Conceptualizing a Comfort Zone and Limiting Potential

Good evening and welcome to another moment in time in our continuing mindfulness journey called Fishing Without Bait.  What is Fishing Without Bait, you might ask.  Fishing Without Bait is a concept that came to me as often I will give a free prescription, I’m a behavioral health therapist, a free prescription of fruits, nuts, and vegetables.  Unplug your television and take up fishing.  And, then it came to me that for a truly mindful experience, one would fish without bait.  

Jim:     But, why would one fish without bait, Mike?

Mike:    That’s a good question.  It seems to defeat the purpose of fishing.

Jim:    The idea is, it’s a metaphor for living life without definitive expectations.  It’s about being in the moment and experiencing what’s right in front of you, and what’s right around you – experiencing that.  Quite often, and when we talked earlier in these podcasts about having the expert’s mind versus the beginner’s mind, and that when we set definitive goals we’re looking for one particular thing.  And, perhaps miss the wonders and marvels that are around us.  Can I give you an example?

Mike:    Sure.  Go ahead.

Jim:    This is a true story.  This was a physician who had a daughter that was seven months old.  And, actually, this person had never changed a diaper, Mike.  True story.  Never changed a diaper.  So, at one time, being a physician – and a surgeon, he was away quite frequently from the home.  His wife finally talked him into taking a vacation.  They were in the airport, and his wife had to take care of something, so she said, “Watch your daughter and do whatever needs to be done.”  Babies do what babies do.  And, she filled her diaper.  As he was disgustingly unwrapping the diaper, and the smells and the sights, and he just thought, “How disgusting.  Oh my gosh, why me?  This is a rotten time in my life.”  And then, all he did was adjust his gaze six inches up and saw the beautiful smile of his child, the beautiful smile of his daughter.  So, that’s quite often what we do when we fish with bait and have to catch a fish.  We have definitive expectations.  However, when we’re open to possibilities and beginning to expand our perspective, and expand our consciousness, we can see that smile of the child.  We can see that smile of a child in everyday life when we’re walking down the street no matter where we are, Mike.  So, I’d like to review a little bit from last week’s podcast when we talked about the brain being a  crafty character, Mike.  And, if you remember, Mike, we talked about the brain tries to be helpful most of the time, however it can be like a neighbor that comes over and wants to offer to help you  mow the lawn.  However, without being mindful, runs over your prize rosebushes – which doesn’t make you happy.  So, what we’re talking about here is addressing automatic thoughts that are below the level of consciousness.  Operating in a mindless mode for most of our waking hours.  And, quite often in our sleep.  And, we spoke about using a mindful approach to take ourselves off of auto-pilot.  Today, what we’re going to talk a little bit about, Mike, is using a mindfulness approach to step out of a comfort zone.  Now, tell me, what’s your comfort zone, Mike?

Mike:    Right here in this studio.  That is actually a discussion I’ve had on one of my own shows recently.  This microphone.  Coming down, sitting down here, and being able to just be me in front of this microphone – and having to move to somewhere else.  It’s kind of scary for me.  So, maybe you can help me with this process.

Jim:    Sometimes, when people have a comfort zone, they get settled in, right?  They get settled in.  They get comfortable.  And, sometimes people wear it like a suit of armor, do they not?  Have you ever thought, “I can’t wait ‘til I get home.  Everything’s going to be okay.  I can’t wait until I get in my car.  I can’t wait.  When I listen to my favorite music that’s my comfort zone.”  

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    A comfort zone also, can mean emotional security and safety.  However, if you’re unable to expand your comfort zone, Mike, you become limited.  You become limited in your possibilities.  Just as in the previous example where we talked about the person only focused on a dirty diaper.  Sometimes, have you ever met people that have that type of view of the world?  That it’s a dirty diaper?  Yes.  Always negative.  Always, just get me away from this world kind of philosophy, I guess.

Jim:    Absolutely.  There’s nothing wrong.  Not too terribly long ago, I had a very, very, very good friend of mine come to visit me from far away.  We happened to be down in the City.  And, we were in Oakland, and we pulled up to a stop sign and there was a young lady – in some pretty shabby clothes.  And, obviously things were not going well for this girl.  And, she came up to the car and said, “Could you please help me?  I’m hungry.”  So, I gave her $3.00 or $4.00.  And, my friend said to me, “She’s probably going to go buy drugs.”  And, I said, “Let’s imagine if that were the creator asking us.”  So, my friend viewed the world as a dirty diaper.  I chose to move my gaze six inches and see the beautiful smile.  And, again, that’s a conscious choice, Mike.  Right now, I’d also like to refer our listeners to a particular website that is particularly effective and beneficial.  And, it is called  It’s a fascinating site that explores many of the topics that we do on this particular show.  Mike, imagine a safety, your comfort zone as being a box.  Can we do that?

