What does it mean to be “comfortable”? Comfortable is something that we all strive for, or at the very least, look for. It’s more felt than described. For me it means safety, feeling wanted and loved, and having the predictability of daily routine. The routines of my life keep me feeling pretty comfortable – cooking, volunteering, coaching/mentoring, evenings with my beloved, gardening, continued work on deepening my spiritual life daily – all these and more (a home, food on the table, financial security) are things that make me feel comfortable.
One of the gifts of travel is that it totally disrupts my routine. It takes me out of the familiar into the unfamiliar. It removes me from my Comfort Zone. Doing that shows the cracks in my inner life – the things that irritate me, or worse, make me angry and likely to blame others for my discomfort. The issues that “grab” us are likely to be related to our needs for power and control, love and esteem, safety and security. It is these, as Thomas Keating teaches, that are stimulated when something gets in our way and disturbs our equanimity. It is the False Self that lives to keep these centers of our life happy. The True Self is free and independent from these needs and lives to engage in love and joy. So, the gift of moving out of my comfort zone (where little gets disturbed) is to continue to grow the True Self by recognizing and letting go of the False Self program.
Yesterday (Friday the 4th) we boarded the Holland America ship, Prinsendam. She will be our “home” for the next 80 days. We always try to minimize the stress involved in travel by planning ahead. Our morning at the hotel was very nice with a leisurely breakfast and final packing and then a taxi ride to the port. My anxiety went up when the taxi driver drove past the entrance to the building where our ship was docked and he had an argument with the security staff about turning around. “Breathe”, I said to myself. “This will get sorted out”. It did and we arrived at the correct place, and got our luggage taken care of. There is always the question in my mind – will it get put on the ship and arrive at the correct stateroom? I have been working on engaging with all the service people – looking them in the eye and sharing a loving intention, thanking them (sometimes with a gratuity). We continued in, through screening of our carry on luggage, and then registration. All went smoothly and we arrived at the waiting area, boarding fairly soon. We found our stateroom and then the rush began.
My cruising partner likes to get all the choices made at the beginning of a cruise. There were several special events to sign up for and other things to arrange. Then came getting the internet use settled and all equanimity went out the window. It never quite works like at home and it often takes staff assistance to get it straightened out. On top of that, only some of the luggage had arrived in our stateroom (it can take until 8 pm at night we were told). Tension was high.
Of course, it all got straightened out – even though we were still unpacking at 7 pm. Did we really need all this stuff? Only time will tell.
My growing edge is, and always will be, the issue of power and control. I’ve learned a lot over the years but clearly need to continue the practice of letting go – not only of my need to control the situation, but also of my need for the situation and people to be different. Clearly this trip will give me lots of opportunity to practice!
I share this because we all have this kind of inner life going on but often it is ignored. We respond out of our agitation instead of out of our best selves. We can choose differently. And most of want to. But we have to develop our “inner witness”. This part of our selves, part of our True Self, helps us to see what is going on and be intentional about our reactions and actions.
One final remark. The most common remark I hear from folks when I ask them why they participate in a particular church is: “I feel comfortable there”. There is an old adage for preachers: Comfort the afflicted and Afflict the Comfortable. There is much truth in this leadership style. Our Comfort Zone is nice but it’s not where we grow into the kind of humans we are created to be – conscious, awake, loving and connected with others. Those attributes require change and transformation. They require ongoing work.
Where’s your Comfort Zone? What invites you to step beyond it?