My husband and I went to our weekly appointment at 4pm. My midwife, Annie, told us that my water bag was bulging out of my cervix and that I was at 4.5cm and that the baby could be coming basically anytime. My blood pressure was a little high as usual and I used my Hypnobirthing breathing skills to work to calm my anxiety and by the end of my appointment, my BP came down enough to allow me to go home.
After leaving my appointment, my waves began immediately. I was able to go home and relax and spend time with my husband and our 5 year old daughter who had been patiently awaiting on her baby sister’s arrival. We ate dinner and relaxed. At this point, my surges were 8-9 minutes apart and I was still unsure if this was actual labor or not. What I did know is that with each wave, I would have to stop all that I was doing and focus on breathing through them using my Hypnobirthing skills. I closed my eyes, shut out the world and focused on breathing and relaxation. The wave would end and I would go about my evening.
The surges continued to get stronger and stronger and by 6pm they were every 6 to 7 minutes. By 7:30 they were coming around every 4-5 minutes. I went and soaked in the tub and they still didn't subside. I got out and decided to contact my midwife. We agreed to be in touch within and hour so I could labor at home for as long as possible.
By this time, I felt that we needed to get our daughter settled for the night and my husband took her to my sister’s house. She and I both got emotional saying goodbye. It was hitting me that she was no longer going to be “the only one” and that made me feel sad in a way, as she is the center of my universe. She told me she was going to miss me. Luke took her and I stayed and labored on the bed.
I was not comfortable in any position really. I tried my side, squatting, draped over the end of the bed, on all fours, walking, bath, etc. Most positions made the ligaments in my pelvic area hurt more. The only place I had felt comfortable and had relief from contractions was on the toilet…where every pregnant momma spends half her life! Seated there, it relieved so much pressure and allowed me to open my hips in the most comfortable way.
My husband tried so hard to be super supportive and encourage me to breathe but I just kept getting so frustrated with him. It’s hard to accept help from your husband, while very loving and kind, just is not a feelings and emotions kind of person. I feel bad for that now because I know that he wanted to be helpful. I also wish that I had considered my need to have nonverbal support more from him, which I believe would have felt more natural coming from him. Looking back, I know that if my labor had not been so intense and so fast, and we had been at the hospital sooner (our final destination) I may have been able to use my skills and accept his support more and verbalize what I needed him to do differently.
Shortly after this, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom and had some bleeding. Then the surges started to get way more regular and more intense. My surges were very unmanageable at this point. I was unable to talk through them and I could feel my body getting ready to have this baby. With each wave I went within myself; I shut my eyes, breathed and focused on relaxing. I started to become nauseous and to shake without being able to stop it. I remember thinking that I was really struggling and questioned myself and my abilities to deal with early labor. Little did I know, I was entering into or in transition phase but had no idea that this was it. But I reached back out to Annie and she said it was probably time to get to the hospital.
Trying to get the car was super difficult as the surges were coming 2 to 3 minutes apart. I couldn't walk or talk through them and it took what felt like forever to get to the car. We got to the hospital and for some reason I wouldn't let my husband park in the emergency entrance breezeway and insisted that he park in the farthest spot in the parking lot. I stopped to have surges on the way that were coming nearly back to back at this point.
We found a wheelchair at the front door and I sat in it reluctantly. We wheeled into registry and I couldn't even open my eyes and look at the lady because the waves were so intense and I couldn't control my body. I continued to practice my breathing and tried to compose myself but my mind and body were on their own path. In fact, trying to hold back my moans and groans during this time was almost painful. The hospital staff must've known I was nearing delivery because another woman immediately escorted us back to labor and delivery. The doors opened Annie was there waiting in her green scrubs. Thank goodness! I felt a wave of relief rush over me but the surges did not let up.
We got to our room and the nurses were there waiting. Annie wanted me to get changed into my gown. I was trying to make jokes but it was obvious that I was trying to hold it together. I could barely walk because the surges were super intense and rocked through my whole body. These felt different than what I had been experiencing and I literally had no break in between them. I kept my eyes shut most of the time trying to focus as much as possible and to breath through each wave as it came over my body.
I went to the bathroom to change and immediately started having the most intense surge. My soft moaning had turned into full blown groaning and loud carnal vocalizations. Annie came into the bathroom to support me through the wave by applying pressure to my low back and reminding me to breathe because at this point, even that had become a lot to handle. I moaned and groaned and I just wanted to swear so bad! In fact, I think I did more than I should’ve throughout the entire process.