Mike:    Okay.

Jim:    So, let’s imagine that inside this box is you.  And, you’re a balloon – which means that you’re filling your life up with experiences, possibilities, education, imagination.  However, the balloon can only go so far, can it not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Because it’s inside a box.  

Mike:    It’s limited by that box, to grow bigger.

Jim:    Yes, it is.  Although the balloon has the potential to grow much bigger, does it not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, what we’re talking on this mindfulness journey is about the ability to expand outside the box.  Actually, Mike, this comfort zone can keep you from your potential.  What does all this have to do with mindfulness? And, of course, we have to be aware of our limitations of our comfort zone first.  So, what is mindfulness but paying attention on purpose?  It is paying attention on purpose and noticing, non-judgmentally – now there are many times when the comfort zone provides beneficial effects to us.  I imagine there are plenty of times when you enjoy coming home and sitting down in your favorite chair in your house.  And, maybe on a cold night coming into a warm living room with loved ones around you, perhaps pets, enjoying something cold to drink.  That’s a nice comfort zone.  However, if a friend asks you, “Mike, would you like to go down to the museum?  Would you like to do this?  Would you like to do that?”  And, you said, “No.  I don’t want to leave home.  I don’t want to leave my house.  I prefer it here.”  Where would you have gotten in your life, Mike?

Mike:    Yeah.  You wouldn’t have seen those experiences.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, what we are aware of is that comfort zones are self-constructed.  It’s just like a prison.  

Mike:    And, it’s so interesting because I feel like some people aren’t exactly happy with their comfort zones either.  It seems like some people won’t get out a job because there is a comfort zone there even though they say up and down, “I hate my job.”  

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, sometimes that comfort zone keeps us in a job that is stale.  A relationship that is unproductive, and perhaps destructive.

Mike:    Or just broadly a situation that’s not good for you.

Jim:    Or an environment simply because it’s comfortable and familiar.  So, let’s use this analogy, Mike.  Have you ever been to a zoo?

Mike:    Yes, I have.  I love the zoo.  I was wearing my ballcap yesterday from the zoo.  

Jim:    Our minds can become like the animals in that zoo.  Are those animals taken care of?  

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    Are they well fed?  

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    However, is that those animals’ natural environment?  

Mike:    No.

Jim:    Is that allowing those animals to reach their potential?

Mike:    No.

Jim:    No.  So, quite often when you go there, let’s say for example, a lion.  And, if you go there, lions are often pacing, are they not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Why would they be pacing?

Mike:    They’re restless.  They need to get out.  They need to move.

Jim:    Even though they are well fed.  They’re well cared for.  

Mike:    Their instinct is to hunt.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, we’re denying them their potential.  And, when we self-construct our own prisons, are not we denying ourselves the potential?  

Mike:    And, we’re pacing.  Because we know we need to do something better.  Our mind is pacing.

Jim:    You bet.  What keeps us in our comfort zone, Mike?

Mike:    Sometimes financial.  Sometimes the situation.  Sometimes our relationships are holding us back on that.  Or, our fear to find new relationships.

Jim:    That’s the key word – fear.  Fear of stepping outside your comfort zone.  

Mike:    You don’t know what’s going to come.

Jim:    Yes.  So, what is courage, Mike?  There’s many definitions of it.

Mike:    The one I learned was from a lion in The Wizard of Oz. 

Jim:    Okay.  And, that was?

Mike:    It’s that ability to push through even though you’re scared.  Push through the fear.

Jim:    Absolutely.  It’s a courage to deal with fear.  Let’s take a fireman or a police officer.  If a fireman going into a burning building would be fearless, how long do you think he would last at his job?  How long do you think he’d be alive?  

Mike:    There needs to be a bit of fear, so you know, you need to respect the situation around you – that it is truly dangerous, right?

Jim:    And, that’s being mindfully aware, and having the courage to deal with that fear.

Mike:    They’re not just running straight headlong into a fire.  They’re running toward the fire and then figuring their way around the fire to do their job and rescue somebody.

Jim:    Absolutely, and taking a mindful approach.  So, Mike, I think today we started our first journey into stepping outside the box, taking this mindful adventure.  And, in our next podcast I hope everyone tunes in as we’re going to instruct people – perhaps give them some tips, some life instructions, a design for living, a design for stepping outside that box and letting the lion free.  So, until next time, Mike, I hope you join me again.  And, I hope everyone out there joins us also.  It’s been a mindful journey.  It’s been so wonderful to be with you today.  

Please check out our website at where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.