On Friday I took the plunge and started out on a different path. It is a shift away from what I know and am comfortable with and as a result I have all manner of fears lurking their beastly heads. I was reminded of this image, created from Bernd Geropp’s video on stepping outside our comfort zones. You can watch the whole video here.
Whenever I am in the grips of fear, too scared to step out of my comfort zone and take a risk, I am reminded of a story told by one of my favourite mindfulness teachers, Tara Brach (this was taken from her blog, you can read the whole post here):
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, as many people feared an ongoing and vicious spiral of retaliation and global violence, a wonderful and well-known Cherokee legend went viral on the Internet: An old grandfather is speaking to his grandson about what causes the violence and cruelty in the world. “In each human heart,” he tells the boy, “there are two wolves battling one another—one is fearful and angry, and the other is understanding and kind.” The young boy then asks, “Which one will win?” His grandfather smiles and says, “Whichever one we choose to feed.”
From a very early age we learn how to put one foot in front of the other. It is simple and moves us forward in directions we are free to choose. Gradually, over time, we learn how to fear situations and it holds us back. It comes in the form of procrastination and perfectionism and is all wrapped up in an illusion of comfort. It weaves it’s way into the fabric of our lives and prevents us from taking the next step forward, away from familiarity and safety. It presents itself in us as a way to keep us safe, but it also prevents us from looking outside our comfort zone and exploring the unknown. We can choose to listen to this, and become paralysed and locked in familiarity, or we can break it down into baby steps and inch our way forward. This means doing one thing every day to move us in the direction we want to go.
Thinking about this, I wrote a little story, and I’d like to share it with you …
For days now you’ve sat alone on the hill, staring in terror at the wolf that paces back and forth at the end of the bridge. You’ve created a little home for yourself, it’s cosy and comfortable and you are safe from harm. You can feel yourself becoming increasingly afraid of leaving as the days go on due to the beast. And there it sits. Day in, day out, it’s as if it’s waiting for you on the other side. So you stay where you are, it’s safer there. Suddenly, your thinking takes on a different shape. You rise slowly, whistling, as you walk confidently towards the bridge. As you do so, you become aware of what is on the other side.You’re filled with fear and uncertainty, but still you walk on. Just as you are about to come face to face with the wolf it stops, turns, and disappears into the brush. You look away from the wolf and, in the distance, catch a glimmer of light peering over the mountain top. For so long you’ve been so focused on the beast you haven’t been able to see the beauty that is beyond.