Courage: Take the Plunge
Practise courage on your mat. It makes facing risks and challenging situations easier in life.
Courage is a heart word and is my word for 2018. Each year, sometimes for longer if required, I like to have a word to guide my decisions, and to help me to move in unknown and new directions usually ones I would not normally travel, paths I yearn to travel yet I am held back by fear of the unknown. Yet the unknown surely is only the unknown until you go there, dip your toes in and with courage take the plunge, the head first plunge, the no going back plunge.
Courage is a heart word and flavours actions we undertake in our daily lives which are not necessarily heroic or brave like Vikings on the battle field but actions and decisions we make each day to radically change our lives and step up to reveal our true nature. There are and always will be situations when we feel terrified, scared, painfully vulnerable, fragile and utterly unsure of what is going to happen next. Times of loss or pain like when we are really ill, made redundant from our job and wonder how we will keep a roof over our head perhaps recovering form the loss of a partner or child someone you loved deeply. This is often when we have no other choice but to rise up and act. Often hard times are when we step up and be our bravest self. After all there is nothing very brave or courageous about doing something that we are not afraid of or that we have a pretty good idea of what will happen.Yet these moments when we step up take courage we are actively choosing to allow ourselves to be vulnerable exposed, open to criticism, failure and rejection either form ourselves or others.
Courage is heart word and for me it means to live from your heart in a brave way embracing love and compassion to move beyond your fear. I love this interpretation from Brene Brown – I thought it was just me: Women reclaiming power and courage in a culture of shame.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the latin for heart. in one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.’ Over time this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognise the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”
The courage that Brene Brown refers to as “ordinary courage” is surely our daily life courage. For me, ordinary courage is the courageous course we embark on when we fall in love, say you are sorry, be with a grieving friend, share your writing, your art and tell the truth without being unkind. There is no guarantee of safety with creativity, intimacy, no risk free road to falling in love, being authentic and living with integrity, no guarantee when we choose to live from the heart yet to not embrace these daily acts of courage surely is to live half a life or a life barely lived. Everyday courage requires us to speak from our heart to live in away that is big hearted, whole hearted, filled with compassion and kindness. Courage is innate in us all just look at little babies vulnerable, dependent and trusting that all will be well, courage is there in us from day one. It appears as we get older our life experiences teach us to protect ourselves from the unknown, the scary, to go out of our way to avoid rejection, failure and criticism and before you know it we have forgotten how to be brave.
Courage is a heart word and it takes heart to get onto your mat and practise everyday regardless of whether you are tired, unwell, unmotivated, just not in the mood when the sofa and a bowl of ice cream seems more appealing. My practise shows me where I am tense, and how to see beyond this tension to the fear that lies behind it, what I want to shine light on to open up, expose and to look honestly at even if painful. Each time, the practise reminds me to trust my breath, to trust my body just long enough to allow me to peel back the layers of protective tension and reveal my buddha nature, true self, my ordinary courage – calm, peaceful, brave. Yoga reminds me over and over again that is okay to take risks, explore that handstand, transition in a new and interesting way, try new poses, new teachers, to fall over in an arm balance – it’s all okay. In fact, trying out small acts of courage on my mat gives me space to ask myself honestly ‘What am I feeling?’,’Is this fear holding me back?’
Courage is a heart word and yoga teaches me to have courage to draw strength from my connection to my breath, to my body, to the ground below me, to the people I teach and those I practise with. This is big hearted living, living from our inner strength and with compassion, understanding and kindness. I have the tools from yoga practice as Brene Brown says to speak honestly and openly about my experiences on and off the mat. A willingness to practise is in it self an act of bravery and practising small acts of courage on your mat is a guaranteed way to find that grit, that inner strength, that courage when you need it in life.