In less than a year, I left my favorite personal trainer, my favorite job, and even my favorite human.
It’s not because I’m a masochist who enjoys self-inflicted pain, I assure you.
It’s because in order for them to all remain my favorite, we have to grow together. And that was no longer happening. Not anymore and not for some time.
And the thing is, I probably even stayed too long. Except to leave any sooner than I did would’ve put me at high risk.
On this day in 2016, thanks to Facebook, I know what I was thinking. I had just read and then posted this quote by Raffaello Manacorda from an Elephant Journal article on non-attachment, “We cling to pleasure, hoping that it will never leave, and we are overwhelmed by pain, fearing that it will never end.” The trick is not to believe either to be permanent. For we aren’t even permanent.
Recently, I heard an interesting concept from author and American Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön: Imagine a circle, with another circle around it, and then a third one around that. The inner circle is our comfort zone, the middle one is the challenge/learning zone, and the outer one is the high-risk zone. We think the goal is to figure out life and live forever in that center circle. (We may even think others have figured it out and that we are really trying to play catch-up with our peers. Nah.)
If we live in that innermost circle too long, we become stagnant. Our comfort zone is really designed to be a place of respite, not residence. Too much of anything is counterproductive. Flowers need both rain and sun to grow and blossom. Both/and, rather than either/or.
Life happens in that second circle.
That’s where our creativity, patience, fortitude, compassion, and grit are all tested and strengthened. In yoga, it’s not uncommon to hear an instructor tell us to find the edge of pain when we are stretching or holding a pose. Go right up to it. Feel that intense pull and hold it. Resist the urge to back off too much. Because if we don’t hold it, we won’t excel. But when we do, that edge eventually becomes comfortable and we can go even further next time. We ought not go too far though, or we will end up in that high-risk circle.
High-risk means we are not at this moment in time prepared to handle it. In other words, going beyond would cause damage rather than growth or expansion. The R.O.I. or return on the investment is not there. The great thing about living in the challenge circle is that it actually expands our comfort zone. And let me tell you, holding those difficult yoga poses may seem counterintuitive, as our minds tell us to slip back into that comfort zone because the challenge hurts. When things are hard it’s human nature to want to retreat to that inner circle. Jumping out of the second circle and back to the comfort zone too quickly causes the comfort zone to shrink. And the goal is for it to expand!
So, while I left so many wonderful things, it’s because I am in pursuit of my edge. I knew if I stayed where I was and with whom I was, I would become stagnant and drown in my own puddle. This would lead me to be hurtful to those in my circles. Yet, I knew if I left too soon I’d be broken in two. I entered 2017 knowing it would be hell. It has not let me down. I have wanted to run and jump headfirst back in to my comfort zone. But I know, in the long run, that would not be of benefit to me or those around me.
It is a year of heavy transformation. And fortunately for me, and you, everything is impermanent. With experience, I have learned to rest in the bardo—a Sanskrit word for transition…usually between death and rebirth. Next year I will emerge, evolved, evolving, still tender in spots, and yet more comfortable.
Author: Gentrie Pool
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis