So we've all heard it before... "Development happens beyond the comfort zone". Especially in the Diamond Way Buddhist Centers, we hear it everyday because our teacher, Lama Ole Nydahl, continuously advises us to follow his example and go "beyond the comfort zone". In fact I've heard this so often that I truly believed I understood what it meant.
After all it's pretty straightforward, isn't it? going beyond the comfort zone means taking on challenges, facing difficulties, turning suffering into dramatic and profound insights, and embracing changes through adaptation. So yes, I thought I knew all about it... After all I'm quite the expert at adaptation... right?
Well, last weekend a very inspiring teacher gave a few talks in our Budapest Buddhist Center. During one of his teachings, I had one of the famous Aha! moments that carry the potential for changing our lives. As simple as it may seem to others, my clear insight moment revealed what it meant for me to go beyond the comfort zone...
In my very own little personal universe being beyond the comfort zone means braving the winter cold; it also means "no ocean"; it means a very strange foreign language, and it means my closest most beloved friends are very, very far away; so is my mom's house, her embrace, and her kitchen. As a matter of fact all of my favorite kitchens are far away and beyond reach, as are beloved and familiar places. My habits no longer hold true in this "beyond the comfort zone" place I call home now. My favorite pizza is unreachable, as is my best friend, my confident, my always wise adviser, and when I have real problems, there is no running over to her to spill the beans, to share my deepest feelings, or my unconfessed fears.
This makes it very difficult for me to run away from my troubles, from my pain, there's no one left to complain to, because frankly Skype and Facebook are useful at keeping in touch, but not really at "being miserable together", if there is such a thing...
So what happens when there's no where left to hide? what do you do when all your established safety systems are all out of reach? Where do you go then?
It turns out there is only one place left...
I don't think it had ever made as much sense as it does now... but in the absence of the familiar outlets for my periods of unrest, what I do now when there is pain is meditate. When there is doubt I meditate. When I feel like complaining on and on... I meditate. When I am angry, I meditate. When I am unsure and afraid... you guessed it, I meditate.
And it works so well, because this is where comfort is found ultimately, and yes, this is where development
happens, because there is only one place left to turn for refuge, and
that Refuge is giving us everything.
So, as I reach out to this deeper place, my fears subside, my doubts are set to rest, my pain is soothed, there is nothing to complain about, and there is nothing to accomplish. I open my eyes stronger than before, I see clearly now, if only for a moment, and the vision sustains me until the next sitting.
Does it mean that there is no more rage, no more tears, no more hesitation in my life? Of course not. This happens again and again... but the hold it had on me once is slowly fading away, and the clarity my Refuge gives me reappears quicker than before. This is why I now welcome these difficult times, because now I know they are the ultimate gift. They happen here and now so I can see them, taste them, and grow beyond them.
I am braver now, I know I have all the tools needed; so I can take one more little step, go out and explore.