“What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?”
A family friend told me she’d been asked this question and it stuck with her for weeks. She reviewed the reels of her memory looking for scenes when she showed courage. She started to see herself through a new lens and was sort of impressed. In retrospect, she thought her boldest move might have been marrying the love her life and becoming a mother to his three small children. Yep. That sounds pretty daring.
What about you? What’s your bravest thing? Was it when you fessed up or leapt in? Did you defend someone, audition, enlist? When did you face danger, feel afraid and vulnerable, and take action anyway? Maybe your heroism made the evening news, or maybe it was the stand you took in a nearly forgotten playground showdown.
Perhaps you once stepped through an opening high on a cliff wall, landed on an invisible bridge then proceeded safely, against all odds, to the Holy Grail.
Or at least you kept your eyes open as Indiana Jones took that big-screen leap of faith. Why do we love movies and stories about courage? Probably for the same reason our own acts of bravery deserve a closer look. They let us see and feel what we love most of all.
Slow down for a bit and take this mind/body tour of fear and valor. It can make your life feel as amazing as a Hollywood happy ending.
Step 1) Recall a time when you were very brave and feel how it felt in your body when you decided to take the risk. You were probably very alert and aware of your own strengths, skills and resources, such as they were. Right under that, was the feeling of surrender. There was an instant when you and your body realized you couldn’t know or control how this situation was going to turn out, but you still stepped forward.
Step 2) Dwell in the surrender. That moment when you released your grip on your own fate is an elusive spiritual state. Everyone who’s anyone in the Who’s Who of enlightenment talks about surrender as the key to the serious kingdom-of-heaven-type goods. As far as I can tell, this state of surrender is indeed like the Holy Grail, so go exploring in the sampling of surrender moments you’ve experienced so far. Travel the neural pathways that light up when you let go.
Step 3) Identify why you took the risk. What were you willing to fight for? Was it for love? Was it to express or create something? Were you a mama-bear protecting your young? Did you simply crave adventure and need to feel alive? Was it for honor? Truth? What was more important to you than comfort and safety? What’s so great about that thing? What is its essence?
Step 4) Locate that wonderful essential thing in you. For instance, we protect children in part because we value their fresh eyes on the wonders of the world and their discovery of their own unique selves as they grow. That’s a fine reminder to enjoy the wonder, discovery and unique beauty in ourselves. Whatever you hold dear is a reflection of a quality from within. Find it. Admire, adore and delight in it.
Step 5) Mix them together. As you walk, daydream or drift off to sleep let your awareness rest at the place where surrender meets the qualities you value most. Picture a tight-fisted grip at the center of your chest releasing and opening to hold the treasures of your beautiful life.
There you go. Cue the theme song. Roll the credits. Dry your eyes and bask in the glory of it all. Practice your Oscar acceptance speech. You can hum along in the buzz of this lovely space until some new challenge comes along and you get to play out another adventure—one that leads you right back to yourself.
You’ll be ready for it. You’ve got courage galore. Now you just need a cool nickname, like Indie.
(cool nickname suggestions welcome)