What Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone?

Neale Donald Walsch has said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and Laura Berman Fortgang taught me that “Discomfort equals growth.”  I believe and teach both of these concepts, AND at the same time I am very conscious that for me, things could also easily come to a screeching halt at the end of my comfort zone.  

When I’m uncomfortable, feeling out of my element, I get out of sorts really quickly and want to run and hide!  So, I could easily miss out on the opportunity that life is presenting me if I give in to that habitual pattern that is so deep inside me.

This awareness came up front and center this morning at my Nia dance class. It’s only my 4th class, and I missed last week because of vacation.  Today I felt all out of sorts – off rhythm and moving forward when the class was moving back or left when they were sliding right.  And, the more aware I become of how “off” I was, I felt myself pull back, tense up, and want to completely shut down rather than just let it be ok.  

This is supposed to be a fun class for me – a chance for exploration and expression in a new way. And what I felt today was very vulnerable and very awkward.  As I watched the teacher and other students move with a grace and ease that was beautiful and seemed effortless, I got more and more stuck in being still, tight, and wrong.  More and more stuck in my head. Surprisingly that didn’t help my grace and ease!  Go figure!  

As I walked over to get a drink between songs, for a brief moment I considered walking out almost in tears – just quitting.  My inner critic was having a field day telling me I wasn’t good enough. Asking “Why bother? You’ll never move like they do!” Declaring, “You can’t do this! What were you thinking?” “Just get out before anyone else notices how off you are or before you bump into someone.”  

No, the dance floor is not the space where I shine, but when I let myself, I can have a ball with it and my body thanks me for taking a risk to move in ways that are not natural or easy for me. When I compare myself to others, I feel more and more like a fool and imagine all eyes are on me (of course, they aren’t – no one else cares at all).  

I have a strong need to know how to do things and to get it right.  Today I couldn’t even hear because my ears were plugged and the acoustics are tough… so, I felt lost, flailing, and out of sorts. Definitely out of my comfort zone.  

The growth came in the moment when I decided to approach myself with some tenderness – to reassure and comfort myself so that I could come back to me and push myself to stay in the dance.  

Today reminded me of another significant time in my life when I was immensely challenged – three years ago I was in the Adirondacks facing fears I didn’t know I had.  Thankfully, I was with a group of wonderfully supportive people who helped me push past my mental barriers as I faced physical hurdles that I truly did not feel capable of overcoming.  As I watched others scale heights that scared me simply to look at and stretch themselves across tight ropes and balance beams, I found myself frozen halfway up the ladder toward what I had determined to be the easiest challenge.  

I wanted to come back down. I begged to come back down.  Our leader urged me to take a few steps past where I thought I could.  And, I did. Then I came down and thought I would walk away satisfied. Of course he knew better and helped me to see that I would not be satisfied if I didn’t even try.  

After quite a pep talk where I acted the petulant, resistant, stubborn child, and with the help of every person in that group, I put the harness on again and got back on the ladder. I triumphed over my mind with a determination that I would not stop climbing (for if I did, I surely would get frozen again).  I shouted out my intention to get across the wires to the wilderness and anyone within earshot. Scampered up the pole like Spider Man, and I did it!  

I honestly didn’t know if I would make it or not, but I am so grateful that I was able to face my fear of setting a goal I might not meet– a fear so strong that it literally stopped me in my tracks.  It wasn’t my physical ability that was getting in my way. It was my mind and the stories that rapidly filled my head. 

Growth… and life’s finest opportunity… truly comes in those moments when we are paralyzed by fear or discomfort, and we do it anyway.  So, while today’s dance class wasn’t as joyful as I would have liked it to be, I took away just what I needed. I was able to witness what happens when I begin judging and comparing and finding myself falling short or feeling less than. And, I was able to keep on going.  

Where are you letting discomfort stop you and how can you move on through and see what’s waiting for you as you come out the other side? 

-- Barb Klein

See more from Barb at her website blog: http://www.barbklein.org/blog