Most of the time, we are trying to get as comfortable as we can; physically and mentally. As soon as we get into an uncomfortable position, we tend to react by moving away from it as quickly as possible;usually because we associate being comfortable with being happy. But in reality, happiness has nothing to do with comfort. If it did, the United States would be the happiest country in the world! Happiness comes from being present with what you are doing and who you are with (especially with yourself!) Traveling always reminds me how true this is.
Over the past few years, I have practiced purposely putting myself in uncomfortable situations in order to expand my understanding of myself and my relationship with discomfort. This trip being one of those things.
So last week, my two friends from school were nice enough to join me in a Jiu-Jitsu class here in Bocas.
I’ve never done Jiu-Jitsu and had no idea what to expect from this class but, in general, I feel pretty comfortable with physical activities at this point. Mostly, because I’ve done them enough to know that the most physically uncomfortable and demanding things tend to reap the most reward…so I go in with a positive attitude and open mind. However, this class was way out of my friend Val’s comfort zone and when we showed up and they said it was a 2 hour class and clearly NOT for beginners….she said how uncomfortable she was and that maybe she would leave. One of the guys overheard her and started talking about how the whole point of the class is to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable; and without freaking out or quitting. They urged her to stay; and so she did!
“Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.” – Peter McWilliams
Even though it was 100 degrees and so humid and we had to wear these heavy uniforms and do some really physically demanding things….she stuck it out with some encouragement along the way. For me, the most challenging part was that the instructor (who also works at the school I go to!) spoke all in Spanish, very quickly, and I understood about 10% of what he was saying. 😦
It ended up being so fun! The last 15 minutes of class we had to use everything we learned to try to pin our instructor on the ground…. and that guy is fast. We were completely exhausted and drenched by the end but we all felt accomplished and proud of ourselves for doing it. Especially Val 🙂 It’s so fun to surprise ourselves with what we can do when we try.
“Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.” – Herbert Otto
So, here is where I am the most uncomfortable:
Yep. My Spanish class. Actually, to be fair….I’m much less uncomfortable there now because my teacher talks slow enough for me to understand her. It’s when I go into the community and people are talking so fast that all the words blend into one, and I get the gist of what they are saying but I don’t know how to properly respond, and my eyes get big and my mind stops working and then I feel like an idiot. That’s pretty much the most uncomfortable place for me. Which, is why I am here! To keep practicing and to keep trying to relax into being uncomfortable and to not define myself by what I think I am or am not good at.
Some days, it’s easy! Other days, like today, not easy. In class, we started to learn the past tense and what seemed like an endless amount of irregular verbs and exceptions, and all I could think was “I’m terrible at this and I’m never going to learn how to speak Spanish.” My automatic pattern is to be really really hard on myself, which is the fastest way to suck the fun right out of learning!
“Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean giving up familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, and relationships that have lost their meaning.” – John C. Maxwell
I was especially grateful for a text reminder from my friend Rachel that the world is not going to end if I am not fluent in Spanish. 🙂 I am not on this trip simply to master a skill, but instead to know myself better, to explore, to be present for the moments, to have new experiences and adventures, to have fun learning something new, and to heal. As Alan Watts says “We thought of life by analogy with a journey – with a pilgrimage. Which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end; success or whatever it is or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were supposed to sing and to dance while the music was being played.“