‘Then I’ll begin…’ It was the start of story-time on children’s hour when I was little, and we would all settle down to enjoy the story. For some reason it re-appeared in my memory this week, and prompted me to think about what being comfortable means.
It’s surprising at first when you look at its etymology: it means originally to be in your own strength. We think of being comfortable as being relaxed, at ease, rather than strong. And when you think about it some more, you realise that it is a form of strength that we don’t usually recognise or use, given us to help us to live our lives well.
So let’s explore it some more. When we feel physically comfortable, we are more likely to be in the flow mentally, and emotionally balanced. This is because the body reflects directly how we are feeling and cannot be controlled by our conscious mind; it shows us whether something is right or wrong for us by its reaction, if we choose to listen to it.
How useful is that!! I don’t have to try and work it out through my thinking: that mind that can argue the case for almost anything! I can just notice how my body is feeling, use a simple question to myself: ‘ Is my body comfortable with this?’
And if it isn’t, then we can use it to help us to improve the situation. If we know how our body feels when we are comfortable, then we can adjust ourselves physically until we get those feelings, and our emotions and our mind will automatically re-balance themselves, and we will easily think of an alternative way of handling the situation.
So begin by noticing when you are comfortable. What are you like physically – your shoulders, your belly, your breathing? And appreciate the effect that physical comfort has on your mental and emotional state.
Then notice when you slip out of comfort, and how different it feels physically. Begin with the simple everyday events that cause this slip: thinking about dinner tonight and not being in the mood to plan something to eat; the phone ringing when you are in the middle of something else; seeing 50 emails drop into your in-box in the morning. And just step away for a moment and get yourself physically comfortable again: now what are you going to do about it? By practising regaining your comfort on small things, you develop the habit of using being comfortable as a mechanism to reduce the stresses of life and to tap into your own ability to deal more constructively and imaginatively with the things that life throws at you.
We were born with this wondrous gift – let’s use it. Are you sitting comfortably? Now let’s begin!!