Sunday, March 18, 2012

Triumphant, Uncomfortable, Still employed, and Groggy: A Week in Review.

Looking back on my little post on living in the "discomfort zone," it seems like quite an optimistic rallying cry. I love getting the positive feedback, of course, and I'm overjoyed if it brought an ounce of happy to your life. It's good to be reminded that things can feel that right.

So. One week down. How's my list of resolutions going? Admittedly, a couple of work crises, a pile of papers weighing on my shoulders, and a cold rainstorm this weekend have dampened my spring-filled spirit just a titch. As I write this post, a pack of coyotes fill the wet air outside my window with childlike yips, rejoicing over a kill. It's an ominous note to end a Sunday on.

In looking back on the week's events, I realize the fatal flaw in my play to intentionally step out into the discomfort zone: The world will present you with discomfort at every turn. You don't need to seek it out. Darn that hasty post! How rarely we have the energy to actively seek out challenges.

All that negativity/self-doubt stuff aside, though, I think these resolutions are ultimately a good thing. 

As the first of two work crises raised its ugly head earlier in the week, I watched my old patterns flair up--anxiety, a need to pull into my shell. At one point I felt a desire to rescind a commitment to a social obligation in favor of some Netflix and an early night. I remembered this idea of the discomfort zone--simply doing seemed to steady myself. I ended up having a great time at said social outing.

So, highlights from this week (well, the ones that I will mention on a public blog ;-) 
  • Got up during a sleepless night and scoured the internet for laughs from Got some kind consolations from a fellow insomniac on Facebook. Woke up feeling triumphant, if a bit groggy.
  • Had some really tough conversations with coworkers--the kind that make me feel like an eight-year-old girl dressed up in her mother's heels, just waiting to be called out. Still employed.
  • Said no a couple of times. Said yes often. Loved it all.
  • Did something loving for a relative. Uncomfortable. But ultimately, a good move.

In Bikram, we do 30-day challenges. On New Year's, we write our resolutions. Some pledge to love Jesus, Buddha, and Allah. I guess the benefit of these commitments is that they serve as a compass: remind me of the path.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Discomfort Zone: Where Life really Begins

No, this ain't a post about contraception :-) For more on that, turn to your preferred media outlet, which  greedily catalogs the Republican presidential nominee race.

Have y'all noticed? Spring is here.

Flowers in the Anza desert
I hate to be cliche, but I'm working on sharing honest opinions. In this case, my thoughts toward spring probably mirror most other folks'. Spring is alive. It's hopeful, and it's bright. It's blue, shiny, green, laden with scent and fluttery animals. Shoot, out here in the SoCal desert, even our cacti bloom, exhaling radiant colors into our atmosphere.

And, dare I say it, I come to life. I admit that I kind of hibernate during winter. It's a time to hunker down and pull into myself. (An aside: I think there's a reason our major holidays are in winter. We've gotta put dates on family celebrations, or else it's likely we'll sink tragically into ourselves for the remainder of the dark months.)

Don't get me wrong. I love me some introspection. Enough about yoga as an Olympic event: if Rumination were a contest, I would take the gold medal.

I guess you can imagine my relief when daylight savings time arrives and the weather starts to tick upward a few degrees. I'm propelled to get outside and out of my routines and out of my head.

It was at this moment of springtime appreciation that I saw a delightful fellow blogger's FB status update that she was going to make adventures a priority. Not just any adventure--as she put it, she's looking for adventures that put her "out of her comfort zone." A ding of recognition went off in my head as I read her post. What if I did the same? What if I identified actions that would put me out of my comfort zone, and then, drawing upon the inspiration of this beautiful spring, tackle them one by one? What would happen if I actually went through with this little experiment?

I am tempted to try it out. 

So, the first step is to identify just what constitutes adventure for me. It's not as easy as it sounds. In my case, I do not need to sign myself up for more traditional occurrences that would be labeled "adventurous." I have been spelunking. I have bungee jumped. I dove off cliffs into cool pools of water in Belize. I climbed rocks and rode horseback in the Rockies, I've swum with sharks; I traveled to South and Central America alone; I have ridden across the border into Mexico on the back of a motorcycle, my arms around a man I hardly knew.

Those aren't the kinds of adventures I need. For me, those are comfortable adventures. Although I plan to get back to Asia one day, perhaps to stay in a monastery in Bhutan or to soak in hot springs in Japan, I don't have to rev myself up much to make that a possibility.

The kinds of adventures I need are the ones that will knock me off balance. I am one who walks through life as if on a tightrope. As you can see from the list above, I can manage some real feats! However, those feats are accomplished under a microscope of minute calculations--none was taken up as a result of true spontaneity. Everything is planned, analyzed, evaluated, and teased apart for potential complications and consequences. Don't want the week to be too exciting--tomorrow, I might get exhausted and behind on work. Don't become too much of a recluse--boredom and anxiety can breed under such conditions.

What I need to do is take myself off balance. Below are actions, listed from simplest to most complex, that would do precisely that. This would get me into the discomfort zone.

  • Stay up late doing something I love, the night before I've gotta do some heavy-duty teaching or grading. Enjoy myself without worrying about the consequences for once.
  • Tell students, point blank but with compassion, that they simply will not pass this time. Feel the discomfort and tell them anyway. 
  • Have a drink when I'm out with friends. Don't have a drink when out with friends--do what's more uncomfortable.
  • In yoga: do not leave the room. 
    • **Unless staying in the room is something I'm doing out of fear of the teacher's disapproval. In that case, leave the room.
  •  After lying in bed for two hours, trying desperately to sleep, mind stuck like iTunes on repeat, get up, and do something I love. Do not worry about the consequences.
  • Do something really, really loving for someone I'm related to. It has to take the form of an act of love not typically expressed in my family (i.e., money-bestowing or letter-writing). 
  • Say no--repeatedly--when I am asked to do something I'm not up for. Say no, especially to men. 
  • Get uncomfortably intimate (emotionally) with someone I care about, knowing full well that doing so will feel like inhaling water. 
  • Do not make important decisions without knowing how I truly feel.
  • Be who I am, who I really am, around the people I'm often not.
  • Recognize that this list might contradict itself and make decision-making even tougher.
  • Sit. (Meaning, meditate. On a regular basis.)
This may not be your list. But if I could get through this, even once (except for the yoga/meditation ones: those have to be regular), I would be taking a long stroll through discomfort. And as they say, life begins when we leave our comfort zones.

So. How do I proceed from here? Well, some of that stuff can't be scheduled, so I'll have to keep 'em in the back of my mind and act when the moment arises. Others, like yoga and meditation time, are easier that way. I recently bought tickets to a concert that will take place on a Tuesday evening. It's almost mandatory that a couple of adult beverages will be consumed at this show, and wouldn't you know it? Wednesday is my longest (and earliest) teaching day. But I won't worry about the consequences--at least for that one day.

Part of me wants to keep writing and address questions like, "for how long is this experiment an actual focus of mine? How often will I report on it?" But I think I've done enough obsessive planning. I'm trying to do less of that, after all.

It's in the name of science that I undertake this little experiment. Does life really begin when we leave our comfort zone? And what would be on your "discomfort zone" list?