Editor’s Note from Jodi Chapman: When we make the decision to move out of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to so many possibilities. This article is an excerpt from Isha Judd’s wonderful new book, Love Has Wings: Free Yourself from Limiting Beliefs and Fall in Love with Life.
In our society, people view comfort as king. Anything that makes life easier and requires less effort is prized. We have learned to refrain from speaking our truth for fear of conflict and to avoid confronting our fears whenever possible. We have come to value routine over the unknown, and security over spontaneity. Yet often the things that make us uncomfortable — the hard knocks, the disappointments, and the losses — are what challenge us most in our lives. We wish we did not have to weather these storms, yet they are what make us strong. They give us maturity and responsibility, and after all, what better teacher can we have than our own direct experience?
Life becomes stagnant when we remove or avoid its challenges. If a child is spoiled, her parents or servants doing everything for her, when she finally faces the world, she will find herself without the skills to function in society. Similarly, if we overprotect ourselves and try to avoid the inevitable conflicts of life, we may find comfort, but we will not build the skills that lead us toward growth. We may find distraction, but not self-realization.
The story of the Buddha is a perfect example of this. As the prince Siddhartha, he was protected from the world to the point of never seeing the aged or the sick. When he eventually discovered the things that had been hidden from him, he was unprepared for the shock he felt. He then went to the other extreme, committing himself to a life of penance and suffering, before finally finding the “middle path.” The extremes of the world are all part of life, and by exaggeratedly protecting our children from these realities, we are not doing them any favors.
How did you grow from a child into a responsible adult? Was it by not making any mistakes? Or was it through learning from the consequences of your actions? Ultimately, we have to go through things ourselves before we fully understand. To flourish and grow as individuals, we must face the world head-on and embrace the losses and disappointments life brings us. Then, instead of perceiving difficult situations as obstacles in our way, we can utilize them as opportunities to grow, to push through our boundaries and expand our horizons.
It is natural to experience ups and downs in life. We are having a human experience, and that entails a wide range of feelings and situations. When we begin to nourish an internal space of security and unconditional love through the expansion of love-consciousness, we start to experience these extremes more freely. We begin to embrace the contrasts of life and find adventure in change and uncertainty. Self-realization is not about living in a permanent blissed-out state where you never feel any emotions. It is about embracing the contrasts of life fully, without fear. When we are rooted in internal freedom, the need to control our circumstances falls away and we can dance unfettered to the varying harmonies of the symphony of life.
Moving out of Your Comfort Zone
Comfort stems from fear of the unknown and fear of failure. We feel safe within its confines, but in reality comfort is a gilded cage barring us from our true greatness. When we’re not challenging ourselves to be more, we are settling for mediocrity. We lament what’s missing from our lives, but we don’t move into action in order to change it. The fear of failure clouds our perception of our full potential. The mind convinces us we are not capable of more, so we stay put.
We cling to comfort because we fear our greatness. It is safer to sit in the shadows than stand in the limelight: there we risk criticism and external judgment. Greatness requires the courage to stand alone and not compromise our truth. It provokes change and causes evolution. Greatness goes out on a limb; it doesn’t stick to the status quo. To trust ourselves, to stand in integrity without abandoning ourselves in order to please others — that’s greatness.
There is a certain level of collective complacency within society. To break with that and stand alone requires courage, but if we wish to be free from our own inertia, we must take the risk and stop worrying about what other people might think. We must be willing to make what we consider to be mistakes; to try new things and have new experiences; to dare to show ourselves and express ourselves.
If I stand out from the crowd, if I do something noteworthy, I put myself in a place of responsibility. It requires less effort just to sit back and blame my financial situation, my upbringing, or society for not fulfilling my dreams. Yet we are all capable of moving beyond our comfort zone and achieving greatness; in fact, some of the most inspiring and celebrated individuals in history have gone beyond all odds to realize spectacular achievements. They are the ones who said yes when the world said no, the ones who could have used their extreme circumstances as an excuse to achieve nothing, but chose not to.
Can a black man be president of the United States? Can an open lesbian host a top-rated talk show? Can a nonviolent ascetic liberate a nation from imperial reign? Can a man with severe paralysis inspire scientific minds more than anyone else since Einstein? Can a deaf man write a concerto? Of course they can. So why can’t you overcome your self-imposed limitations? We are surrounded by people who have gone beyond mediocrity, even though they had quite valid reasons not to. When we have passion in our hearts, when we are willing to challenge what we are accustomed to and push through our fears, nothing is insurmountable: everything seems possible, and our dreams start to become a reality. When we create our dreams, we become unlimited.