In this moment, I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone which is the Mind Body Align topic for August. As my mind is revving up; touching on words, topics, and memories, I begin to feel overwhelmed. Where do I begin? Which of these words, phrases, and memories feel essential to my own experience; what is my message?
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment with a deep awareness of sights, sounds, tastes, smells, felt sensations, thoughts, intuitions, with acceptance and no resistance. In this moment…
Tuning-in and noticing sights, sounds, smells, and the felt sensations in the body
I am contemplating the task of writing about living at the edge of my comfort zone… My eyes are focused out my window and I notice a group of turkey vultures riding the air currents above the field and woods in front of me. The vultures are not flapping their wings, they are simply dipping and turning, circling in and out of each other, seemingly riding the air as they gently ascend and descend, turn and circle creating a rhythmic dance that is hypnotic.
Noticing thoughts and being curious
Then I remember, I had a dream last night that I was flying. I recall the feeling of my body being cradled by the wind and the air; the sensation of my outstretched arms and the whole width of my body tipping slightly left and then right as my body glides above the landscape. The memory that remains is the felt sensation of flying. The ease. The weightlessness. The joy!
I ask myself, “how does this action playing out before me, the gentle gliding dance of the birds and the felt sensation of flying, relate to living at the edge of my comfort zone? How does ease, weightlessness and joy relate to the topic?”
My mind immediately visits my current challenge. This fall I am scheduled to do a 5 week, 500 plus mile hike through France and Spain. It’s a commitment to walk 15 miles a day for 35 days on many different types of terrain.
Noticing how thoughts give rise to emotions
I notice a sense of apprehension and fear. I hear my mind talk about my “bad” feet, blisters, and permanent foot problems, concerns about Mind Body Align and The Butterfly House, questions about the reasoning behind booking this adventure, self-criticisms that I don’t have the strength and stamina to complete this walk, and ultimately the sense that I will fail.
AND, I notice a sense of spaciousness, excitement, and curiosity. I hear my mind talk about my love of meeting new people and visiting new places, curiosity about my potential to walk the distances every day, desire to “let go” at The Butterfly House giving others in the community the opportunity to challenge themselves, and allowing for the company of Mind Body Align to grow and develop organically with the community.
Noticing judgments, beliefs and habits
I remember a conversation I had a few days ago with my sister-in-law as we were hiking a challenging uphill trail in the mountains of North Carolina. My words, “I want to be mentally and physically prepared for the worst that can happen.” Susan’s words, (paraphrased, and based on memory) “There is nothing wrong with knowing where your anxieties lie and moving to calm them.”
Living at the Edge of my comfort Zone
And finally, my mind shifts to the question, “How does ease and joy relate to the topic?”
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in this moment, with a deep awareness of physical sensations, emotional reactions, thoughts, intuitions, and with acceptance or no resistance. What I attempted to illustrate above is how mindfulness works as a practice.
This practice gives me the ability to notice the full scope of my experience in any given moment; an experience of fear- helplessness- doubt, AND, curiosity- excitement- joy. My noticing is that both the challenging and the joyous emotions and thoughts coexist.
Discovering new truths
The mindfulness practice is about embracing the whole self. It is about noticing and accepting the experience as it is. It is the practice to accept, without resistance, challenging emotions. And if you notice resistance, you accept that as well. When I use the word “challenging” in this context, I am pointing to emotions that we typically push away or wish to avoid. It is not intended to be good vs. bad or positive vs. negative. Challenging emotions have a lot to tell us and much to teach us. For me, it is reminding me to purchase good quality gear and make sure my body and shoes are trail tested with lots of hours hiking on varied terrain.
“How does ease and joy relate to the topic?” If I pause long enough to notice their presence, ease and joy become part of the experience. When I think about living at the edge of my comfort zone, it is inevitably an internal conversation about fear and self-doubt. I’m realizing that my habit is to go through fear and self-doubt first. Is that your habit?
Cultivating a balanced perspective
So, which will it be; Ease and joy, or fear and self-doubt? There is an old native American saying, “It’s the one you feed.” Here is a great animated video that tells the native American story of the wolf that you feed. It’s only 2 minutes long, and I hope you will consider watching it.
In mindfulness, the practice is to embrace and allow all that is happening. For some, this video may be viewed as suggesting that you suppress what you don’t want, and encourage what you want. This is not my point. For me, it’s about noticing the variety of emotions that are present so that I have a choice to feed both; to encourage a balanced perspective and to gather the knowledge I need from all the emotions in order that I may live authentically and fully alive.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a poem, The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
I’m sending you love and a huge hug!!!
Annamarie Fernyak, A certified Life & Mindfulness Coach and founder of Mind Body Align; a place which nourishes well-being, growth, and belonging through education, collaboration, and environment.