Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Shelly Young, LPC Health Guide

    Stepping out of the comfort zone transformed my life. It all started with the discipline of doing mindfulness meditation. It was difficult for me. I felt agitated and wanted to jump out of my skin whenever I sat down. I meditated with a group and I was the only one in the meditation hall who would cry. All of my "stuff" came to the surface." But I meditated anyway because I noticed that it was changing my life. I realized that it was medicine. I found that practicing mindfulness meditation gave me a great skill. It helped me to relate to discomfort in a way that I wasn't overwhelmed, swept away or caught up in it. I found that whenever I related to mind/body discomforts in a way that was open and accepting, I was putting money in the "peace of mind" bank account. As the bank account grew, I could withdraw "peace of mind" whenever I needed it. Over time, peace of mind became natural as the suffering in my life diminished. 

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    Comfort is what all of us want and we try to be comfortable all day long. We scratch, we stretch and we drink coffee to rid ourselves of fatigue. We eat comfort foods to feel better and we take pain relievers. We snap at people to relieve irritability and we get a massage when our back hurts. If you have diabetes, you most likely have extra discomforts. They may take the form of inconveniences and unwanted disciplines like testing your blood glucose level, injecting insulin, weight loss, abstaining from certain foods or dealing with depression and mood swings.


    There's nothing wrong with wanting comfort and attempting to get comfortable. But what if you can't?  How often do you fail to get the comfort that you are seeking? When you do get it, before you know it, it's gone!  The transitory nature of comfort is a significant problem. No matter how hard you try to make it stay, it doesn't. You want it to last forever and sometimes really believe that it will. I knew someone who had a major emotional breakdown after the death of the husband she adored. She stated, "I never thought that my husband would ever die?"


    As a long-term mindfulness meditation practitioner, I have learned some interesting things about comfort and discomfort. I discovered that I can be quite content, even when I don't get what I want or feel the way I would like to feel, physically or emotionally. I'm much less dependent on feeling good in order to be at peace with myself. I have also discovered that purposely leaving the "comfort zone" and not attempting to escape discomfort, has had amazing effects on my sense of well-being. Learning the skill of embracing, rather than rejecting thoughts, feelings and body sensations is what has brought about the transformation.


     For myself, the most challenging "stepping out of the comfort zone" came with working with my sugar/refined carb addiction. I remember feeling like I was going to die from craving for as long as 8 hours at a time but I didn't act on the cravings. I stayed with the meditation techniques in the midst of the pain, opening up to the cravings rather than resisting them. This was one of the greatest challenges I ever faced. Yet it was a small price to pay for what I got, which is complete freedom from the sugar/carb addiction.


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    If you would like to begin working with discomfort and move towards unconditional freedom, you can start with the simple method of focusing on relaxation. If you sit down and close your eyes, you will notice that with each exhale, there is a sense of relaxation in the body. Don't try to force relaxation but rather just notice it as you exhale and say the word "relaxed" to yourself. Keep your attention only on relaxation.  If thoughts or feelings arise, just let them be there, and refocus your attention onto the relaxation that comes with each exhale. You may notice areas in your body that feel relaxed, so you can focus on any of those in any given moment. The idea is to focus only on relaxation.  


    With practice, you will be able to access relaxation at will. You can bring this method into your daily life when you find yourself outside your comfort zone or you have chosen to be there. You can focus on the relaxation that comes with every exhale.  Allow yourself to notice relaxation in the body and stay with that no matter what thoughts and feelings may arise. Don't try to push anything away and just stay with relaxation.


    If you allow yourself to step out of the comfort zone, and continue to focus on relaxation, you are laying the foundation for unraveling the deep blockages to true happiness. Gradually you will become less fearful of discomfort and may ultimately see it as a gift. As Rumi says in his poem, The Guest House, "Be grateful for whatever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

Published On: August 27, 2010