Tag Archives: Brave

#reverb13: Day Three

reverb13
Two of today’s prompts are really about the same thing for me, have the same answer. They are “Brave: What was the bravest thing you did in 2013?” and “What storm did you weather in 2013?” The storm I weathered and the bravest thing I did are the same: Dexter’s cancer and eventual death. I stayed with him when he was sick, was as present for every moment we had left together as I could manage, cared for him the best I could and eventually let him go, was there with him when he died. Even going on a walk sometimes I had to be brave — he might have a fit of reverse sneezing, give himself a nosebleed, one that I couldn’t stop, even a stroke was possible with his particular kind of cancer. At any moment, something could happen that would lead to the end of things, to a level of suffering that was too much.

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating: Loving any dog takes courage. In all likelihood, you will outlive them. It might even be your responsibility to make an end of life decision for them. No matter how it happens or when, you won’t be ready, it won’t be okay — and knowing that, you open your heart, invite them into your life anyway, give each beast the power to break your heart wide open. To love a dog, to love anything mortal, knowing you will eventually be separated, that you will ultimately lose them, is the purest form of courage I know. The magic, the medicine is that every time my heart breaks, it expands, gets stronger, and my capacity to love grows with it. Because of my grief, my loss, I have the heart of a warrior, open to both the tenderness and the terror of life.

The third prompt was a beautiful practice shared by Kat, “a life-changing practice I discovered with the help of Rachael Maddox during her gorgeous Do It Meaningfully challenge,” which looks like this,

Each day for 31 days, I sat quietly for a few moments with my eyes closed and my hand on my heart and asked, “Heart: what do you need?” And then I listened. Sometimes the answer cam in the form of a word. Sometimes an image. Sometimes a sensation. Try this today. What does your heart have to tell you?

So I asked my heart, “what do you need?” The response was a rush, a surge of energy. Then I thought of what it feels like to run, dance, stretch and flow through a series of yoga poses, how alive those things make me feel, how present, and then I flashed on what love, happiness, joy feels like, like when I come home from work and Eric and Sam are waiting for me and as I get close enough to the door Eric tells Sam “go see Mom” and he runs out to me, his whole body wiggling, and how good it feels to be all together again. My heart wants that feeling, being fully alive and awake, energized.

Something Good

For those of you who are new to my blog, here’s the story behind my Something Good posts: When I am feeling bad, I will often ask my husband Eric to “tell me something good.” When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad. When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me –”tell me something good.”

He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works. I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” almost 20 years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you? He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”

So on A Thousand Shades of Gray, Monday’s feature is: Something Good. I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things, so every Monday, I give you a list.

Here’s this week’s list:

1. 5 Plants You (Almost) Never Have to Water on House Logic.

2. Stunning Self-Portraits by a 14-year-old Photographer on Bored Panda.

3. Diana Fayt’s Painted Rocks (& Other Lovely Things) from Lisa Congdon.

4. Be Brave: A Poem-Film for Anyone Asking for Courage to Create from Jeffrey Davis.

5. Cute Pets in Windows from Bold Italics, originally shared by Rachel.

6. Reflections on Fearlessness and Best Links (May), a great list of good stuff from Sandra at Always Well Within, (confession: one of my posts is on the list).

7. Reason to Forgive | DubStep, video of a 12 year old who is an amazing dancer.

8. You’re not needy. You’re starving. from Rachel Cole. Amazing.

9. Out of the water from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

10. Patrick Stewart Speaks About His Childhood, Domestic Abuse and PTSD. The woman involved in this specific moment wrote about it on her blog as well, Let me tell you a thing, about an amazing man named Patrick Stewart.

11. This message from Brave Girls Club came just when I needed it,

Dear Sweet Girl,

You don’t have to have special permission to take a break, you know. You have done enough. When you are tired, and weary and feeling worn out, you need to be kind to yourself and take good care of your body and your spirit.

Please be good to yourself, beautiful friend . . . the world is not the same without the best of you. The people that you love the most have better lives because of you and the people you have not even met yet will have enriched lives because of you.

Your life will be better, happier, more effective, more efficient and more meaningful if you stop and take care of yourself. No more putting guilt trips on yourself or letting anyone else do it. No more working yourself so hard that you can’t even feel anymore . . . it’s time to REALLY nurture and take care of yourself. You are a gift to the world, please take care of YOU. Today’s a great day to start.