The wave passed and I thought I had time to sit down and use the restroom so Annie left the room. I had just enough time to pull my pants down and kick of my shoes and almost immediately, another wave came. Remember what I said about the toilet??? Annie came in right away and knew that the baby was coming. She helped by reminding to breath in and out. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me like that gasping feeling you get…but as Annie reminded me to breathe, I thought of baby and that she needed it too and sucked in air. Just breathing in that moment was one of the most difficult things to do, so simple, but so hard.
I was still sitting on the toilet and started to feel the most intense pressure and odd sensation in my birth path. I felt the baby descending and with that I also felt my body instinctually want to help this along. Annie told me I needed to tilt my pelvis so she could see what was happening and continued to remind me to breathe. I took an inward breath and as I exhaled with a loud groan, I could feel my body gently and naturally push the baby out at the end of the breath. I cannot remember how many breaths or surges it took to deliver the head but I know that it came out. Annie told me later that I naturally I lifted my bottom off the toilet to prevent the baby from falling into it and she caught her. She immediately placed the baby in my lap and I held her there on the toilet. I remember hearing the nurses talk about cutting the cord and I was able to tell them that I wanted to delay clamping and they graciously respected that. My husband was there to take pictures and be with us while I sat on the toilet loving our sweet, tiny baby.
Our sweet girl was coming and she was coming and coming fast and there was nothing that we could do to stop her. My body knew what it was doing and found a place to do it in that was most comfortable, even if that happened to be the toilet. I later learned that Annie had sent Luke to get the nurses to come back to the room, that she asked for gloves and never had time to put them on and that she had to break my water as the baby was coming en caul.
Looking back, I am in shock at what the body can do. I can't believe I just gave birth so quickly and so easily. But it was also so so so hard. This may not be the ideal Hypnobirth to some. It was a little chaotic; I swore like a pirate, I was not as calm as you see in some of the videos; it was fast, and unpredictable. But here is what I also know…I was in control, I felt supported by my husband, I had a midwife who cared and showed me nothing but kindness, respect and true value to the birthing process, I felt like I had a say in how I birthed my baby which was one of the most exhilarating, empowering and difficult things that I will ever do in my entire life! I know that I would not have been able to handle this process the way that I did without Hypnobirthing and the skills I obtained throughout the learning process. Also, to compare this birth to the birth of my 5 year old…there really are no words, just feelings. This birth was healing to emotional trauma that I sustained with my first daughter where I had no control, no power and was entirely uneducated.
Rory Jaye Nichols was born on March 9, 2017 weighing 6lbs 5oz, 18.5in long. I went into labor around 4:30pm and labored at home until we left our house at 9:45. We walked into the hospital room at 9:57 and she was born at 10:02pm.
Looking back at the birth of my first child, Lucy, I see how unprepared I was for her birthing experience. I was a very fit woman and had practiced meditation and relaxation techniques as well as yoga for a number of years and so I felt very prepared to bring my first baby into this world. It was to be a great and peaceful event that would be deeply spiritual and not too sweaty! Of course, despite all my efforts, the actual birthing experience was quite different to this and ended up being way out of my control. Although I had a strong mind and body and some great relaxation techniques, none of my preparation had been birth specific!!!
Birth specific preparation is the KEY to an enjoyable and empowering birthing experience. My first birthing experience, although not the birthing experience that I wished to have, left me with a great sense of personal strength, will and achievement… and a great desire to create an effective guide for all women approaching their own birthing experience that would prepare them for their journey ahead.
The birth of my second child, Jacob, was testament to my efforts. His birthing was an incredibly peaceful, joyful and non-sweaty journey. I did great preparation for his birthing experience based on the lessons I had learnt from Lucy’s birth. I immersed myself in the strategies that I have offered to you in this journal, the rituals, the celebration of his coming and practiced birth specific meditations daily… and his journey into this world was better than I could have ever imagined!
In the lead up to Jacobs’ birth, I attended Karen's Hypnobirthing course which I found invaluable with its’ focus on fear release and its’ birthing specific relaxation techniques. I strongly urge any woman approaching birthing to attend Karen's class or a similar course if it is available to them. The techniques are very effective and can be applied to any area of life following the birth of your child. As part of this course, I was encouraged to focus my attention daily on my vision of an ‘ideal’ birthing experience.
