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My Year of Being Courageous

Early in 2017 I was invited to pick a word or words that would inspire me for the coming year. It was not difficult to come up with my word: COURAGE

Fear has accompanied me on my life’s road trip and often I let it drive. It whispered in my ear that I would drown in the ocean, or fail miserably at teaching, or I was not worth my value at work, or my opinion did not matter. After several years of a daily meditation practice that focused on loving kindness and self-compassion, I was ready to change the focus of fear in my life. I was ready to be brave and courageous.

Bravery is defined as “the ability to confront pain, danger, or attempts of intimidation without any feeling of fear.” Courage, on the other hand, “is the ability to undertake an overwhelming difficulty or pain despite the eminent and unavoidable presence of fear.” – I was open to taking risks in the presence of fear, and also played with the idea of letting go of fear (easier than it sounds) and yet was surprised that that I actually could.

Fear has accompanied me on my road trip of life and often I have let it drive

Developing a self-compassion practice has shown me how to be courageous. According to researcher Dr. Kristin Neff, having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Self-compassion involves showing kindness to oneself when experiencing suffering by acknowledging what is happening is difficult, framing one’s experience of imperfection in light of the shared human experience, i.e., “you are not alone”, and mindful awareness of negative thoughts and emotions.

Self-compassion is a learned skill where we treat ourselves with the same understanding and tone that we would treat our best friend.

When learning self-compassion, I developed a sense of courage that I never understood before. When we know we are going to forgive ourselves for human transgressions and failures, there is no reason not to try to do something even when it is scary. Studies show that self-compassion is a motivator that motivates people to improve personal weaknesses, moral transgressions, and test performances. Think of it this way, when in the trenches of life, do we want an enemy or an ally by our side? The support of an ally makes us brave. We can be our own ally, even with fear by our side.

Some of the ways being brave and courageous showed up for me in 2017 were:

  • Participating in the Women’s March in Washington, DC
  • Going on a zipline in Costa Rica
  • Speaking about courage, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness to anyone who would listen including at conferences, trainings and dinner parties
  • Enrolling in a mindfulness teacher certification course
  • Mindfully listening
  • Forming and leading meditation sessions at work
  • Believing in myself and my abilities
  • Speaking out to a colleague whose comments were offensive
  • Practicing self-compassion

Now in 2018, I am about to pick the word that will guide me for the coming year. I am trying on a few, like a new dress. One that keeps showing itself is “woke”. Woke is derived from the African American Vernacular English expression “stay woke”, which refers to a continuing awareness of social and racial injustice. It also reminds me that I am fully awake now, no longer lulled into silence by fear or habit.

What is your word?

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