Only when you step out of your comfort zone can you experience life fully, richly and deeply. It is important to do this from time to time, not only for yourself, but for those around you. If not, you will be forever trapped by your own fears.
In the past I have advocated asking yourself “Why Am I Here?” or to use a door as a way to remind yourself that what is behind you is truly behind you – it can never be undone, and that what is in front of you is not worth worrying about. All you can do is let it go and get on with your life and prepare yourself for the eventualities of what may be. Let go of your fears and anxieties through meditation so that you can focus on those events that you can change, not on those things you cannot.
Either way, past or future, learn to recognize and embrace the fact that you forever in transition, that the past and the future are the places that you jump from and to. Life is not about anticipating, but embracing that untethered moment you are in right now, the space of transition in between.
The untethered moments are where you live most of your life. They are not a time to search for a safe place to land but to enjoy the discomfort and the moment where life is truly lived.
One of my most profound teachers asked me in a formal Dokusan, “Jeff Cannon, what do you want to do right now?” I replied honestly “What I really want to do is open that door and run as far away from here and from you that I can get, never to return.” He smiled and said, “Why don’t you? There is nothing stopping you.”
I knew there was nothing stopping me. I knew that running away was the safe way out. do. I also knew that running away would be just that, running away from the deeper issues we had been discussing. What resulted from not opening that door and running opened a path to some of the most valuable lessons of my life. It also opened a line of self-evaluations that continues to lead me to some of my greatest break-throughs. Had I done what made me comfortable I ever would have stepped over the edge and into the unknown, where I continue to thrive.
This is not just a matter of making good choices but of challenging yourself to make good choices that challenge you. That is the only way in which you will grow. Growth is not just about going against the status quo, but going against your own comfort zone. Breaking out of your comfort zone will help you break free of the group thinking that keeps everyone in line, no matter how independent you think you are.
Here are some examples of when to push your own comfort zone:
Do What Makes You Uncomfortable
Admit it we all have those days when we come home exhausted. All we want to do is sink into a chair and get lost in a TV show or lose ourselves online. When we do this we begin to feel guilty when we come back at midnight with the realization of losing ourselves and our evening, knowing we will have to wake up in a few hours to begin the cycle of work and exhaustion all over again. This is one of those moments to do what you do not want to do, but that you know is right. This is a moment to pool our strength and forget about what feels comfortable.
This is also the moment to sit and meditate, to go for a walk, read a book, to do anything but what you first wanted to do. It may sound like the most horrible idea in the first few minutes until you actually change your habits. When you do this, you begin to feel in control of your actions and yourself. This is when your actions are the most wonderful acts ever, and guess what, they are.
Do what so many people have done for centuries. When you want to free yourself from your earthly bonds do not do what makes you uncomfortable, do what makes you uncomfortable. Don’t throw yourself in the same old, same old. Throw off your natural balance until you find yourself in the middle of a spiritual awakening or a moment of enlightenment. It’s out there waiting for you. All you have to do is reach out for it.
Think it is absurd? Try it and see what happens. Perhaps just a moment of discomfort. Perhaps nothing less than a moment of enlightenment.
Learn how to take the first few steps, from simply walking instead of riding, to just not eating lunch at your desk. It’s simpler than you think.
Walk instead of ride
The next time you think of grabbing your car keys or hailing a taxi, go for a walk instead. Give yourself an extra ten minutes and enjoy the time between your errands rather than just checking off boxes. Let your errands be a way to take a mindful break from life and the holidays.
When you go through tasks you need to check off your list, don’t think of the tasks, think of the time between those tasks as a break from yourself. If the market is ten blocks away think of the distance in between as your time. Yes, you may save time driving, but is that really time saved? What about the time that you lose for yourself?
The actual time you might save becomes negligible when you think of how much time it takes to hail a cab or to get your car out of the garage. More important think about the stress you can release by taking a ten or fifteen-minute walk. Think of how it will help you come to terms with yourself and the world when you simply walk.
Lunch at your desk?
Are you really stuffing yourself because you are that hungry? Or are you eating all that food at your desk so you can jump onto the next project? Is that food being eaten for nutrition, or are you upset that the only person you have to eat with is yourself?
Give yourself the gift of time, and learn to enjoy your meal in a mindful way. Why would you deprive yourself of this opportunity to find your balance and return yourself to calm?
Tired of the gym? You may be surprised at how much mental-babble you can rid yourself of with a trip to your workout. I know how irritating it is to get into the mood to work out, but that is how your body works. It is driven off the activity of your muscles, pumping fluids and removing wastes. It is how your body functions.
You are a physical being. The pumps that keep your body clean and healthy run off of your activity. You may find yourself following your excuses by staying on the couch, but you will pay for it with an increased feeling of lethargy and an inability to think clearly.
When you actually motivate yourself to exercise, not only are you getting your engine to run, you are setting a pattern to avoid excuses in all parts of your life. You may even find yourself creating a new patter for getting to the gym more often.
In other words, changing your patterns in one area creates a snowball effect that carries over into other areas of your life. By getting off the couch, walking instead of riding, not eating at your desk, you create powerful habits that will change your life. And yes, this willpower will continue to build on itself through good discipline and regimen – expanding the good that is within you outward to others.
This is what makes people studious, productive and feel accomplished. This is what makes you question the status quo and build the life you want to live. If it seems like an infinite loop, it is. Free yourself from your thoughts and you will learn that these loops are nothing more than your auto-programming, which is something you can quickly reduce to their fundamental nature.
It may seem like a Zen Koan for which there is no start and no finish. In a way it is. And that is the beauty of it. You don’t have to start or finish. You can simply begin to adopt a new way to live your life through the little choices you make every day. Your body and mind will take your lead and follow along without question soon enough.