Just Outside of My Comfort Zone - August 2016
Re-entering regular life is a bit discombobulating after living in a world quite different than my day to day. I’ve been immersed in a deep nature connection experience that took me just past (and at times, quite a bit past) my comfort zone; into the forest, supportive community, and my own heart. It feels strange being back here, in my busy life in Silicon Valley. Where people are immersed in devices rather than looking for tadpoles in a creek, or waking up to the squawk of a pair of ravens that swoop through camp every dawn.
Everything I learned and experienced couldn’t possibly be captured in this brief post. But the nutshell is that my heart expanded and I saw that I could be open and vulnerable in a situation in which I didn’t have the upper hand, where I was called to get dirty, act like a fool, and risk total failure in front of mostly strangers.
To let myself be average, ordinary, and less than fully competent, and still feel that I had value. My value came from being who I was, open-hearted, willing, and coming from love.
It’s much easier for me to wear the hat of teacher, to be the one in charge, nurturing and supporting others on their journey. To let go of control and to put myself in a situation that wasn’t my strength – facing the unknown and my fears – was a fabulous growing edge for me.
I have a complicated relationship with nature. I deeply love being immersed in it. I feel so connected to Spirit when I am outdoors with the trees, the water, the birdsong. My body and soul long for the wild. At the same time (as I imagine it is for many others), I fear it. I question if I am safe if I wander too far – will I get lost, will a tick sneak into my skin, will I cross paths with a dangerous animal? I’m not yet capable of starting a fire from friction, and I really hate getting up in the middle of the cold night, leaving the security and warmth of my sleeping bag and tent, to tromp through the dark to have a pee.
And in a community of over 250 people, most of whom seemed to have a clue about what they’re doing playing toe tag, capture the flag, and identifying edible plants, I felt clueless. I wondered what I have of value as a total novice, and how I would find my place in the tribe. Would I be accepted, or fade into nothingness?
For the last few years, I have immersed myself in a week-long experience of facing all that. Facing it with all my foibles, all the courage I can muster, with my anxiety packed on my back but my heart hopeful and longing to gain entry to this mysterious and magical world of deep nature connection and community.
Each year it takes me further past what’s comfortable into glorious, new territory. That new territory is the willingness to fail, miserably. I know that until I’m willing to do that, I won’t experience the freedom of spontaneous joy. I can’t get past my loud and anxious mind until I can leap, looking but letting go of thinking, and trust that a net catches me.
However, I didn’t belly-crawl through poison oak. That would be stupidity. What I realized is that I can roam freely when I am present and aware. I’m aware of my knowledge – and lack thereof – of the flora, and I now readily know what poison oak looks like in [almost] all of its variations. When I am present, watching every step, listening around me, and knowing what my edge of competence is – which I stay just inside of – and what my edge of comfortableness is – which I attempt to play just outside of – then I’m safe. If I don’t feel competent to wander into a particular part of the forest, then I stop. What can I do, then, if I am not ready to go there? I look for where I can explore and go there instead.
I found that it’s OK to jump into a game that I have no idea how to play, and learn. And if I’m not very good at it, it’s fine. When you’re in supportive community, you have space to fail. Which gives me the space to try it again, and learn more. It’s learning to play like a child all over again, not expecting to be excellent, but simply playing for the joy and fun of it.
Two year olds don’t expect to be dancing beautifully. They just want to dance. If they are supported lovingly, without expectations, they just jump up and down, swing their arms, smile, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
I am so grateful to reclaim that part of myself. To laugh and laugh and laugh, and dance whether it looks good or not.
This Friday, August 19th, at Monthly Morning Yoga & Meditation (MMYM) perhaps you can reclaim some lost part of yourself, too. Join me in Palo Alto from 9:45-11:45am. I’d love to see you there as we immerse in this sacred time together of practice, discussion, and going within. See details below or on my website.
And if a taste of that deep nature connection sounds delicious to you, then you'll love the upcoming Fall Day-Long Retreat. We'll return to Ananda Valley Farm again on Saturday, October 15th, from 9:30am-5:30pm for a day of Letting Go, the perfect theme for autumn. Register here! Early bird discount until September 15th.
I bring this home for you from my time off - to step just outside of your comfort zone. My heart reaches out and says, “dance!” Lie down on the grass and breathe it in, or wade into a creek, let the fish nibble your toes, and walk upstream. Run around barefoot. Dare to get dirty, and paint your face with wild blackberries. Your heart longs to break out of the comfort zone and expand into more of who you are, to be your deepest Self, without your self-imposed limitations.