July 17, 2012

Why to Dive Out of the Plane (and Out of Your Comfort Zone).

Image: Dashama Konah

Life is a series of events threaded together to give us a “movie” version of still events.

At least that’s how I see it.

Recently I’ve been challenged. And in that challenge I have not only had to step way outside my comfort zone but also had to reflect on the experience.

This was not your ordinary “I dove into the pool without feeling the water” step, it was more like I dove out of a plane chasing a parachute someone had thrown out of it. I didn’t plan on stepping off that plane and free-falling without security, but step off I did. I’m still not sure what the outcome will be other than saying that the joy is in the flying as long as I don’t think about the landing…

[Insert laughter and applause here.]

So, here I am flying through the air not truly enjoying the experience. Why? Because I know that at some point gravity will win and I will hit the ground while most likely not living through the experience of landing. That’s what experience, “common sense” and the knowledge I have on the subjects of gravity and human flight have told me. I cannot survive this plummet without a parachute—and even with one survival is not guaranteed. So I desperately search for the security of the free-falling parachute because I don’t want to feel pain or die.

And I begin to question why I jumped out of the plane in the first place.

Why did I jump?

What insanity drove me to step off a perfectly good airplane into something unknown? At this moment in fear I question everything. I probably even start to flap my arms believing that I could stop my descent or perhaps even fly. I begin to reason that maybe the landing won’t be so bad, and I begin to resist the knowing of what is to come. My human mind ignores what my scientific mind is telling me.

In all of this commotion, I forget to enjoy the experience of now. How great would it be to take flight? How about the rush of air over my skin, the sunlight on my back? How about the sensation of falling? How about embracing the clouds as I pass through them? The end is inevitable, but to lose sight of the present moment for something I cannot change is the insanity. Why am I not just enjoying the ride as I look for the parachute that could change everything?

Fear: Friend or Foe?

Fear does this to us. It distorts the present moment if we allow it to. I do believe that fear is not only a very necessary component to our human existence, but that it can be our friend if we don’t cater to it. If fear controls us, rather than the other way around, we get a distorted and sometimes fatal view of our existence. Hitting the ground is the inevitability of our existence here, and if we focus on that or some magical afterlife we are doomed to miss out on the still photos that will become the movie of our time here.

So, back to our analogy. I know my end is near even if I survive this tumble through our atmosphere. I will die someday, so why not choose to live this moment? I come to peace with the future as just a dream since it does not exist beyond my mind’s creation.

I have nothing to fear now in this future just as there are no monsters under my bed or no boogie man hiding in the dark corner of my room. Neither exists in that present moment when I shine a light into them, and the monsters I thought were there become nothing more than the empty air I now tumble through. The present moment becomes that light I shine into the dark corners I fear.

This helps me focus on now. There’s a calmness that comes with that type of presence that some would call “silent strength.” You can feel intention course through you like a laser. As you become calm you are ripe with purpose. My present moment is enjoying the fall as I look for the parachute. After all, there’s a reason I stepped off that plane even if I can’t explain it. That reason was to enjoy this experience—the one I’m having right now.

Now I begin to feel the air rush over my skin. It’s exhilarating and aids me in the focus. Now I can feel the sun warming my back as I peer downward at the clouds. Through their whiteness I can see the ground below, but my focus remains on the emptiness of this air I tumble in. Air is a remarkable thing, you can’t see it but you always know it is there. Without it you cannot survive which leads me to another analogy I created once when discussing love (or my understanding of love. Yes, I speak best when speaking in analogies):

There are two large boxes. One is normal and one is a vacuum. They look identical as you look at them, so what’s the difference between the two? There is none until you try to breathe. Love is the same thing. “Egoic love” and “true love” may look identical, but just wait until you try to breathe…

That’s another story for another time. In this one, I focus my ADD-ridden mind on my comfort zone. As I tumble to earth…no, let me change that to appreciate the present moment…as I have the experience of falling for the first time I am now enjoying it. I am present and serene. I embrace all that is in this moment without concern for what may be because what may be does not exist. I am in joy!

Happiness always seems to fill the void left when we push fear out of our present moments. It is, however, the fear that allows us to not only understand, but be grateful for, the happiness in this moment. It’s like taking that first sip of cool water after working hard in the heat—you can feel it go all the way down into your soul in a way that would not be true if thirst did not exist. Use fear as your friend and become mindful of it when it’s contrary to your joy. You will find great pleasure there.

What happens at the end of this story? Frankly, it’s irrelevant to me so create your own ending if you must. I’d suggest, however, that you focus only on the flight and the beauty of risk in our human experience. Take the step out of the plane and care not about the landing but instead focus on the flight.

Why Step (or Dive) Out of Your Comfort Zone?

The benefit to stepping outside of our comfort zone is growth. In my very real case it involved love, joy, anger, pain and love again. Well, let me say that love never disappeared from the equation, it was just completely distorted by mindless fear. I don’t take all of the blame for this, but I do know that only I have the power to make choices for me. The lover in this equation is the only person who can make her choices.

It seems two people who have been so fortunate to find the power of great love will always be forced to decide between the power of the mind or the power of the heart when the two don’t agree. Lovers have the power to choose between focusing on the landing or the flight.

What we find more often than not is that when focusing on the flight we fly forever, but when focusing on the landing we are sure to find it quickly.  

So, I’ve decided to step out of my comfort zone again. Why? Because the awesome feeling of flight demands that I experience it. I don’t care about the landing, and have made few plans that include such a thing. I have stepped out of the plane into the beautiful blue sky.

It is here that I will learn and experience, and it is here that I will do my best work. It is, what I now see, the meaning of the phrase falling in love. We step out of our comfort zones and fall. Sometimes we land brutally hard, other times we fly forever. That outcome does not matter to me now. What matters is that I enjoy the flight. While my mind begs that I never land, my soul is completely focused on the now.

To review what I have learned in this scene of my life—I’ve experienced the beauty of “true love,” the pain of fear, the manifestation of that fear in anger, jealousy and loss.

I’ve known the contrast of what was with what became and now just want to know what is (you may want to reread that last sentence). That is what the lesson here is, enjoy what is.

Enjoy the now in joy. When the moments of human mind that so afflict us all invade this joy, try to refocus the attention on the joy.

Speak your mind in love, not your egoic mind in fear.

Do not fight, discuss.

Do not fear, love (and remove the comma from that sentence too).

When you believe there are monsters under your bed, shine a light under there to see if they’re real or not. Don’t assume they aren’t and don’t assume they are and for Pete’s sake do not just go poking around with a knife. Your dog may be under there chewing on your shoes. Look for yourself and know what is.

Pretty good lessons, huh? That’s why I thought I’d share them with you. As to the ending of this story? Well I don’t know what it is and the only part that cares is that egoic mind. It wants to create drama and fear, and so far I’m not letting it. I’m on to its game. It will win some and will lose some, and my practice right now is to give it one helluva losing record.


Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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