Stepping Out of What is Comfortable and Into Life by Samantha Keen

Have you ever walked down the street feeling totally alive in your body, like your feet are bouncing off the pavement, those new jeans, or that hot hair style, making you smile just because it feels good?

Or jumped out of the ocean to that zingy bubbly rush of life, climbed to the top of a really high mountain to look down at the world knowing what it is like to be an eagle soaring in the clouds?

Perhaps you were dancing with someone that really turns you on, and felt them turned on by you equating to a shared chemistry that sparks excitement into your whole being.

Life filling you up.

The zest, the zing, the bubbling of inner joy from the belly to the toes to the top of your head.

Did you ever wonder why we do not feel this alive all of the time? I mean really?

What would it be like if you could feel like that anytime you wanted? If you could turn on this sensation of enjoying the life in your body at will?

Meditation which cultivates my energy gives me this alive feeling every single day.

Recently I did three weeks of meditation in a retreat center far away from civilization, including one week of silence. In fact I have been meditating daily for 20 years, and attending retreats several times a year.

Every single time I go on a retreat like this, I return more connected to this feeling of really being alive. My body feels more awake, more joyful, my step more springy, the smile jumps more easily to my face.

Yet after a few months in my daily life, I seem to drop back into the mundane reality that is really more sleepy than awake. This time I had the realization – why do I need to go away on holiday or on retreat to feel super alive? It should be all the time. My zest should be here in the mundane activities.

Why does intensive meditation for 10+ hours a day make me feel more alive than a holiday, a boot camp for fitness, night with a hot date? Hmmmm not sure about the last one though…. Perhaps great sex and a good meditation retreat are on par?

Ok so let’s get real here, let’s talk about sex and life. I think we know that sex is definitely one of those things really can get people in touch with the experience of life in the body. The tingles, the buzzing, the pulsing, the rush of life. Better than any drug. The ultimate high.

But meditation, how on Earth can that make you feel alive like this? Everyone says meditation is relaxing right, and just like sitting on the sofa watching back to back videos online does not bring this feeling of being alive to the foreground, why would sitting on your ass for all that time, bring this buzz?

Again, being totally real – meditation is not one thing. This word encompasses so much. This word can mean a lot of different things to different people.

The kind of meditation that I have practiced for almost 20 years is about cultivating life for the purpose of getting in touch with your true ‘Being’ while alive and in a body.

When the mind really drops away, and the thoughts fade out of the picture, there is no more tension in the body or stress creating discomfort. There is still this vitality and aliveness. And there is the intensity of sitting with your Self.

While this sounds enticing from the level of the mind, it is actually both a confronting and an awakening experience. Sitting with stillness, when the mind drops as the fire of Being rises up. Staying present as the veils drop away to see without thinking. Just Seeing reality, just as it is.

My experience resonated with this quote from a French spiritual teacher that trained extensively in India and Afghanistan and filmed spiritual teachers all over the world as a younger man:

Creation, just as it is will lead us to the Ultimate. When you become capable of discovering within yourself a state of being without conflict, you will know that ultimate reality underlies polarities because you will have experienced it by not denying the life inside you. Behind all the heartrending contradictions in this world, behind all the suffering, a meaning you have missed until now will reveal itself: an absolute positiveness, eternity, immortality, a totally luminous reality. But you cannot try to discover it without following the way of truth. This implies starting from the grosser forms of energy, going toward the more and more subtle forms, and ultimately toward the source of energy itself – indescribable silence of the depths. Ah, how much those who think they are afraid of death, are actually afraid of life! They are afraid of themselves. How little you believe in yourselves!” – Arnaud Desjardins. (pp 21, The Jump into Life, Moving Beyond Fear.)

Last night I had a dream where I was swimming in a dry river and my spiritual teacher (who died a few years ago) showed me that I am living like someone who is dead and I need to live like someone who is really alive. The river was a yellow, brown color. My consciousness felt like dying autumn leaves. Crisp and dry and somehow something I have settled for on a big picture level.

It is a feeling I recognize, yet had not consciously acknowledged until recently.

The dream reinforced one of the biggest takeaways I had this last few weeks on retreat of the insidious power of sleep in my (and everyone’s) consciousness.

This was one of those visceral flashes of knowing that shocks me into action. Knowing something intellectually is quite different to having the kind of full body aha that creates change from the inside-out.

In the silence of 10 hours a day of meditation practices in retreat it was clear that the pull towards being comfortable and having a safe routine is very strong in modern human consciousness.

