Every time we move beyond our comfort zone in life we are living at our edge. Our edge is the place where our open heart meets fear head on, and we charge right through the fear even though we are scared shitless, but we do it anyway. That’s the edge we want in everything we do. That’s where real spiritual growth happens.
When we face fear, self-hatred, self-consciousness, change, and anxiety with an open heart, when we expand instead of contract, we move beyond our comfort zone and we grow incrementally each time in our spiritual practice accordingly.
I teach to my students that the most important and defining moments of our yoga practice every single time we come to the mat is to reach our ‘uncomfortable comfort zone’. If we are not meeting fear and its other culprits with an open heart and charging through it no matter what, then we are road blocking our opportunities for spiritual growth.
The fear-based emotions that drive our motivation to retract instead of expand will dissolve and weaken each time we consciously charge through fear with expansion. When we do this very hard work, we create new spaces to grow spiritually and gain a little more awareness each time.
It’s one thing to know this abstractly and intellectually, that’s one of the ‘easier’ parts. Yet, in practical terms, living our edge is a very different animal.
Here’s a practical example from a yoga class. Perhaps we are feeling a lot of fear in trying a pose because we think it’s too advanced for us and instead of breathing through it, we engage our nervous laughter. And in that moment, in a second or two, because we engaged our nervous laugh, we retracted a bit instead of breathe ourselves into the depth of the challenge. Or perhaps we have been holding a pose ‘too’ long and we start saying this “f%^&(@# hurts, I can’t do any longer”, and instead of breathing into it and getting comfortable with a little shaking, we come out of it because we let our egos win over our breath.
Living our edge is breathing our self deeply through the challenge and opening our heart a little more once we get to the other side.
Haven’t experienced that in yoga practice yet or not quite on the yoga lifeline? Well, try this example – someone treats you horribly. They say something that angers you or really upsets you. Doesn’t matter who the person is, the point is that they upset you. We can either retract here by fighting fire with fire, which creates more contraction or we live our edge by doing what we require (take a break and recreate with awareness not numbness) to recover from going into our stress response structure (think adrenaline and cortisol being released from fight or flight mode) or if you are very grounded you bypass flight/fight mode and use contingent communication. See my piece on How to Listen Like a Yogi for more information on contingent communication by going to the link below –
Perhaps that is not quite resonating with you. So, let’s look at this example using self-hatred and self-consciousness. Think about a time you didn’t have enough self-love to get something done, try something new, or put yourself out there as in being completely vulnerable no matter the reciprocity you get from the thing it is you were or thought about doing. It could be that you like to paint for fun and you want to share your painting with friends on social media or at an art festival or donate it, but you go to self-hatred mode instead and hide it away from all to see the beauty because perhaps fearful thoughts of ‘bad’ comments come to mind. That’s retraction and living in our comfort zone. Living at the edge says “I don’t care what anybody thinks, I love my painting, I put my heart into it and someone will see the beauty there, and that’s all that matters, so I’m going to put myself out there anyway.” That’s living at your edge, that’s finding your uncomfortable comfort zone.
“When you approach [your] edges you feel insecurity, jealousy, fear, or self-consciousness. You pull back, and if you are like most people, you stop trying. Spirituality begins when you decide that you’ll never stop trying. Spirituality is the commitment to go beyond, no matter what it takes. It’s an infinite journey based upon going beyond yourself every single minute of every day for the rest of your life. If you are truly going beyond, you are always at your limits. You’re never back at the comfort zone. A spiritual being feels as though they are always against that edge, and they are constantly being pushed through it.” ~ Michael A. Singer
If you desire to grow your spirit, then live your edge in all you do. Let’s reach into our mindfulness toolbox and clear the fear with breath, expansion, and practice.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea
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Spot on and so true — as always. I think I am often my best at my worst, in some ways. Maybe not in that very moment, but I know that once I move through that moment I will be a better form of me than what I was previously. It takes a lot of thought to reach this level, or perhaps little thought at all, but more of a connection and drive. It is amazing of the things our minds and hearts can drive us to or push us from!!
Thank you for your insightful comments, Little Insights. Yes, I think you are on the right track there. We become our best selves so many times coming from our worst selves. It’s a Dark Night of the Soul push to find the infinite light. I think it takes a lot of awareness to see that, and to gain more awareness is to practice breaking down walls between self and other within ourselves and externally with others and our world using mindful techniques.
When I go to the edge and breath through it on the mat I get to practice walking through fear. I get an energetic shift and perhaps an ah-ha moment through perseverance, and taking the breath to the point of resistance. I love when I can implement this off the mat, but it takes practice, a lot of practice. I’m on a journey and if I am on the beam, I might just arrive at that place of yoga; where mind, body and spirit are in harmony. What a cool deal this yoga stuff is. What a blast and blessing! Love U Athea! Om Shanti, Bev
Beverly, such wise words. Thank you for sharing. Our practices on the mat really do make small shifts in our mind and ways of thinking and approaching things we tend to view as ‘negative’, like fear, and when we step off the mat, we have re-wired our brains from all the mat practice and working our edge to meet fear in a new and spiritually minded way, which eventually turns into bigger shifts up the consciousness chain.