Comfortable in Any Circumstance

Luang Por Pasanno • July 2013

It looks like it’s going to be hot again today. Most of us are uncomfortable when it’s hot like this. So what we need to do, as Dhamma practitioners, is learn how to adapt. We learn to dwell with mindfulness and equanimity whether things are to our liking or not. The tendency is to wait for conditions we like and when they arise, only then do we say to ourselves, Okay, now I can practice. It’s an attitude that can easily become habitual. But being tied to the human condition as we are, it’s rare for things to be just right. So what we need to do is develop a willingness to work with conditions as they are. If it’s really hot, then we adjust our pace accordingly, perhaps we slow down what we’re doing. We may say to ourselves, Really, truly, I can’t practice now. I have to wait for this to be over and then I can practice. That’s a common response, but we shouldn’t waste our time with it.

Often we deal with imperfect conditions by getting in touch with our “inner complainer” that’s whining away, going on and on about how miserable we feel. Instead of mindlessly doing that, we can use challenging circumstances as a means of investigating the habit of complaining. We do this by watching the mind trying to convince itself that physical discomfort automatically means we have to experience mental discomfort. When the mind is adopting that sort of misunderstanding and complaining about the circumstances, we observe how this simply perpetuates suffering. It’s not that we’re trying to sugar coat the tendency to complain by saying to ourselves, Oh, isn’t this wonderful? I just love it when it’s 108 degrees outside. Instead we’re facing reality and being honest with ourselves. At the same time, we understand that simply because circumstances are less than ideal, they do not also have to be a source of complication or oppression.

The point is to distinguish between the direct, physical experience and the layers of mental complication we add to that experience. When we do that, it gives us an inner refuge, allowing us to be comfortable in any circumstance. That’s one of the magical things about Dhamma practice. We can be at ease and clear in any circumstance if we’re willing to direct our attention in a skillful way.