Thoughts on Courage

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“The word courage is derived from the French word for heart, couer, and it means ‘the ability to stand by one’s heart or to stand by one’s core.’ Whenever we exhibit courage, we demonstrate the healing power of paying attention to what has heart and meaning for us.” ~ Angeles Arrien

I’ve always loved that definition because it acknowledges that the heart is a source of strength. It helps me in valuing the wisdom of my emotions and encourages me to be lion-hearted in times of fear. It reminds me to let go and embrace vulnerability; to let others see my flaws. It helps me to keep showing up to life, over and over. Courage can be softly spoken when turning toward the unthinkable. As the voice of our heart becomes louder, our courage can bloom.

Most people I know don’t intend to be courageous, it just seems to happen. I see it when people come to a yoga class. In spite of their fear, they have listened to their hearts and placed themselves in a vulnerable situation. There is fear that the body may not be able to move in a reliable way, our sense of competition arises, we may be uncomfortable with silence, or we may feel unsafe. I believe that safe boundaries must be held for students and they must always have choices of how to approach yoga. Once that safety has been established and relaxation happens, we realize that no one is keeping score and we can drop the barriers to being ourselves. That’s when the true yoga practice begins. I’ve noticed that it takes about 3-4 weeks to move into a sense of comfort with oneself, and often a sense of joy and relief takes over. Healing happens in small steps until one day we look up and we’re in a new place where we’ve recovered a deeper sense of power.

Patti and I held a half-day retreat at the Bywater Hollow Lavender Farm a few weeks ago. We were in a beautiful lavender field, birds were in flight, soft wind brushed our faces, and springtime hills surrounded us. In spite of this, we were aware that some of us were out of our comfort zone. How would we all manage an outdoor yoga class, an hour-long mindfulness practice, and a social time of a shared meal? I saw that it took courage for all of us to take this step into the unknown. Soon, a feeling of safety surrounded us with the lovely environment, the comfort of familiar people, gentle practices, and sweet fellowship in a shared picnic. We all left with a feeling of accomplishment, relaxed from the day and proud that we had done something significant.

I honor each person who makes the decision to take a risk and step into a class with other people. How much easier it is to stay home and seek distraction! However, if you believe, as I do, that part of our job in being on the planet is to learn as much as you can for your soul’s evolution, then the choices become easier. We may think that we’re stretching our hamstrings, shoulders and neck in yoga class, but there’s a lot more going on; we’re learning patience, reinforcing our courage, sharing laughter, and moving into grace and self-forgiveness. We’re honing our inner strength. We’re exercising our choices and supporting our will. We are finding new ways to heal and inviting joy in the face of the unknown. We are letting our courageous hearts shine.

Susan Whitaker About Susan Whitaker

Susan is the owner of Canyon Spirit Yoga Center in Auburn, Ca. and primary yoga instructor at Wellness Within. She has Yoga teaching certifications from Kripalu Center and Integrative Yoga Therapy. Susan continues to teach and study in the areas of yoga therapy, creating individual practices, and yoga as a healing art.

Comments

  1. Diane Giuliani Diane Giuliani says:

    Beautifully said Susan! Thank you!

  2. Janet Johnston says:

    Susan, I appreciate the acknowledgement of vulnerability in joining with others. This may sound silly to extroverts who engage more easily with the world. However, for some of us, gathering even for a lovely yoga and mindfulness class is a stretch (pun intended). When I do extend myself, I am actually claiming that I have something to offer as well as receive. This feels like a challenge at times but it’s important to challenge the old belief that what I bring into the world isn’t important. I’ve stayed home many times, defeated by fear of joining in. Thank you for addressing the courage participation can take.

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