"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."
-Mary Anne Radmacher
I had the honor of teaching restorative yoga to a lovely group of cancer survivors on Sunday afternoon. First, let me say that I am always amazed at the positive energy these women possess. They are genuine souls, exude pure kindness, and one gets the sense that there is a deep, abiding understanding that they've reached with life. They "get it" on a profound level. They've had unmistakable proof that life is unpredictable and precious and they don't take it for granted. These ladies inspire me beyond words and have been amazing examples and teachers of courage for me on this path.
Just before class started, a young woman tentatively entered the studio and signed up for her first Cancer Survivors class. As we showed her to her mat and got her set up in the first restorative posture, she shyly reclined back, folded her arms across her chest, and tensed her shoulders up around her ears. She was clearly unsure of what to expect from the experience, but I was so proud of her for having had the courage to show up and give it a try. As we moved through class, I witnessed her slowly softening, surrendering, and allowing herself to "be". To be held in the positive energy of the group, to be supported by the props, to be empowered by her courage to do something that so directly contributed to her health and physical/emotional well-being.
When class ended I asked her if she felt more at ease. She related her story to me and her courage overwhelmed me. Here is a young woman who has been dealt a pretty challenging hand in life. Life presented her with a choice: find courage in the face of your trials or give up. She chooses daily to go with courage, to fight her cancer, to show up for a new and vulnerable experience like a yoga class or a cancer treatment. She humbly surrenders to something greater than herself every day, and she has the courage to trust and believe.
As we all know by now, it takes great courage to walk this earth as living beings. We begin to understand this with great clarity, the moment we devote ourselves to a life on the spiritual path. We step on to this path searching for peace, not realizing at first that peace is found bit-by-bit, breath-by-breath, moment-by-moment in the fire of transformation. Each time we roll out our yoga mat or commit to sitting in meditation we are essentially agreeing to hold a mirror up to ourselves and engage in the act of really seeing what's there, and to know that it isn't always pretty. In fact it takes great courage to look at the source of our words, actions, motivations, faults and foibles. It often hurts.... it HAS to hurt in order to wake us up and to help us grow. The key word here is grow. It's not enough to just look in the mirror. The greater courage is to take what we see and use it to awaken and encourage transformation. The greater courage is to be able to see our part in our own suffering and the suffering we cause others. The beautiful ladies of the Cancer Survivors class know this. Their bravery and courage to transform in the face of such fear and uncertainty is an inspiration. Their true grit is constant encouragement.
The very heart of practice (yoga or meditation) is to reveal our true nature: Peace, compassion, kindness and love. But in order to uncover the pureness of our being, we have to be disciplined, willing, and brave enough to wade through the often dark and murky layers that caused us to hide our radiant self in the first place.
When you step on your mat or sit on your cushion, practice facing yourself in a courageous way. Ask yourself: "Where am I being fearful and what is the reason for my fear?", "How can I see myself more clearly and honestly?", "What's really true in this moment...not what I want to be true, but really true?", and then be brave enough to see and feel the answers.
So to repeat the quote at the top of the post..."Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow." -Mary Anne Radmacher
Until next time...
"When you are in doubt,
be still and wait,
When doubt no longer exists for you,
Then go forward with courage.
So long as mists envelop you,
be still until the sunlight
pours through and dispels the mists--as it surely will.
Then act with courage.
-Ponca Chief White Eagle
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”- Theodore Roosevelt