I spent time establishing in my mind what this experience might be. I could see the birth happening step by step in my mind. I would have some mild contractions that I would feel across my belly. When I felt these, it would trigger a deep sense of relaxation and opening. My waters would break and it would be a beautiful moment affirming my opening and my baby’s head would gently drop right down into my pelvis to release hormones of deep contraction matched by deep relaxation and endorphins. I would gently tap my husbands wrist when I had a contraction so that he would know where I was at and could assist me with applying pressure on acupressure points at my sacrum. My birthing Doula Karen would be there to offer her wisdom and guidance to myself and my partner when required, this way we had no questions or fears in our minds of whether what was happening was meant to happen or not.
We would be in a hospital where medical assistance was there if we needed it, but other than that, it would be just myself, my husband, our Doula, midwife and our emerging baby. Everything would be peaceful and after a couple of relaxed pushes, our beautiful baby would be wrapped up in my arms and breastfeeding to help the birthing of the placenta. The cord would be cut when its’ pulse stopped as a sign that both our bodies were ready for separation.
In the final weeks leading up to the birthing experience, I took a little time to do my own ‘Birthing Vision Quest Meditation’. This was a pivotal moment in my pregnancy as in my meditation, I discovered that my son’s birthing experience was not a task that I was to endure totally by myself… in my meditation, I found myself standing at the pinnacle of a rocky mountain, surveying a vast wilderness bellow me that stretched out to a wild sea in the distance. I could feel a soft warm and sweet breeze caressing my skin and gently playing with my hair.
I saw that this birthing experience was to be one that would require greater strength than that which I possessed within. For the birthing experience that I desired, I would need to call upon and connect with the energies of Mother Nature herself and for her strength to combine with my own. I needed to firmly root my feet into the earth for grounding and harmony. I needed to connect with the mother natures gentle breeze that would carry the winds of change through me so that I might release all my fears as they arose to remain serene.
I needed to focus on the warmth of the sun, the strength of the sea and the vital energy that is mother earth and allow myself to fill with this energy. By doing this, my birthing experience would be the natural, serene and empowering experience that I wanted it to be.
I saw myself, standing in this place, as strong as the rock I was standing on. I asked the universe to bless me with my perfect birthing experience and as if to say yes, in return a soft breeze again gently caressed my body and soothed its fingers through my hair.
I had been having practice contractions for about 3 weeks. They were gentle contractions that I just took as a cue for practicing the deep relaxation techniques I had chosen to use. The day of my sons’ birth, was no different to this. I was out with my husband in the late morning and had some practice contractions that were gentle and relaxing. They stayed very gentle but started to happen a little more regularly. We called Karen our Doula while we were out and she offered to come over for a short visit to see how I was doing. When she arrived, not much had changed, just lovely, relaxing surges every couple of minutes that felt nothing more than a mild tightening across my belly. As we sat in my living room I felt a funny sensation at my cervix kind of like a thin rubber band stretching and snapping lightly and my waters broke. I was surprised as water gushed out onto the sofa (and my new dress) !
Karen confirmed that all was good with my waters. I changed into something drier, and was exhilarated as I put on my headphones to listen to my birthing meditation that played on a continuous loop. My husband wanted to head straight to the hospital, and although I felt that we were hours off any arrival, as the tightenings were so incredibly mild, I agreed to go along so that his mind could be at ease.
It felt beautiful driving along the freeway with the breeze rushing over my skin, my eyes closed and my total focus on deep calm. I was totally in my own world, just me and my baby.
With each surge of tightening across my belly, my relaxation deepened and more waters poured out as great confirmation that I was opening more and more. By the time we reached the birthing centre, waves of deep contraction were washing over me but every time were matched by waves of endorphins and I relaxed more and more deeply into each wave. The only person who could tell I was having contractions at all was my husband. As we entered the birthing suite, I saw a birth mat leant up against the wall and was overtaken by a primal birthing urge… charged over to the mat and threw it down onto the floor and knelt onto it. Leaning over a bean bag, I changed positions a couple of times as the waves became more intense. My Doula guided me into each perfect position and my husband pressed on the pressure points on my sacrum, all providing the perfect relief so that I could remain focussed on my deep relaxation.
