“One desire, my friends, one: to kill yourself. You must desire this. You must feel that a voyage of discovery is more important than all the little trips which the normal consumer self wants to buy.”
― luke rhinehart, The Dice Man
The capacity for life to learn and adapt itself to meet the many situations we face daily is incredible. Things simply and complex, we can learn them and then do them almost without any attention. Whether it’s putting our clothes, driving, or brain surgery we learn it and then it becomes part of our repertoire, we can do it without thinking. It’s all very incredible and makes possible our lives as we know it. Yet there is a downside.
Learning new things is certainly a big help. It can set us free to solve more challenges and develop further skills. Yet in certain situations, we can cease to learn much new at all and fall into a kind of “auto-pilot” mode.
I am a comfort junky, I love a comfortable way of life. Unless noticed and interrupted my day will move comfortably through the tasks I have set before me. Like an automaton, I will go about my day doing it just the same as yesterday. I will flow in some places, get stuck in others, feel good, bad, indifferent but not necessarily alive…not necessarily feeling the juice flow…
This became hyper-clear to me after I started taking daily ice-cold showers and ice baths.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the cold per se. In fact, and properbly like you I prefer the warm cosy feeling of early mornings in bed, or by the fireplace on a winters eve. If I was invited to spend 5 mins in ice cold water sacrificing 5 extra minutes in my warm bed there would have been no question; I would never have willingly put myself in a very cold and uncomfortable environment…I mean I am not crazy!
So getting into freezing water each morning is a challenge. It takes a determination to step out of the comfort zone and face the resistance, and yet I do it, each day, without fail. I do it as it is the best way to start the day. Right from the first, I am feeling alive, refreshed and energised, I have faced a challenge and won.
And that is in addition to all the huge long term benefits cold water brings with it. (more on this in another blog)
By regularly immersing myself in freezing water I realised am far more capable and courageous than I realised. Soon after starting this I began walking at night in the cold with just a thin t-shirt on. I did it because it was a challenge to me, a great way to end my day.
I started to see a pattern, that to face the challenges that the day presents takes me to the edge of my comfort zone, a place where I come alive.
When I don’t ask any questions of myself nothing happens, when I face the challenges the answers appear…I feel my many hidden qualities, qualities that are usual uncalled for and therefore dormant and instead, I feel them flowing and I feel alive. Yes, alive, myself alive…flowing and living…wonderful!
So further to this, I started to notice howI habitually challenges, that I step automatically step around them and if <I do happen to notice one I will find all sorts of justifications for avoiding the challenge and keeping things comfortable. Unless I am vigilant I will slip into my habitual repertoire, like an automaton not feeling the dynamism that comes from living at the edge of comfort.
To counter this I devised a practice. I make it my focus to notice opportunities to not do the comfortable thing, to purposefully interrupt my autopilot mode and to be on the lookout and to spot challenges that I can take on. As I do so I find a steady supply of little moments in the day when I can move out of my comfort zone, face something new, and feel myself living right there.
It can be as “insignificant” as using a different hand to brush my teeth or switching off the satnav when I am going to a new place. There are myriad opportunities to notice how automatic I am, how I just follow the same patterns endlessly repeating them. So this practice is the antidote.
The outcome of such a practice is we end up in new “tight” spots where we either buckle and run, or we face it, and that facing the necessary capacities arise just in the balance we might need. We discover we are more capable and resourceful than we imagined.
By committing to stop being an automaton only, to break out of the prison of comfort, we not only feel alive, but we learn many new things. When I reflect on it it seems like the kind thing I experienced as a child, that fast rate of learning and developing. It’s a great ride and one I heartily recommend.
In the Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, the “hero” does something similar, although a bit more drastic, but he also discovers this secret, he liberates himself from a life of predictable drudgery and enslavement to his lack of presence in his own life.
And that’s the outcome, we start to join ourselves in our own life. There is nothing like a challenge to bring us back to ourselves. When I sit in the freezing water, all thought stops, the body breaths itself and I am radically present.
So if you are feeling you want to feel more alive, to learn new things and become radically present at least sometimes during your day I strongly suggest you take the challenge and take up the practice.