Wherever I have lived (4 continents and 7 cities so far in this lifetime) the same patterns of routine and mental habit can re-emerge over time and even get stronger as they withstand the onslaught of change that I throw at them.

In very subtle ways, I have chosen to move away from the fire of life instead of into it. It is shocking for me to see that, since I had really believed my values were that of an awakened person.

Mainly this attitude developed when I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) many years ago, and I would do things to protect myself from the possibility of physical pain. If I thought an environment was stressful, or that I was going to encounter some kind of discomfort that might somehow trigger my symptoms, I would avoid it. Think of someone avoiding stress because they know it will make them anxious. But I was avoiding stress because I knew that it sometimes made me unwell.

Clearly this was not my only modus operandi, as I was giving talks to people around the world about recovery, creating and then succeeding in creating a business helping people get to know and become their bigger selves, in New York City and then San Francisco Bay Area.

But still it was there, this insidious drift away from the fire of my own Truth and of life. Years after I had fully recovered from CFS, I was still “not doing” certain things (avoiding life) because it might give me a headache, or be “too much”. More of an unconscious momentum inside than conscious choices.

Think of it like someone in relationship who subtly avoids conflict because they do not want to feel hurt or discomfort. Living in a comfortable relationship rather than a creative partnership based on ideals of truth.

Why is this even important? Isn’t comfort something we should strive for in everyday life?

As Chogyum Trumpa says in his book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism:

Q: Why do you think that people are so protective of their egos? Why is it so hard to let go of one’s ego?

A: People are afraid of the emptiness of space, or the absence of company, the absence of a shadow. It could be a terrifying experience to have no one to relate to, nothing to relate with. The idea of it can be extremely frightening, though not the real experience. It is generally a fear of space, a fear that we will not be able to anchor ourselves to any solid ground, that we will lose our identity as a fixed and solid and definite thing. This could be very threatening.”

Comfort is a value of the modern world, particularly in America as a result of the desire to avoid this fear of emptiness that Trumpa talks about.

Go to Wholefoods, or its parent online company Amazon. Go to Ikea, or any home décor store. Look at any clothes marketing campaign. See the lifestyles that are espoused in the world around us. There you find a picture of someone in well dressed casuals, with various consumer items, and a big smile, clearly set up for retirement and so on and so forth.

This strong idealism of comfort is actually a front for materialism. It is the face of core cultural beliefs that all you have is this physical life so you may as well get as comfortable as you can here and now.

The real taste of life brings an awakening that resonates with spiritual experiences of connection to ourselves and others, and even the Divine itself. When I feel connected to life, I am so much more available to big experiences of no mind, of inner stillness, of connection.

For me, the sleep and comfort come in when I make decisions that do move away from challenging myself. Moving away from the conversations that might be difficult, moving away from learning something that might not come naturally to me, things that I might not be good at. Avoiding making mistakes that I clearly would learn from, just because I do not want to feel wrong or stressed.

Take a very active example in my life of dating. I am dating at the moment, and the general vibe around this for me has been just boring. I was finding it very difficult to be excited about it. As much as I might talk to myself about the joy of meeting new people, the enthusiasm I could feel for going out to new places, the different things I might end up doing, I keep having this boring vibe.

A bored approach to dating both doesn’t work and also makes sense. The online dating scene can really suck in many ways that I do not have to spell out to anyone who has done it. The rest of you can probably imagine. However, it also is one big mirror to show anyone approaching the scene where they are at with intimacy.

So falling into the bored vibe is really showing me that I am not creating what I want in this act of dating. Instead of making it my own, deciding how I want to it to look and leaning into the discomfort of the experience, I am letting the malaise dictate my experience.

Waking up to myself, the inner fire of reality just as it is, means taking the situation like the proverbial bull by the horns – owning it.

Making the choice to date my own choice and stepping into what it is, including the things that make me uncomfortable. Rather than having one foot in and one foot out.

As soon as I made this choice to open to what could be possible for me at the highest level, I started getting different messages, different experiences and more possibilities opened up. Instead of just doing the online dating for the sake of doing it, I stepped into it with my full desire. That is one way of embracing the fire.

This is something I work with clients on on a lot – stepping into the fire of your life just as it is and owning it so that you create the possibilities or potential rather than being limited by the “norms” of society, culture, and past imprints. It brings the voltage of life back into your daily experience, and makes room for inner joy to bubble through your body a lot more often.

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