12. There’s Just No Time from Paul Jarvis, shared by Laura of Create as Folk.

13. Rijks Museum Free Hi-Res Art Downloads shared by Pugly Pixel.

14. Introducing Prancercise, just silly enough to be kind of awesome.

15. Be the Giver from Danielle LaPorte.

16. 9 Rules for a Simpler Day from Zen Habits.

17. What is Your Gift to the World? on Scoutie Girl.

18. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Tigers Above, Tigers Below: There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

19. 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Every Day from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

20. Make Me: Fabric Gift Bags from Decor8.

21. Celebrate and Embrace Ventures and Adventures from Be More with Less.

22. Her Lilac Jacket on SouleMama. The sweetest pictures! This one is my favorite, (her little hand!).

23. Racists Very Upset Over Interracial Family in Cute Cheerios Commercial. The little girl in this commercial is super cute. Someone posted on Facebook last week about this and added, “Whomever has a problem with this better just go buy a white hood right now and be honest with yourself.” I couldn’t agree more.

24. it’s complicated from Sas Petherick. *sigh*

25. Inside the Paris apartment untouched for 70 years: Treasure trove finally revealed after owner locked up and fled at outbreak of WWII.

26. Your Daily Rock from Patti Digh: your daily rock : what would love do?, and your daily rock : just breathe, and your daily rock : you are enough.

27. Name-calling Has Its Place: BED is Now Named as a Distinct Eating Disorder. So what’s in it for you? from Drop it and Eat.

28. Another Origami Fox from How About Orange. I wish I was better at this. I’d be making some of these, (shared by Positively Present).

29. This quote, People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch

peoniesonmydesk02

30. Google Poetics, (shared by Positively Present). “This blog started collecting Google Poems on October 2012 and is run by its founder Sampsa Nuotio and curator Raisa Omaheimo. Google Poetics is born when Google autocomplete suggestions are viewed as poems.” I could get lost in this site for a very, very long time. For example,

pain is temporary
pain is weakness leaving the body
pain is inevitable suffering is optional
pain is love

Or,

I am a disco dancer
I am a dwarf and I’m digging a hole
I am a dynamic figure
I am a dreamer

Pure awesome.

31. Patti Smith, We all have a creative impulse, shared by Susannah on her Something for the Weekend list. The site where this video is posted, Channel Louisiana, has lots of other really cool stuff, if you want to get lost for a little while and haven’t already spent all your time on Google Poetics. Also on Susannah’s list this week was What’s Inside Our “Going Out” Bags.

32. Humans of New York. I’ve shared this site before, but it’s so good, I want to share it again in case you missed it the first time. You can also follow them on Facebook.

33. Issa Rae: Own Your Awkward on The Conversation.

34. From Rowdy Kittens’ Happy Links post: A Revolution of Contentment by Sandra Pawula on the Bridgemaker, and Chic Tiny House in Omaha Nebraska on Air BnB, (the loft beds in tiny houses always make me think of sleeping in a tree house — magic).

35. My Dentist Was Made To Believe I Was Dead And It Made Me Realize Why I Shouldn’t Kill Myself And You Shouldn’t Either on xojane.

36. This wisdom from Marianne Williamson, “The kind of rest you seek you will find not from sleeping but from waking.”

37. This Poster Might Just Change Your Life. by Nicole Duncan on Elephant Journal.

38. This wisdom from Lama Christie McNally, The Tibetan Book of Meditation,

Tibetans say we should do our meditation practice “as if our hair was on fire.” We should have the same urgency to get out of this pain filled place as someone who has just woken up in a burning, smoke filled house. But it’s hard- all the distractions of this life keep stealing away our time and our mind. We keep telling ourselves, “I’ll meditate later.” Then one day you look up and realize life has passed you by, the time is gone, and it’s too late.

39. This wisdom from Jen Lemen, “I don’t want to be famous or popular or known for anything other than that I was deep and wise and had a soul that was wildly beautiful, full of mercy and light.”

40. Amanda Palmer on Creativity as Connecting Dots and the Terrifying Joy of Sharing Your Art Online and Be All Your Selves: Joss Whedon’s 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Address on Embracing Our Inner Contradictions on Brain Pickings.

