Comfort in “Discomfort”

As I lie here on my makeshift bed, which is nothing more than a bamboo mat coupled with a hand-me-down sleeping bag, I think about the 2-weeks that I’ve been here at the eco-village.

Conventional Discomfort: I think about the countless hours spent weeding, mulching, fertilizing, digging, picking, tilling, shredding, and all the other laborious activities specific to organic farming. I think about the lack of variety in the ingredients found in our daily meals, and more importantly, the banishment of any meat, onion, garlic, or mushroom in our diet. I think about the infinite mosquitos, ants, and unidentifiable insects that persistently bite, irritate, and feast on any exposed skin (such opportunists). I think about the countless hours of lost sleep, all of which have been attributed to a combination of reasons: the unbearable tropical heat, one lumpy pillow, a multitude of in-your-face (literally) cockroaches, a howling guard dog, a perpetually in-need-of-a-cuddle cat, other un-welcomed wildlife intervention, nightly earthquake rumbles beneath the hardwood floor, and, I can’t forget to mention, the quite heavy Taiwanese roommate (nicknamed twinkle toes) who’s frequent nighttime movement can only be described by a reference involving the phrase “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum.”

But as I reminisce about these conventional discomforts and even experience some of them as I write this very post, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement, satisfaction, and honest comfort. I really can’t believe it or wrap my head around it, I find comfort in discomfort.

False Paradise: A few days ago, I had the privilege of taking my weekend vacation further down south to Kaohsiung. I was graciously welcomed by my HS friend Jack, who’s currently serving in the Taiwanese military. Jack’s parents were warm, friendly, and hospitable. They pampered me, to say the least. A comfy bed with a selection of pillows and blankets to choose from, a warm shower, an endless supply of delicious food (most of which included meat), air-conditioning on full blast, freshly brewed coffee upon waking up, and as you can imagine, the list goes on. All comforts typically found in the metropolitan lifestyle . A lifestyle I became accustomed to while growing up.

But as much as I appreciated the temporary weekend escape from the eco-village and the tremendous hospitality from Jack’s family, there was still a slight part of me that didn’t feel right. Maybe, it went beyond the upset stomach I was experiencing after the 2 days straight of carnivorous gluttony. Maybe it was the feeling of guilt, as the thought of not being deserving of such luxuries was implanted in my mind. Or maybe, just maybe, it was pure boredom, as I wasn’t challenged by a feeling of alienation or unfamiliarity. All that I can come up with is really that there’s the possibility that all these conventionally deemed “comforts” were in fact creating the internal discomfort. Somewhat of a visceral paradox.

Home-Sweet-Home: Since returning back from Kaohsiung, I’ve been more at ease with myself. I’m more compassionate towards myself and in all, I feel more natural. I understand that it’s only been about 2 weeks volunteering on this ecovillage, but there’s something about living here that brings out the best in me. There’s a more stable and sustained source of purity, clarity, and level of calmness. And it’s not necessarily this specific spiritual organic farm that’s the source of such positivity, but rather, the lifestyle that I’ve committed myself to while living here. Maybe its the whole concept of “struggling” (I know I’m overdramatizing the experience) for the purpose of being rewarded later that brings such comfort. Maybe it’s the 6 hours put in each morning and afternoon working under intensified conditions (the draining sun, mosquitos, piles and piles of literal and metaphorical shit), which later is then balanced with water-breaks, cooling showers, peanut-butter sandwiches, timely rainfall, afternoon naps, and repetitive-yet-wholesome-home-cooked meals, that makes it all worth it, better yet, more comforting.

What’s next then?:

The question now is then after my one-month experience is completed on this farm, what can I do to sustain this level of comfort in discomfort? Maybe it doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to lifestyle conditions, but rather, a lifestyle philosophy. Maybe it’s possible to live a conventionally comfortable life (i.e. abundantly varied food, air conditioning, luxurious items, convenient services etc…) yet, keep it adaptable and alive with frequent challenges, uncertainty, and ambiguity (i.e. different diets, social experimentation, independent projects, and overall incorporation of randomness).

For now, it’s comforting knowing that I can find comfort in discomfort, which in actuality is comfort.

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