Only two contractions right before my babies head crowned were intense enough to distract me from my bliss at which time my Doula looked me straight in the eyes and simply said “look at me” as she took a deep breath and I followed her cue. This brought me back to my place of bliss and control. We moved me into a squatting position as my babies head crowned.
One minute of deep breathing as I breathed my baby down and out barely pushing myself at all, my body did all the work with each surge. My midwife entered the room, I remember, during this minute, looking out the window to a forest of trees and seeing the breeze gently swaying their leaves and branches. I connected with their deep rooted strength and with that thought pushed my baby down and out. In the next moment he was lying on the floor in front of me and I placed my hand on his tummy and chest and said “hi there little one”. We had done it. We were both good and strong.
My husband held our baby boy as I birthed the placenta. All up the labour had been about 3 hours, with just 2 strong contractions. I felt totally energized and blissed out. I showered and then sat clean and relaxed, breastfeeding my newborn and his older sister at the same time.
There had been no yelling, or barely any talking, no sweating or gasping, just beautiful, serene and gentle birthing. I was exhilarated, and my family was complete.
Answering the Call
Your destiny may be waiting for you, but whether or not you meet your destiny is up to you.
There are those of us who believe that our lives are predestined and that we should resign ourselves to our lots in life. Yet the truth is that it is up to each one of us to decide what that destiny will be. While each of us is born with a life purpose, it is up to us whether or not we will say yes to fulfilling it. And just like when we choose what to eat, who to keep company with, and whether to turn right or left when we leave our home everyday, choosing to say yes to your destiny is a decision that can only be realized when you take action to make that choice a reality.
Whether you believe it is your destiny to be a parent, an adventurer, an artist, a pioneer, or a spiritual guru, saying yes to your destiny is only the first step. While manifesting your destiny starts with knowing what you want and believing you can attain your goals, there are then the actions that must be taken and the decisions to be made before your destiny can truly happen. When you take responsibility for fulfilling your destiny and begin acting with the intention of doing so, you not only take fate into your own hands, but also you become the hands of your own fate. Doorways inevitably open for you to step through, and every choice you make can be a creative act toward realizing your goals and dreams. You begin to follow your instincts and intuition, recognize opportunities when they are presented to you, and seize those golden moments. You also begin to recognize the decisions that may not serve this greater picture and can more easily push them aside.
Remembering that the decision to fulfill your destiny is always a choice can be empowering. Knowing you are fulfilling your destiny because you want to, rather than because you have to, can make a huge difference. When you are freed from obligation, obstacles in your way become challenges to be overcome, and the journey becomes an adventure rather than the obligatory steps you are being forced to take. Your destiny may be waiting for you, but whether or not you meet your destiny is up to you. Your fate is in your hands.
As promised we are just dropping you a line to let you know that the birth of our daughter Kessie Amber went without a hitch. I began in labour, having surges 10 minutes apart about one hour after having a membrane sweep on 23rd February, this continued until about 3am on Friday 25th. At this point the frequency and intensity increased and we went in to the hospital at around 4 am. Between Wednesday and Friday I applied the techniques you taught us and used the CDs to help me relax enough to get some rest during the night which was amazing really. Established labour went really well and Mike said how relaxed I remained throughout. We opted for the birthing pool and hoped for a water birth but as it turned out baby wouldn't turn the corner and I had to find different positions to try and help her out. Kessie was born at 17.21 on 25th February at a really healthy 7lb 15oz and measuring 51cm in length. She was totally calm throughout the whole experience as demonstrated each time her heartbeat was monitored, she was so relaxed! We are convinced that this is all down to the techniques we all learnt together which were invaluable. The midwives were amazing and supportive and regularly commented on how calm and relaxed we remained during the birthing experience. Although the end was hard and I had to rely on Mike to keep me focused and help me through the final stages, as I was becoming exhausted, the arrival of Kessie was brilliant. I was lucky enough to avoid episiotomy or tearing and recovery has been very quick, we think that our relaxation helped with this.
We are all very chilled out and relaxed and want to thank you for all your help and support in the days leading up to Kessie’s arrival. Many Thanks
Liz, Mike and Kessie
Elizabeth and Claire
I decided to look into hypno-birthing techniques when I got pregnant with my second child. My first labour and birth were the result of an induction which left me feeling out of control and vulnerable, so I was determined to have a better experience the second time round. I attended Karen's hypnobirth class when I was about 7 months pregnant and found it so refreshing to hear a positive attitude towards birth – and that it could be a natural, empowering process!
