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The Magic outside my Comfort Zone

How a steady yogic practice has helped me cope with stepping out of my comfort zone, embrace change and ride through the new rollercoaster I've signed up for.

I’ve been battling with a chest infection which has been attributed to anxiety and a not-so-great immunity which makes me susceptible to catch germs easily, especially in a public place or a place with more people. With all the awareness and being mindful I have realised that it flares up especially when I am thrown out of my comfort zone. And like most people I know, I don’t embrace change easily. In fact I am averse to it. When there’s change, the Certified Overthinker a.k.a. Me is likely to go from the average of 60,000 thoughts a day to 100,000. No I didn’t keep count with tally marks or a handheld numbers clicker. It is just an assumption given how heavy I feel within with an active universe coupled with multiple voices blabbering inside my head.

Rewind to 2018: Where I was professionally, though the volume of work was high it didn’t seem to be doing enough justice to my potential. I had this churning feeling within and a burning desire to maximise my potential. There were days when I’d find the work a bit too easy and some days I wouldn’t but the underlying thought always was, I am capable of a lot more. What that lot more was, I wasn’t sure. I’d keep asking myself what I can do next to leverage all the experience and utilise my potential.

I don’t embrace change easily. In fact I am averse to it.

To challenge myself one step at a time, I went back to studies after a break of 15+ years by enrolling for a Post-Graduation in User Experience. It was exciting and enthralling, yet it sucked the energy and the immunity out since I started out doing a 7-day week – 5 days at work and 2 days at college. The 2 days which started off as 4 pm half days, slowly consumed me with the assignments, submissions and presentations. Along came the feeling of ‘Wow, maybe this is what I am meant to do. Maybe I am meant to get into deep research, derive learnings and insights from that research, come up with solutions based on people’s problem areas and stitch up the entire process together with good storytelling and great design. Maybe this will give me answers to some of the questions I’ve been asking myself all this time.’ 

In retrospect, I fell in love with that year of my life. Now when I look back it was a whirlwind romance with my potential. When that year ended, along with the teabags under my eyes and the always-tired feeling came a big vacuum. I felt such a sense of emptiness on weekends that I started making lists of all the amazing things I’d put onto the backburner for that year and slowly ticking them off. But the urge to pursue and even alter the direction towards that new calling in my career persisted. As someone dear to me, says often: the Universe is compelled to fall in love with a stubborn heart. Towards the end of the year came the opportunity to leave my comfort zone (it looks pretty cushy in retrospect) and make that switch. I threw caution to the wind and took that leap of faith into the relatively unknown.

Here I am, a few months later, far far away from my comfort zone. It’s not even an expansion zone (which I’ve defined as the outer rim of the comfort zone). So, what is the Expansion Zone? The expansion zone is staying close to my core comfort areas, while making subtle changes slowly to move outside it. Say I’m already a yoga enthusiast (my comfort area) if I attempt to master the Shirsasana without wall support in 2 months – that would still be my Expansion Zone. Why? Coz inherently I love yoga and anything to do with it, if it means being up at 5 am daily even if I’ve had a late working night or a sleepless night or even a full-of-not-good-dreams-night (that R.E.M. Sleep Phase). Far away from my comfort zone would be enrolling for Public Speaking or maybe Dance in any form – coz just the thought of enrolling for either makes me nervous, even while I write this.

Forward to today: I am at a new place, the work is nothing like I have done before – I have moved from the product space to the service space, from business-to-consumer to business-to-business. In the first week, I felt like I was hit by a moving truck. Yeah, maybe I’m exaggerating but I genuinely had trouble even getting to work and I was constantly questioning why I’d succumbed to my itch of leaving my cushy zone at this juncture in my life. I mean everything was going well, right? Boredom, yes. Stagnation too. I wasn’t able to formulate or imagine a vision towards what would be next for me. I think that bothered me the most and that brings me to why I started writing this post to begin with.

What’s been my Rock of Gibraltar through these past few months and the past year? A consistent 5-days-a-week yogic practice and my disciplined and sincere instructors who will put up with my vivid storytelling and lame excuses day after day. Without giving up, they push me to perform better, class after class. 

Did I have the urge to quit this 5 am wake-up routine? Of course! Did my mind play tricks night after night about why my body was screaming for sleep and maybe I should cancel tomorrow’s class? Yes! A hundred times Yes! Did I give in? Though the voices were very loud and there were a million battles between waking up and getting up from the bed, I rarely gave in to the evil forces within. I’d push and push some more until I’d get to that post 20 minutes in the class, once my body had warmed up, I’d be sweating profusely and yet I’d feel the blood circulating through all of me, my heartbeat would be accelerated… and there was that feeling of bliss. Of personal victory. Of Yes Yes Yes I Can. Of gratitude towards myself and my choices, of that enveloping feeling of self-love and pride. Of that beaming smile that would stay hours after class would be over. Of that spring in the step when we hit that high with someone new we meet. Of that afterglow of the morning after, just wayyyyyy better. And this time, I am underplaying it. If there was a word to mildly put it, it maybe be Ecstasy or Elation. That inner-goddess-doing-cartwheels feeling? Yes, that very one for the Grey enthusiasts.

To sum it up, that very same consistent, strengthening yogic practice is carting me along through this phase which is outside of my comfort zone and I’d highly recommend it to anyone reading this – that consistency is KEY. It doesn’t have to be yoga, for me it was my nirvana, for you it may be writing or dancing or walking or doodling or coding or finding your pockets of silence in the middle of a bustling day. Whatever be your feeling of coming-home-to-mumma, once you’ve identified it, hold tightly and keep going. Just tide past the second-guessing, the self-doubting and the glorified excuses for skipping it. Keep putting in that pure, consistent, self-directed effort and I’ll promise you this… you’ll get through this like I did.

I’m nowhere near the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I do know this, this consistency in doing something I love is making me learn to dance in the rain. And while the dance continues, I am still waiting to experience that Magic outside My Comfort Zone.

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