I love reaching my stretch point; just outside of my comfort zone, but just before I step into the panic zone. That point at which I really feel like I’m extending myself beyond my usual limits, testing my abilities and hopefully growing as a person. This point can be reached in the actions and choices I make in my life. Plus, as a result of practicing mindfulness, I’ve regularly experienced stretch points in the way I communicate with myself and with others too.
What creates a stretch point?
I experience a stretch point when I push myself to achieve something I’ve long dreamed about. It is often something that makes me nervous and excited at the same time (there’s no English word for this, but in Dutch the word is “spannend”).
For example, when I moved to the Netherlands five years ago to study for my Masters at Leiden University and move in with my partner Thijs it was “spannend”. I was taking a big step out of my comfort zone into the unknown, and it scared me. However, it was not a panicked fear, but a kind of excited and hopeful nervousness about this new adventure. And although it hasn’t always been easy, the move has broadly paid off; I loved my Masters and now feel very happy living in the Netherlands.
I felt the same way when I took a three-month sabbatical from work last year to go travelling in Asia. I didn’t know what to expect travelling (for part of the trip) on my own, and experiencing lots of new places (including the wonderful Bhutan, which I wrote about last week). Yet I decided to step out into uncertainty in order to follow my passions and my dreams, and I had very positive experiences as a result.
Emotional stretch points
It’s also possible to experience stretch points in interactions with others. When I communicate my deepest feelings openly, honestly and authentically, I often feel nervous – scared even – about how they may be received. However, when I have shared in a way that makes me feel at my most vulnerable, the response has almost always been positive and the benefits have been huge.
Practicing mindfulness has really helped me to be more conscious of, and open about, my true self. Through trying to observe my thoughts and feelings without judgement, I am able to be more present and acceptant of intense or challenging things that come up, without immediately trying to push them away or avoid them. This step of being more honest within myself is vital in enabling me to share more openly with others.
Plus, some of the practices I have learned through being part of a Wake Up mindfulness group, such as deep listening and sharing from the heart, have helped me to share more authentically and connect more deeply with others. I have been able to talk about things I have previously felt ashamed of. I’ve had the opportunity to say: this is a part of me, I’m not always proud of this, I don’t always tell people about it, but this is a part of who I am.
When I have found the courage to share the things I am most ashamed of, I’ve often received love and appreciation in return. Author Brene Brown says, “if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” I am so grateful to all those amazing people who have crossed my path and shown me empathy, understanding and love. Slowly, this is helping much of my shame disappear.
In a way, starting this Mindful Change blog is a stretch point for me, too. I feel nervous writing about my own experiences: I have a strong sense of self-judgement about putting myself out there, even in this small way. And yet… I’m really enjoying it! And the comments and feedback I’ve received from people so far have warmed my heart.
So, I guess this post is an ode to the stretch points in all of our lives: let’s try to do the things that excite us even if they scare us a little, let’s try to share honestly even if we feel vulnerable doing so. It’s a risk, and maybe it won’t always work out, but the rewards are so great when it does.
I’ll finish with another quote from the wonderful Brene Brown:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.”
Share your comments:
Do you experience stretch points in your life and / or in your relationships? Has mindfulness helped you to feel more open and honest when communicating with others? Feel free to share in the comments and thank you for reading. 🙂
Read other posts on Mindful Change:
- Slow change, big impact: Experiencing Bhutan
- Practicing Gratitude
- Reasons for hope in a changing world: Chandolin retreat review
- Can happiness change the world? Three lessons from Bhutan
- Can mindfulness change the world? Daniel Goleman event review
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