41. Quotes shared by Justine Musk, You cannot truly enjoy life through your mind…It’s through the heart + the body that we get to party,” (Kagiso Msimango), and “There’s nothing more powerful than a woman who has met the truth inside her. Nothing,” (Meggan Jane Watterson).

42. Are Children Natural Vegans? by Sara Crolick on Elephant Journal.

43. This quote from Cheryl Stayed, “That silence is such a beautiful thing. It’s like the stars at night in the great alone and you there beneath them, saying thank you.”

44. Karma and Smartphones: How to Use Technology From a Buddhist Perspective, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on Huffington Post.

45. Dog People Problems, from Reddit.

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46. 2 year old problems: cinnamon rolls aren’t instant, from Reddit.

twoyearoldproblems

47. Wisdom from Chogyam Trungpa,

Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.

48. Father and 2-year-old boy sing Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ in viral hit.

49. Let go … again, still, more from Lindsey on A Design So Vast.

50. The Pros and Cons (But Mostly Pros) of Adopting a Shelter Dog on Hello Giggles.

51. you are worthy. from Liz Lamoreux.

52. Feeding the Right Wolf, with Marianne Elliot on Sacred Circle.

53. The Big Book Giveaway! from Susannah Conway. This is a great set of books, some of my favorites! You should totally enter this, (but just know, I plan on winning the Book Bomb).

bigbookgiveaway

P.S. I think this might officially be the longest Something Good list e v e r.

Something Good (Part One)

1. Todd McLellan’s ‘Things Come Apart’ Showcases Beautiful Photos Of Disassembled Technology on Huffington Post. So cool.

2. Worst Client Comments Turned Into Posters on Bored Panda.

3. Rest in Peace, Clifford, a beautiful meditation on death and the loss of furry ones by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I had to say goodbye this weekend to my dear cat Clifford — the king of all cats, heart of my heart, coolest of the cool, best of the best, friend to the whole world — who had finally, after a life that was both deeply noble and entirely absurd, reached his end.

We haz sad.

Clifford came to us nearly six years ago from the animal shelter, by way of a supermarket parking lot, where he had been found wandering hungry. He has certainly never been hungry since, as you can see by his comfortable girth in this photo. We never had the first idea how old he was, or anything about his backstory. I only know that chose him above all others at the shelter because of his giant Falstaffian belly, because of his slightly drunken-looking face (not a day has passed that I don’t laugh whenever I lay eyes on him), because of his purr (the loudest I have ever heard), but mostly because the way he fitted himself deeply into my arms the moment I picked him up. Saturday night, I held him in my arms again while he floated off peacefully.

While it was clearly Clifford’s time to go (as I joked in tears to a friend, “What kind of unfair God would pluck a geriatric, diabetic, toothless animal with arthritic legs and increasing incontinence right from the prime of his life?”) it is still heartbreaking. We love our furry-headed friends in a way that is different, more inexplicable, and more tender than other kinds of love, and when they go, it makes us ache to our core.

But here is what I keep thinking. I met a monk once in India who told me that one of the karmic roles of our beloved pets (“part of their service,” he said) is to come into our lives as teachers. They are sent here not only to teach us how to love, but also to teach us how to die — because they do it so well, and so uncomplainingly. We need these lessons, you see, because we are so famously bad at death, we humans. We are so afraid of it, so angry at it, so resistant to it. But our furry-heads, they see death differently. And as they slip away from us, they try to show us, “Watch me do this: It’s really not that difficult. You just have to let go…”

Thank you, Clifford. You did great. I watched carefully. I tried to learn. I will always love you. There will never be another like you.

3. Sara Bareilles’s new video for her latest song, Brave.

4. Food is Gross, and this blog is funny.

5. What I Ate Wednesday: Intuition on Back to Her Roots.

6. Two photo apps that I really want, but will only work on my ipod: A Beautiful Mess and Over.

7. Anne Lamott on writing,

I get to start a new section of something I’m working on, which means, all the bad voices will be sitting on my bed when I wake up; and they will have already had coffee. But I will drown them out by getting to work. They will talk more loudly: “You’re beating a dead horse. The well has run dry. It’s all over for England.” But I’ll push back my sleeves and plunge in. Things will go badly, and I’ll make lots of mistakes, but I’ll also make some progress on getting a shitty first draft down on paper–and at that point, I will be halfway home.

