Many of us have been required to leave behind our comfort zones and move into some new territory, lately.  It’s not surprising, considering the upheaval that the world economy and environment are now experiencing. It requires us humans to evolve and adapt.

But it’s been awhile since we’ve had to stretch this far.  Maybe since the great social revolution of the 1960’s.  Some of us have been around long enough to remember at least the tone of those times.  They were wonderful and scary, magical and dangerous.  I think we may be at another crossroads like that one, another fork in the path.  What do we do with it?

The good thing about leaving your comfort zone is that it can be exhilerating.  Those first few steps might take a lot of nerve, but the momentum builds much sooner than we expect and then we’re negotiating the new territory.  It’s like being a child again – everything is suddenly new and interesting.  Cultivating the wonder of a child can help us to overcome our fears of the new and strange.

Because those first few steps are the most difficult, we can sometimes shy away from taking them.  What if we step over a cliff edge or into quicksand?  While there are no guarantees against that, the chance is the same that we will walk into a cooling stream or a field of flowers.  The thing is that we are human beings and it is our job to change, to grow and stretch so that we elevate our experience.

One spiritual pattern I’ve noticed is that people who often reach for “heavenly” guidance are being asked to shift their focus into “earthly” guidance.  “Earthly” as in this planet we live on and whatever consciousness it holds.  If you are used to the ethers, the grounded can be a very different experience.  What a huge stretch!

Another patten I’ve found quite fascinating is how the Buddha’s eight-fold path is becoming a model for sustainable living.  I haven’t heard it mentioned that way yet, but take a look at the eight-fold path:

Right View

Right Intention

Right Speech

Right Action

Right Livlihood

Right Effort

Right Mindfulness

Right Concentration

All of them are easily applied to shifts we need to make in how we live on this planet together.  Right speech, for example, translates into how our media has become a divisive, exploitative thing used to gain ratings rather than to report truthful and useful information to the public.  The field of journalism is considered so important to the success of our nation that its freedom is protected in the Constitution, making Right Speech integral to a balanced, prospering world.

Right Mindfulness, when applied to human interactions, can translate as our ability to be aware of each other and treat each other with respect and dignity.

Right Effort reminds us to work and rest in equal balance, as well as to apply those work efforts to positive areas of our lives.  In other words, not to be busy for busy-ness’ sake, but instead to give our full effort appropriately to the task at hand.

You can do this with the entire Eight-Fold path applied to all levels of life and culture.  It’s a good excercise when considering how we might stretch.  Apply these concepts to different areas of your life, and see how you can change them for the better.

Another thing that helps when you are being asked to step out of your comfort zone is to know that you are not alone.  People all over the world are experiencing this in thousands of ways.  Perhaps if we started giving each other a bit of a hand it could get easier for all of us.  Actually, I think we are already beginning to do that!

There’s a quote attributed to Carl Sagan that goes:

It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Often when moving out of comfort zones, we are also moving out of delusion.  It can be challenging to see things with more objective clarity and recognize the tasks before us.  But if we really are determined to get out of our own suffering and help all beings to do the same, then we’ve got to see things as they really are and trust that our creative intelligence, our minds and hearts, hold the solutions we need to move forward with inspiration and grace.

It’s easy to keep choosing the known over the unknown.  Even if the situation is not the best one we are capable of creating, we know what we are doing and feel comfortable at some level.  But the unknown, the Great Question Mark, is where all the excitement is.  It’s where we can find our soul’s bliss, our heart’s desire.

Comfort zones, like an old pair of shoes, may be something we think we like, but are in truth no longer good for us.

Now, if you want to ask me about comfy zones, I have a whole different story about those.  Comfy zones are all about giving it all a rest and snuggling up with some loved-ones.  I highly recommend them, whenever you get the chance!