I used all the material Karen gave me and did some of the recommended reading, the CD in particular helped me to relax and remain calm during the later stages of my pregnancy.
One phrase from the CD that did stick in my head was “birthing your baby on the day that you choose”, and I kept thinking about the 4th of July – but dismissed it due to it being a memorable day -independence day. However Claire decided to be born on the 4th of July which astounded me!!
When I did go into labour I was in denial that this was really it, as the sensations felt too comfortable and easy to bear unlike my other labour. I focused on my breathing and used the relaxation techniques to see me through each surge.
As my labour progressed it felt very natural and that I was in control at all times. I could hardly believe it when I got to the birth centre and realized I would be soon meeting my baby.
The atmosphere in the birth room was very calm, with flameless candles and my relaxation music playing in the background. Getting into the birth pool was pure bliss!! I just let my body take over and do what it knew how to, and after only a couple of hours Claire was born! I still couldn’t believe it was that easy and my baby was finally here. She was so calm and perfect, and I remember how alert this tiny baby was, taking in her new world, my midwife had to reassure me that she was OK as she wasn’t distressed or crying at all!
I found the whole experience amazing and felt so empowered, all thanks to the techniques I learned from the hypnobirthing course. I am now a firm believer in the power of our minds and bodies, and that natural birth really is possible. Thanks to Karen and her this class for empowering me to have such a calm and positive birth experience! I have already recommended the course to other pregnant friends.
Clearing Your Mind
BY MADISYN TAYLOR
The more we practice settling our minds, the easier it will become over time.
After a full day out in the world, stories, words, images, and songs from any number of sources continue to play in our heads hours after we encounter them. Even as we lie in bed, in the quiet dark, our minds continue noisily processing all the input from our day. This can leave us feeling unsettled and harassed. It also makes it difficult to take in any new information or inspiration. Like a cluttered house that needs to be cleared if it is to have room for movement and new life, our minds need clearing if they are to be open to new information, ideas, and inspiration.
Too often, the activities we choose to help us relax only add to the clutter. Watching television, seeing a movie, reading a book, or talking to a friend all involve taking in more information. In order to really clear our minds, we need a break from mental stimulation. Activities like yoga, dancing, or taking a long walk help to draw our attention to our bodies, slowing our mental activity enough that our minds begin to settle. Deep breathing is an even simpler way to draw attention away from our mental activities. Once we are mentally relaxed, we can begin the process of clearing our minds. Most of us instinctively know what allows our minds to relax and release any unnecessary clutter. It may be meditation or time spent staring at the stars. Whatever it is, these exercises feel like a cool, cleansing bath for the brain and leave our minds feeling clear and open.
Setting aside time to clear our minds once a day creates a ritual that becomes second nature over time. Our minds will begin to settle with less effort the more we practice. Ultimately, the practice of clearing our minds allows us to be increasingly more open so that we can perceive the world as the fresh offering it is, free of yesterday's mental clutter.
Remember those commercials from the 1990s that fried an egg and said, “This is your brain on drugs?” Well, there needs to be a new version of those commercials that say, “This is your brain on breastfeeding,” but instead of frying an egg there are fireworks or images of Supergirl or something. Because awesome things happen to your brain while you breastfeed, from hormonal shifts to literal new pathways being formed. Not only does breastfeeding facilitate bonding, but it has permanent changes on the makeup of your brain. Whoa.
We already knew that breast milk itself was amazing. (Did you know that it changes every single day, based on the dietary and antibody needs of your baby?) But breastfeeding itself is also pretty incredible. Immense changes occur in the brain of a person who is nursing — so many changes, in fact, that Katherine Ellison wrote an entire book on the neurology of breastfeeding, called The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. I was pretty doubtful of this claim, since what I remember most about early motherhood was feeling totally scattered and not being able to remember anything. But the research is solid, bountiful, and proves breastfeeding works magic on your brain.
1. You Release Fewer Stress HormonesBreastfeeding can actually reduce your level of stress by inhibiting the release of stress hormones. A research team led by Margaret Altemus, a professor at Cornell University, had lactating and non-lactating women walk on a treadmill and measured their levels of stress hormones. The researchers found the lactating women released half the amount of stress hormones, compared to non-lactating women. Other studies back this up. They concluded that “stress-responsive neurohormonal systems are restrained in lactating women.” So basically, you’re chill af when you’re nursing.