8. Thoughts on Creative Joy and a Lightbulb Moment by Tracey Clark.

9. Shy Dog Studio. I saw this painting at the emergency vets last week when we were there for Dexter’s physical therapy appointment. I love it. It reminds me of Sam, but I loved it even more when I found out that Nicole, one of our favorite staff members, is the painter.

shydogstudio

10. Sacred Love: 12 Things at the Bottom of Everything from Rachel Maddox.

11. Are you Tired of Life? Encouragement for the Overworked, Stressed and Exhausted from The Freedom Experiment.

12. soundtrack to your life | anna guest-jelley from Sas Petherick. I adore Anna Guest-Jelley (and Sas, of course) and especially love this part of the interview, “How do you take care of your body? By listening to what it actually wants, rather than telling it what it should have/do/be.” Amen.

13. I Have An Eating Disorder And No One In My Life Knows by Kristen Forbes on Role/Reboot.

14. Girl Talk: I Don’t Know What I Weigh — The Case for Stepping Off the Scale by Claire Mysko on The Frisky, in which she says,

The choices you make about what you eat, how much you exercise, how proactive you are about attending to your physical and emotional well-being — those are the choices that impact your health. The number on the scale might change as you make healthier or less healthy choices. But you know what? It might not. A woman who binge eats will be healthier if she starts seeing a good therapist who can help her curb the disordered eating behavior and address the underlying issues that fuel it. Whether or not that results in weight loss isn’t the point. If I suddenly start eating more crap takeout food and start taking cabs everywhere, I will definitely have less cash. I will probably have less energy. It might affect my blood pressure and my cholesterol. Will I gain weight? Maybe. Again, not the point. I gained and lost weight through years of disordered eating (and believe me, I tracked the number by the minute in those days). I was in a “healthy” weight range when I was a raging bulimic. Bingeing and purging? It ain’t healthy. The reality is that weight is not a reliable or holistic indicator of a person’s health.

15. Zach Sobiech died today. I knew it’s how his story would end (how all our stories will end) but that doesn’t mean my heart didn’t break a little anyway. While he was here, he lived.

16. Why I Don’t Diet – An Ode to My Father.

17. 59 Reasons We’re Going To Miss “The Office” on Buzzfeed.

18. On being uprooted. Or, finding home. from Sherry at Simply Celebrate.

19. Serving Sizes.

20. Milla Jovovich on The Conversation.

Uh-oh! I got so excited that I pushed publish before I was done making my list. Part two is on its way.

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

whole

For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.

Three Truths and One Wish

The function of a torii gate is to mark the entrance to a sacred space.

1. Truth: Really, really bad things happen all the time. I don’t need to tell you what they are or give you a list of examples. You already know, have seen and experienced it for yourself, and will do so again and again, over and over. There is no safe place, no protection, and no magic that can change this truth.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ” ~Pema Chödrön

2. Truth: There is no stopping all the bad things from happening. We simply don’t have that kind of control, that power. People are hurt and confused, all of us generate suffering at some level, for ourselves and others, and there’s just no way we can stop all of it, no way to consistently interrupt aggression before it turns toxic, dangerous, before it hurts someone.

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~Pema Chödrön

3. Truth: There is something we can do. When bad things happen, when we are confronted with suffering, instead of numbing out or running away or looking for someone to blame or something to fix, we can settle our minds and open our hearts. We can stay with what is happening, with reality as it is, as we are. We can drop our judgements, our agenda and simply be with what is. We can soften and open up, approach ourselves, the situation, the environment, and others with gentleness and compassion, allowing enough space for wisdom to arise. In this way, we will know what to do, if there is anything that needs doing.

“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.” ~Pema Chödrön

Shinto shrine at Shambhala Mountain Center

One Wish: That when we are in the midst of suffering, we can approach it with compassion, can be gentle and allow space for wisdom to arise. That we can be brave and keep our hearts open, that we can be tenderhearted warriors.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Being highly sensitive is both a blessing and a curse. I was born completely porous, raw and naked and open wide. I had no defense, no barrier between myself and the world, myself and others. What you felt, I felt, and I felt it deeply. For years, I wore heavy armor (invisible yes, but heavy and hard nonetheless) and masks, cocooned myself, padded my body with extra weight, distracted with smoke and mirrors, hid myself away, anything I could to do to protect myself.

