Starting with the reptile syndrome.
A few years ago, while I was living in South East Asia, I had a conversation with someone:
¨Did you know that lizards always walk on the same path everyday?¨
¨No… Is it true?¨ I responded.
¨Yes, of course it is. If nothing harmful happened to the path it walked upon, the lizard will keep walking on the exact same path everyday, and it will become his routine. Everyday the lizard will crawl around the same stones or floors. And somehow, it is also the same thing for human beings. We have the reptile syndrome too.¨
I started to do some research about the “reptile syndrome” following that conversation. I thought it was a scientific concept, but I couldn’t find anything. Nonetheless, the concept felt intimately true to me, somehow resonating within me like a genuine personal experience.
The comfort zone.
We usually take the same path; these streets we know so well that we end up walking them with eyes down on our phone. We always order our favorite meal (the “best in the city”) in a restaurant we already like; and as far as possible, seating at the exact same table. If all goes well at the hairdresser salon the first time, we’ll ask for the same hairdresser to cut our hair at the next occasion. We want to travel the world, but would somehow feel reassured if there could anyone we know at destination.
Admittedly, we rarely end up crossing the line of what we commonly call our “comfort zone”. And if such a semantic appears to be less harsh then having a “reptile syndrome”, it doesn’t change the fact that the concept proves to be true.
Extending the concept to the social and professional spheres of life, or even in terms of dietary or consumption habits, it seems that our entire lifestyle is totally conditioned by this unconscious need of security, that is found in what we have already experienced with satisfaction.
Whether invited by a relative, pressured by circumstances or for the sake of curiosity, we sometime step out of our comfort zone. Here is a little story:
A friend returning from Ethiopia invites me to an Ethiopian restaurant to tell me about his trip there. I follow his recommendations and order a Mesir Wat. I experiment a new (and delicious) delicacy and wonder why I haven’t ever tried this restaurant before, although located one street away from the one I take everyday to go to work. I wonder how I simply managed to never see it…
The next day, ready to give up a couple of minutes if need be, I decide to walk that new street to go to work and coincidentally, stumble upon Selam, the owner of the Ethiopian restaurant, whom I met the day before. We engage a quick chat: I thank him again for yesterday’s meal. He suggests I try another meal, another time – chances are I’ll order a Mesir Wat again though… This encounter and that thought make me smile.
Back on track, I walk towards the office, eyes wide open: the sky is blue. This street is charming: or does it seem so simple because it’s new to me? I paid attention to the people coming my way: most of them had “their eyes down on their phone”: do I look that silly myself everyday? I see someone smiling. That makes two smiles already, added to that new one, that makes three in a morning. I like it. My gaze falls on a tiny coffee shop. Strange, I never heard of it. I’m actually a couple of minutes ahead of schedule: I order a coffee. Drifting away, I have thoughts about my friend’s trip in Ethiopia, Selam’s kindness and his smile. I think I’d like to go to Ethiopia this winter!...
This little story could sound meaningless, but for having decided - and it really is a decision - to live my life open to what it has to offer and what may come rather than to repeating things I know already, I can really claim that starting by “letting our curiosity wonder in the street” is everything but a futile decision.
At first, what comes out of the process seems like mere coincidences… but one step at a time, we actually end up realizing through direct experience, that something much deeper is unrolling.
As Deepak Chopra rightfully said: “When you live your life with an appreciation of coincidences and their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite possibilities. This is when the magic begins.”
Freedom from the known.
Looking at all this in a very profound way and actually considering it as an essential aspect of life, Krisnamurti claims that this famous “comfort zone” is actually nothing more than a state of mental confinement. That in order to elevate ourselves, each and every one of us ought to brake free from it. His book “freedom from the known” has radically changed my entire perception of my own life and I truly believe that this book, if only for the questions raised by the philosopher, can be an immense source of inspiration and is worth reading for anyone questioning Life, and his own.
Another related coincidence: Paul (cofounder of U2GUIDE) and I shared that “bedside book” before we met a decade ago
Interestingly, many of Krishnamurti’s concepts and theories are being corroborated by modern philosophy related to personal development (Eckhart Tolle…) or being used during management / coaching sessions aiming at facilitating the ability to cross our comfort zone. Within companies that often need to change and adapt rapidly, the capacity to change of their staff is a major and very burning subject.
A journey outside the beaten paths.
All that being said, it appears to me that “letting our curiosity wonder in the street” (and eventually in the rest of the world) is the simplest and most recreational way to fight against that reptile syndrome, especially during travel; at one additional condition to not only travel through the local restaurants’ menus but to actually make sure to spend some time with local people. To let your curiosity free to wonder, if only for the time of your trip.
We have created U2GUIDE so you could serenely experiment it; while at the same time contributing to social changes in the country you visit… country which won’t ask before changing you!
Warmly and wishing you all the possible Freedom.
picture resource: http://1213online.org/comfort-zone-danger-zone.html