6: Comfort Zone

I work as a belayer out at a summer camp during the off seasons and belay at an alpine tower. Little kids have family style campouts and one optional activity is that they harness up and climb. As a belayer my job is to keep them safe however, a lot more goes into the job than just the pulley. When kids choose my course they can have a hard time making it all the way up without having a few minor (or major) panic attacks. This is ALL ABOUT THEIR  COMFORT ZONE.

What I witness every time is how the parents try to push their children out of their comfort zones. Either they have compassion and kindness for them (this generally works) or they are complete assholes (the kid gets scared and comes down). A week ago I heard a father telling his scared son (about 9 years old) not to be an empty tube of toothpaste and being scared was immature. The environment for trying new things is more successful when the parties involved try to be kind and understanding. Image



5: Comfort Zone

When brainstorming for the Comfort Zone directive I started with thinking of the most obvious ways I have gotten out of my comfort zone. These things are like big events and generally happen few and far between making them almost easier to go through with then the little everyday opportunities to explore. The fresh examples in my head all were set in Asia this summer. Most of the time I found myself as a person I never knew existed. I was present in an entirely new sense of the word. The entire country was out of my comfort zone but I knew I would be wandering around it for a month so I might as well throw the tension out the window and roll. (pun intended) 

The people I met and ended up traveling with were all coming from different places. We bonded over how bizarre and disorienting the new land was and we found comfort in our loss of direction.  We formed a community quickly over the togetherness of creating our very own comfort zone with each other as well as lending each other all of the kindness needed to let someone be totally weird. 

S0 as I was getting all of the words and thoughts tied into this on paper I realized one fact of life: 



(it’s a kind thing to do)

When we encourage one person to do something out of their comfort zone we have to rationalize to them that it is going to be okay, it is going to be beneficial to them and it is going to feel good. It is also much easier to explain this to someone if they feel like you are being kind enough that they can be vulnerable and do the deed (whatever it may be). In the process of trying to equip another human to act against their own comfortable grain, we better equip ourselves to give our own risks a try. 

I wrote letters to some of my distant friends thanking them for the moments they helped me lose myself long enough to find myself in a new light. The process of reflecting on those times showed me the potential I have to do things that scare me… reminding me of how stretchy my comfort zone really is. (many thanks to those that talked me off a ledge)Image 










3: List: Ingredients

I read the list of ingredients on the back of a kind bar and let it inspire me to make a kind meal to start my day. I had almost everything in my pantry and substituted the crisp rice base with oatmeal. It was tasty and warm and fun making it with naturally derived ingredients.

Apple Cinnamon & Pecan Kind Bar Ingredients: almonds, cashews, pecans, dried apples, honey, non GMO glucose, raisins, crisp rice, flax seeds, chicory root fiber, cinnamon



2:List: Kind Living


One list that really felt like I could write forever and never truly be done with was ‘Kind Memories’. I just tried to think of things that I remember witnessing or being a part of that I felt were kind acts or evoked a sense of kindness in my memory. Some things were simple and happen often, such as drivers and cyclists coexisting on the narrower streets in the Fan. One was just thinking of my mom and how she always was so hospitable to all of the kids I grew up around. A lot of my friends commented on how warm she was to them either when they would come to our home or if she just ran into them somewhere. She holds a kind presence. My favorite item on the list was the memory of a monk I was lucky enough to work with this past summer in Thailand. I never learned his name but I worked with him for two weeks in the hills of Northern Thailand, helping him first paint a crematorium and then later plant 500 plants so he could turn his temple grounds into a medicine garden for the tribe he lived by.

The monk was different than the ones I observed in the cities. He worked just as hard as me and a handful of volunteers that found ourselves there and he interacted with us and with the villagers like an old friend. Traditionally, Thai monks cannot touch women, but when I was sick he blessed me with no hesitation.

He was even kind to a pack of wild dogs that lived in the forest. He would give him scraps from the village each night, which baffled most of his neighbors. On the last day, he made noodles and wrapped them in banana leaves as a parting gift and meal for my friends and I. I will never forget the kindness of the monk that spoke few words in broken English but knew the essence of kind living out in the middle of the jungle.

1: List: All the shit I picked up

This list was one of the first that I wrote. I used the directive example and listed things I do that I feel help the community:

  •   Volunteering with C.H.A.T.
  •  Cleaning up Hell Block
  • Volunteering with Green Unity
  • Sharing the road with cyclists
  • Yielding to pedestrians
  • Recycling
  • Growing plants
  • Riding my bike
  • Walking to places
  • Picking up trash
  • Tipping well
  • Holding the door
  • Buying local and organic when I can
  • Asking questions
  • Smiling at strangers
  • Participating in community events

This list consists of things that are in one way or another helping the world around us (including the people and ecosystem) thrive in a more efficient and kind manner. I wanted to express one of them, which is cleaning up hell block. Hell block is a section of Grace Street right near the VCU campus that is notorious for the parties and shenanigans that go on within its boundaries. It starts on Ryland and continues until Lombardy. Green Unity, an environmental awareness group for students periodically cleans up after the numerous activities litter its grounds. A list that branched from that was what I found this last weekend on Hell Block. So basically it is a list of items that are no longer a threat to bare feet or the front yards and soil of the street.

Stuff I picked up on Hell Block:

  • Billions of broken pieces of glass
  • Lots of plastic cups
  • Fountain drink cups
  • Crushed cans
  • Cans with beer and soda still in them
  • Broken bottles of beer
  • Bottles with beer left in them
  • Liquor bottles
  • Tiny Ziploc baggies for drugs or tiny things
  • So many cigarettes
  • Listerine bottle
  • 1000 grand wrapper
  • ticket stubs
  • box spring
  • mattress
  • pizza box
  • brochures
  • junk mail
  • newspaper
  • peoples real mail
  • paper bags
  • plastic bags
  • milk carton
  • nails
  • taco bell bag
  • part of a wig
  • juice box
  • Snapple bottle
  • Tuperware container
  • Zipties
  • Rope
  • Price tags
  • Stickers
  • Viagra pill
  • Chains
  • Sea shell
  • 2 liter bottles
  • matches
  • water bottles
  • coffee cups
  • chapstick
  • frozen dinner boxes
  • bbq sauce packet
  • jimmy johns business cards
  • soup caps
  • apple sauce containers
  • moldy loaf of bread
  • foil
  • gum wrappers
  • pen

Here are a few pictures from that day: