I felt a tad fragile and the thought of sitting in front of a bright computer screen had no appeal at all. I could have done the ironing, I suppose, but there was no hurry. I could have cuddled the dog and done nothing… which I did for a while; doing nothing can be the most productive way of spending your time. But eventually, I started to fidget. I turned to an old, familiar friendship and picked up a book.
It was not one of the many interesting books still waiting to be read, their pristine pages silently urging me to explore their secrets. No, it was a book that is falling apart from having been read by several generations of my family over the past forty years. A book I have read so many times before that it held no surprises at all, apart from the fact that, for the very first time, I was obliged to don my reading glasses.
It was just a light read, pure fiction, where the only depth is in the author’s knowledge and passion for her subject. But it was familiar… comfort food for the mind… and perfect to read when feeling the after effects of a three-day migraine. The dog curled up and snored quietly on my feet, the garden doors stood open as the rain fell and the temperature dropped, and I snuggled down with a cuppa, some hot, buttered toast and a big fluffy dressing gown to indulge in a medicinal dose of familiarity.
We need that comfortable familiarity sometimes. It can be healing, reassuring and all that is required to set us to rights. Whether it is the hearty, wholesome food of childhood that brings back warm memories, the encouragement of a familiar smile or a story we know so well that we can conjure its landscape with as much ease as if we were stepping into a wardrobe. It gives us a place of physical and emotional security that wraps around us like a blanket round a babe and keeps us safe. There are no challenges, no surprises, just things we know and love.
When we are warm and cosy, we do not want to move. Waking without an alarm in what is always the most comfortable bed in the world at that moment, there is a time in which we simply do not move. It may last no more than seconds, or we may turn over and go back to sleep, but while it lasts, all is well with the world. We have no desire at all to leave the warmth behind, step into a frozen morning and face the requirements of the day.
Minds work the same way as bodies. They like familiarity. The patterns of habit obviate the need to expend energy. There is no challenge… we can function on auto-pilot as long as we stick to what we know well. Ask our minds to do or try something new and unfamiliar and they will either jump at the adventure or go into siege mode, digging themselves ever deeper into the duvet of entrenched perspectives from which only the most determined assault will dislodge them. Like a body that refuses to leave the sofa, book and cake, such unmoving, persistent entrenchment will only end in a loss of flexibility and a heaviness of spirit.
There is nothing at all wrong with being comfortable in mind, heart or body… on the contrary; contentment and comfort go hand in hand. But that only works well when we are open to other experiences than those within our bubble of familiarity. When choosing to ‘snuggle down’ for a while is a choice and not our default position. If I read only the books I know by heart, I would never learn anything new. If I walked only familiar paths, I would never see a different horizon. If my mind were closed to opinions and beliefs other than those I hold, my own would never evolve and grow… and neither would I.
Step outside the comfort-zone and the world is an unfamiliar place, where challenges, fears and adventures await… often in the very same place. Accept the challenge, face the fear and embrace the adventure. We will always have a comfort-zone, but the adventure may not wait.