What I didn’t understand yet is that this sensitivity, this keen emotion, acute intuition, deep knowing, this tenderness was something that others spent their lives trying to achieve, that there were many ancient practices to teach one to be so openhearted, so present, spacious and awake. I had what others wanted, what they worked so hard to experience. I have slowly allowed my gentle self to peek out, have been working with being vulnerable and brave, keeping my heart open, but it’s so hard sometimes–the beauty and the brutality, the tenderness and the terror can be so overwhelming.

2. Truth: “You should put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help someone else with theirs.” I was chanting this silently last night as I tried to fall asleep. My worrying about Dexter wasn’t letting me rest, mind or body, and I was exhausted. That phrase was the thing that kept coming back to me, the only thing that was helping. No “he’s fine” or “everything’s going to be okay” or general allowing or accepting of reality or releasing of attachment would work, but the awareness that I needed to take care of myself or I wouldn’t be of any help to him did.

3. Truth: I can’t control everything, and perfection is impossible. I know this, deep down know it, and yet I keep acting as if it’s not true. I keep Dexter home from hiking, thinking I can keep him safe, and he hurts himself chasing after a squirrel in our backyard. I feed my dogs the best possible food, provide the best health care, give them tons of exercise and affection, take better care of them sometimes than I do myself, and still two of them have been diagnosed with fatal cancers. I obsess about Dexter’s physical therapy and medications and various appointments, thinking I can fix him, keep him safe, when no matter what I do, he will eventually die, as all mortal things do. I try to be so careful and prepared and diligent and alert, but bad things still happen. Things break, feelings get hurt, mistakes are made. I am not always responsible, and even when I am, I am forgivable, still loveable. I am trying to do as Karen Salmansoh suggests and, “Let go of what you can’t control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now.”

One Wish: That we can approach our experience, our struggle and suffering, with great gentleness and a loving presence. That when we despair, are afraid and sad, we can experience some ease, remember our innate strength, have confidence and find comfort in our fundamental wisdom and compassion. And as Hafiz says, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”

What I Learned in Cultivating Courage

I just finished the first session of Andrea Scher’s Cultivating Courage E-Course. In the course description, she says:

One conscious, brave choice — every day for 30 days. Who will you be on the other side?

During those 30 days, I developed a practice. I experienced inspiration, comfort, community, and a refined definition of courage. Here I am, on the other side, and this is who I am:

1. “I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.” ~Walt Whitman Every act of kindness is an act of bravery. My first thought often is something generous, but I usually stop myself, especially if a stranger is involved. I let those old, nasty voices about how I’m “too much” stop me, but this class, this practice has reminded me that this is my superpower, my nature, and maybe even my purpose.

2. I am not alone, and with a tribe, I am so much stronger. After 30 days in this class, I remember the importance of tribe, of communicating and connecting, of showing up and being vulnerable. Even though most of us in class were meeting each other for the first time, Andrea created a safe space, a secure container for our practice and our sharing, and we dared to be vulnerable, to connect. We quickly became a support team, a tribe of tender-hearted warriors practicing courage, encouraging each other and celebrating together.

3. What is an act of courage for me is just that, brave for me. Cultivating courage isn’t about becoming anyone else’s idea of brave. For me, right now, courage means cultivating confidence, the kind that Susan Piver describes as “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.” Trusting myself, having faith in my own voice, showing up with an open heart, even when it’s hard and even when it hurts.

4. Courage doesn’t have to be big or bold. It can be quiet and gentle, soft and simple. You don’t have to save someone from a burning building, or make a grand gesture to be brave. As Mary Anne Radmacher says, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I’ll try again tomorrow.’ ”

Andrea Scher is a maker of magic. She has a compassionate vision, and it’s so vivid, so vibrant that you can see it too, and this shared dream has the power to move you. You know immediately that you can trust her, and that with her support, amazing things are going to happen, you are going to happen.

P.S. One of the NaBloPoMo prompts this week was “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” and another was “Tell us about your favorite pet.” As Andrea was putting together this course, she asked for courage stories, and the one I sent her was about my first dog, Obi, and having to let him go–the bravest and most loving thing I ever had to do. Andrea’s Cultivating Courage e-course has reminded me that this is who I am.