The Season of Comfort

“I dread winter because it is the season of comfort.” – Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud

When I first read A Season in Hell, this final poem, and this line in particular, confused me. I had to give an interpretation of it, in French, no less. And at the time, this line stumped me. I had no idea what to make of it.

But I think now I understand.

I’ve been talking with a few different people lately about the idea of being comfortable.

Unfortunately –  I’m sure I’ll be very unpopular for saying this – I think comfort and growth are antithetical.

There’s a quote that’s been floating around on Facebook recently that goes something like this: a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.

Now I’m not advocating the return of hair shirts or anything like that. There’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in this life, per se.

The problem, I think, is when we make being comfortable our highest value: when we’re afraid to be uncomfortable. Or when we avoid it at all costs.

A little discomfort is a good thing. It means you’re trying things that are outside the circle of your comfort zone.

A comfort zone is kind of like a rubber band. You can keep stretching it, and eventually it gets bigger. (On the other hand, if you don’t stretch it at all, it seems to contract.)

If you feel a little uncomfortable it means you’re growing.

Now, of course, it’s a matter of degree. Try doing things that are miles outside your comfort zone, and you’ll be in a world of distress that will provoke massive internal paralysis and resistance (otherwise known as cognitive dissonance).

Stretch the rubber band too far and it breaks or snaps back – ouch.

But keep pushing the boundaries. Little by little. It’s just one way to keep life interesting, and fun, and you never know what you might learn.

Inquire within.

On Courage

Most of our obstacles would melt away if, instead of cowering before them, we should make up our minds to walk boldly through them.
— Orison Swett Marden.

Have you heard the story of the baby elephant tied to the stake? When it’s small, it cannot break free, and when it is fully grown, it still thinks it is imprisoned. But in fact, it could pull up the stake and free itself at any time.

Many of us are like that elephant.

At one point we felt small, powerless, and trapped. And it was perhaps true at the time. But things change.

And we change.

But if we fail to see that, we remain small and powerless in our own minds. And the obstacles before us seem insurmountable when in fact that is not the case. Unfortunately, we will never learn that if we don’t move beyond our comfort zone.

The world is truly wide, and we can choose to leave the safety of the familiar to grow into our own future.

The Space Between

One of my first yoga teachers used to say that the space between breaths was the space of possibility. She encouraged us to focus on that space: rather than focusing on inhaling and exhaling, to focus on pausing after exhaling and before inhaling.

While many yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) focus on inhaling, exhaling, or breath suspension following the inhale, far fewer focus on this space between – after the exhale and before the next inhale. When one breath is complete, and the next not yet begun. The space of emptiness.

Being in the gap is challenging. As soon as a space appears in our lives (metaphorical or physical) many of us look to fill it (the sooner the better, and with whatever – or whoever – is handy).

One way to reshape this is to consider that emptiness is a space for possibility. And an empty space is an opportunity. To acknowledge the completion of one phase, and the beginning of a new one.

In order for something new to enter our lives, we must first create a space for it. Then we imagine filling that space with something that feeds us, that fosters growth and upliftment. Through our intention and our attention we shape the various possibilities.

And then, from what manifests, we choose…