The Value of Pushing Ourselves

Often we are afraid to move out of our comfort zones.  We fall into a rut and find comfort there.  I have gone through many days, weeks, months, and even years in the trance I was lulled into by eating at the same places (still guilty – I love you Chipotle), traveling the same route to work, and setting up my schedule so I follow the same routine every day.  There is some value in routine.  As a middle school teacher I have learned that routine is what most children need.  For the lower income students that I teach routine can be the only form of comfort they have.  However, as adults we easily lock ourselves into “comfort” and allow life to pass us by.

I began thinking of this blog post last week when I decided to step up my yoga game.  My friend and I typically attend the beginners yoga class on Monday and Wednesday nights.  I have aspirations of becoming a yoga instructor for children some day.  So, I posed the idea of attending the earlier class that is more advanced.  I’ve been practicing yoga for almost two years now, I was ready for this next step.  Boy, did that moment of confidence get blown right out of the water.  It was one of the most difficult yoga classes I have experienced.  Within fifteen minutes my heart was pounding to the point I thought it would explode.  I stopped often, dropped to the pose of the child, and I would put my hand over my heart to ensure it didn’t burst out of my chest.  I couldn’t believe how difficult it was.

Now, yoga teaches the practitioner to listen to their body and not push it beyond its limits.  This is true.  A good yogi knows when the body needs a break.  At the same time no benefit would come if we did not push ourselves beyond our comfort limits.  I would not have lost forty pounds if I gave up when it got tough.  Pushing myself is one of the many things I’ve loved about practicing yoga.

Pushing ourselves is evident in the fitness and health industry.  There is a great Gatorade commercial (though I am a Seminole, I give credit where due) in which many physical activities are undertaken with a coach, player, or supporter continually yelling, “one more!”  This is the perfect commercial to show the success that can be gained by pushing yourself physically.  If you go to the gym but never work yourself into a sweat and achieve muscle exhaustion you won’t experience the benefits.  When dieting if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone of overeating the “unhealthy” foods you cannot lose weight.  When looking for recognition or a promotion at work, we have to step out of our comfort zones to improve our performance.  To experience life we have to step out of our comfort zones to travel beyond our city, our town, our neighborhood, or our four walls.   To live a fulfilling life, we must push ourselves beyond our routine contentment.

It is no different with spirituality.  I grew up Roman Catholic.  I wore my Catholicism like a badge for many years.  Even today if you asked me what my religion was my knee jerk reaction would be, “I’m Catholic.”  I have often found comfort in the rituals and traditions of the the Catholic faith (most especially the rosary, which I still carry with me to this day).  But, I was an unfulfilled Catholic.  I didn’t find a connection with what was being preached each week from the altar.  I couldn’t understand why I was considered a bad Catholic if I didn’t believe that Mary remained a virgin her entire life.  And I certainly couldn’t fathom why I was going to hell based on the gender of the person I chose to love, especially since Jesus’s primary teaching was love.  But, I found comfort in “being Catholic” and couldn’t find my way out.

During my time in college I became a religion minor.  I loved learning about all different religions, the major, the minor, and the ones considered “out there” by many.  I slowly began to cherry pick my beliefs.  This worked for me for a long time.  It wasn’t long before I no longer considered myself Catholic or even Christian.  I actually took the opposite view and began seeing Christianity as a hate filled religion that tolerates nothing outside of it’s narrow thoughts.  I would study and dabble in the new spirituality I was learning.  And when the question was ever asked, “what religion are you?” I’d take a deep breath, screw up my courage and proudly say, “I’m Catholic.”

I can happily say I’ve pushed myself beyond my narrow and biased view that ALL of Christianity is evil.  There are zealots that give it a bad name, just as there are in every religion.  I have known and still know many amazing Christians.  But, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and can now admit my true beliefs (and this blog has helped me in that).

Now when asked, “what religion are you?”  I can proudly answer, “I’m a Buddhist, sort of!”  I find much joy in Buddhism, but I still love cherry picking in my belief system.  So you see, there is a great deal of value to be found in pushing ourselves.  Step out of your comfort zone.  “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”  This is the only way you can have a life truly lived.

Namasté
Matthew

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