Suffering is inherent in human life.
We like to think that other people, situations, or things cause us to suffer—because we don’t like what they do to us.
This can involve anything from our jobs and relationships to our state of health; or the amount of money we have in our bank accounts. Some people suffer from love heartbreak—others because their neighbour’s dog barks too much. Many people suffer from stress.
Why do we suffer so much?
Let’s try a simple, no-bake three ingredient recipe that anyone can make in less than one minute.
1 cup of this quote: “The only thing constant is change.” ~ Heraclitus
1 cup of this old Hebrew proverb: “Change can happen in an instant, but the resistance to change can last a lifetime.”
1 cup of (only the thought of) change. For example a new job—or losing one, a divorce, a new exercise regime or diet, going back to school, or an accident, or disease.
Fold all three ingredients gently into the recipient of our consciousness. Stirring is optional (for an extra dash of upheaval).
Et voila! More than likely, we will experience a variety of unsettling emotions, ranging from just slight and short-lived unease (when we’re getting a new hairstyle), to full-blown anxiety attacks, anger bursts, depression, or great sadness. All of them will cause us to suffer. And, nothing has even changed yet!
Change, isn’t fun for most of us, is it?
The often-heard quote, “Change is the only constant,” stems from a natural law. Change defines the cycle of life: ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Everything with a spark of life in it is born, grows, blossoms at its peak, withers, and dies. Nothing is ever static or stagnant.
Even concrete will crumble, stainless steel will become unstable, sand dunes shift, mountains will be pushed higher by sheer tectonic force, or lower from the never-ending grind of little grains of sand in the wind.
Nothing is forever.
We all know this. But, in our way of living, behaving, and thinking—we are constantly in denial of that natural law of change. Nobody likes to grow old, lose their good looks, get sick, and die. We don’t want to lose our jobs, our loved ones, our favourite bakery, our health, and wealth. Even just thinking of those changes can make us unhappy.
We really don’t like change and the second ingredient in our recipe states this so clearly: “Change can happen in an instant, but it is the resistance to change that can last a lifetime.”
Our resistance to change is what creates all of our emotional upheaval.
Why do we resist change?
Resistance rhymes with clinging, right? Well, you know what I mean. Why do we cling? Why do we so badly want to hold on to all these things that we have? Why are we unwilling to let go of something—even if it hurts—and try on something new?
Enter: the Comfort Zone.
The comfort zone is the nursery of our well-being. At least that is what we want to believe. Comfort feels good, warm, cozy, relaxed, and familiar. No stress. No pressure. No worries. No hurry.
Our favourite clothes, food and drink, our favourite corner of the couch with our favourite person or pet, our favourite music or movie playing…that is what comes to mind when I think “comfort zone.” All those familiar things—always the same.
Always the same…and we don’t want them to change!
The security of knowing exactly what is coming. Nothing unexpected to be feared.
We can be such creatures of habit. Our daily routines, our work, our relationships—all very much within our comfort zone. Life seems easy when we know exactly how and when to do something and what to expect. But, routines can easily become ruts, and that already sounds a little less comfortable. Ruts can get ugly, right?
In ruts, we get stuck.
Okay, I just made our comfort zone a little uncomfortable on purpose. But, hear me out. Let’s look at that same comfort zone not as a nice, cozy, protective shell keeping the scary unknown (change) out, but as an imposing and restrictive prison cell, keeping us from reaching for the unknown good stuff out there.
What if it is holding us back from exploring new horizons, new possibilities and opportunities, new talents, new love, or personal growth? What if the happiest and most fulfilled version of myself, “my best me,” doesn’t live in my comfort zone?
What if the end of my suffering lies outside of my comfort zone?
Our resistance to change, our fear of the unknown for failure, loss, or rejection, is what makes us suffer. When we start to accept and embrace change and try to see what we can learn from it and what it has to offer us, suffering can subside quite quickly.
While it may be hard to address the big changes in our lives all of a sudden since we have been lounging in our comfort zone for so long, we can start with training our “change-muscle” in a few simple and fun ways:
>> Take a different route to work, school, or the mall. We can observe the different landscape or the unknown neighbourhood with curiosity and we may even get lost.
>> Pick a colour or style of clothing or hairdo that you never really liked. You can try wearing it with flair as if it’s your favourite.
>> Go to a new restaurant and order a dish that you can’t pronounce the name of—or try and cook it at home. Study the colours on your plate and smell the unknown spices. Take a brave first bite and let the flavours take you by surprise.
>> On a bus or train, start a conversation with the person sitting close to you. Get off at a different station and figure out how to get home again from a new place.
>> Sign up for a course to learn something new like playing chess or didgeridoo, or fixing a bike (you may meet new people too).
>> Blindly pick a movie or a book. In doing so, you may discover a new genre that you never would have tried before.
>> Learn to use the non-dominant side of your body. This is a fun exercise that changes both your body, and the way your brain is wired.
These may all seem like insignificant or silly tasks; but every one of them takes us out of our comfort zone. The more consciously we do that—the better we are prepared for the bigger changes.
When we become comfortable with small changes, it may be easier to make the big decisions about leaving a job, a city, or a relationship that is not making us happy anymore. Or, taking up an exercise regime that will finally help us lose weight and improve our health.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
I hope to see you there!
Author: Leontien Reedijk
Image: Helmuts R/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Khara Jade Warren