2. You Experience Less Fear and Anxiety
In addition to feeling less stressed out, breastfeeding brains may also be less anxious. Oxytocin is a hormone released in the brains of breastfeeding humans. In a 2005 study in the Journal of Neuroscience, oxytocin was found to lessen fear and anxiety by reducing activation of the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for responses to fear. Who needs Xanax when you have nursing?
3. You Become Braver
Prolactin, nicknamed ‘the parenting hormone’ due to its role in lactation, may actually be the reason you’re willing to put your life on the line to protect your baby. Inga Neumann, a neurobiologist out of Germany who has participated in some of the only research of prolactin in humans, explains in The Mommy Brain that in the brain, prolactin makes animals braver, and even more likely to risk their lives. It turns out that there is a biological explanation for why nursing parents will do seemingly anything to protect their baby.
3. Your Pleasure Circuits Switch On
Hormonal interactions between oxytocin and dopamine work to turn off negative emotions and switch on pleasure circuits that produce feelings of exhilaration (dopamine) and attachment (oxytocin). I’m into that.
4. Increased EmpathyBreastfeeding makes you better at interpreting social cues, due in part to the oxytocin release. Oxytocin results in improved recall for positive social memories, happy faces in particular. Breastfeeding also apparently improves “mind-reading” in humans. If only nursing made you actually psychic. I’d probably never stop if that were the case.
5. Increased Responses To Your Baby’s CriesResearchers have found that breastfeeding mothers are more sensitive to the sound of their babies' cries than non-breastfeeding mothers. Maternal brain researcher Pilyoung Kim told The Atlantic, that "breastfeeding mothers show a greater level of [brain] responses to baby's cry compared with formula-feeding mothers in the first month postpartum."
6. The Entire Map of Your Brain Gets Replotted“Studies on animals strongly suggest that breastfeeding re-plots the map of the brain,” notes The Mommy Brain. And in 1994, two neuroscientists out of the University of California showed that in the cortex of a mother rat, the area devoted to the chest of the animal doubled in size while the rat was nursing. The researchers believe the same thing happens in humans.
7. Your Brain Changes ForeverOnce you stop breastfeeding, evidence seems to suggest that your brain is never the same as it was. Scientists believe that permanent changes occur, and have evidence to back up that hypothesis. This evidence is presented in depth in The Mommy Brain, which cites research showing that humans and other mammals respond more readily to their second baby than to their first. It indicates that we become “better” at being parents the more that we do it, not because practice makes perfect, but because our brains actually learn how to parent.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
BY MADISYN TAYLORYour current comfort zone has served you, but it represents your behaviors and patterns from your past.
None of us are born with a guidebook that provides explicit rules for thought and behavior that will enable us to navigate life successfully. To cope with the myriad of complexities to which all of humanity is subject, we each develop a set of habits and routines that ground us, their continuity assuring us that life is progressing normally. Most of us know, whether instinctively or by experience, that transformations can be uncomfortable, but we always learn and gain so much. Any initial discomfort we experience when expanding our comfort zones diminishes gradually as we both become accustomed to change and begin to understand that temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the evolution of our soul.
Your current comfort zone did, at one time, serve a purpose in your life. But it is representative of behaviors and patterns of thought that empowered you to cope with challenges of days past. Now, this comfort zone does little to facilitate the growth you wish to achieve in the present. Leaving your comfort zone behind through personal expansion of any kind can prepare you to take the larger leaps of faith that will, in time, help you refine your purpose. Work your way outward at your own pace, and try not to let your discomfort interfere with your resolve. With the passage of each well-earned triumph, you will have grown and your comfort zone will have expanded to accommodate this evolution.
Whether your comfort zone is living with your parents, or perhaps being too shy to socialize, or maybe it's not realizing your spirit self--whatever it is, start small, and you will discover that venturing beyond the limited comfort zone you now cling to is not as stressful an experience as you imagined it might be. And the joy you feel upon challenging yourself in this way will nearly always outweigh your discomfort. As you continue to expand your comfort zone to include new ideas, activities, goals, and experiences, you will see that you are capable of stimulating change and coping with the fresh challenges that accompany it.