, I read part of this Ezra Bayda article that deals with comfort (again from the Shambhala Sun archives). And it answers at least some of my questions:
What is the practice here? First, we have to see the ways in which we constantly seek comfort. Then we look at our mental process, beginning with noticing our most basic beliefs. For example, if we're sitting in meditation and feel agitated, we ask, "What is my most believed thought right now?" The answer might be, "Life should be comfortable." Or, "Life should be free from pain." Or, "I can't be happy if I'm in discomfort." We certainly believe that these thoughts are true; yet many people have experienced that happiness does not depend on being free of discomfort. In fact, it's our belief that we have to avoid discomfort that is one of our deepest sources of unhappiness. But to see through the beliefs that underpin our habitual attitudes and behaviors, we first have to know what they are. We need to label our thoughts with precision and clarity to see through the addictive quality.
Once we see these beliefs clearly, what is the experiential component? It's staying with the restlessness, the anxious quiver, the hole of discomfort out of which our addictions spring. Residing in the present moment when it's uncomfortable isn't necessarily easy, since we have a natural aversion to discomfort. This is one reason why having a daily meditation practice is helpful, because we learn what it means to stay with the experience of the body even when this experience doesn't please us. However, to really reside in physical discomfort, it's helpful to first clearly see our believed thoughts.
There appears to be a thin line between lovingkindness and self-indulgence... at least for me. We can think we are taking care of ourselves (because that's a nicer thought to be with) and fool ourselves into avoiding what's really going on... we have an aversion to discomfort. If we never find ourselves in an uncomfortable place, we never have to deal with it.
Going to sit in the cold.