Will you do a quick courage exercise with me?
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What is your biggest dream? Is it to be an actor, to write a NYT bestseller, or to run an ultra marathon? What is it? Give yourself a second to visualize how incredible it will feel to succeed at this dream, and do so by involving all of your senses. Allow the excitement which surrounds that dream to surface in your heart.
After a minute or two, ask yourself what perceived limitations seem to stand in your way between where you are now in relation to that dream and where you dream to be. And while there might be a hundred practical reasons why it’s not “reasonable” to reach for your dream, I ask you to get real and ask yourself about how much of that perceived limitation simply comes from good old fear.
How often is fear getting in the way of you having the kind of life you want to live?
Now, close your eyes for a few seconds and give yourself a few deep breaths into your heart. Connect to your heart by remembering something that you love, maybe your biggest dream, and bring to mind again the excitement you feel when you imagine your biggest dream. Now you are connected to your heart and from this place, re-examine your fears with a full heart. Any new insights?
This is courage.
the ability to do something that frightens one.
Courage comes from the French word for heart, Coeur. It literally means full of heart. Courage isn’t the opposite of fear but rather is the action of putting fear in its proper place. Some may argue that fear is good, it keeps us alive. I say that fear merely keeps us safe. We must learn to walk through the flames of our fears, with full courage, toward that which makes us truly alive.
Living courageously, from your heart, gives you a relationship with your world that is beyond fear, a presence and perspective that can hold life’s losses and joys, struggles and possibilities, understanding that life’s joy is bigger than merely ease and comfort.
Caroline Paul is a NYT Best Seller and was one of the first women ever to serve in the San Francisco Fire Department. She was on an elite team that performed very dangerous rescues. Caroline is expert at acting courageously in the face of fear and speaks about doing so in one of her books, The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure. Paul says that courage can be taught, that it’s okay to have fear, but that despite fear you must take action. She encourages a practice called micro-bravery, which is doing small courageous acts regularly to build your courage muscles. After all, your heart is a muscle.
Fear is an excellent tool to help you be present. To use fear as a tool, instead of pushing it away, lean into it. Notice how your body feels fear and ask fear what it’s really trying telling you. With this presence, you’ll begin to notice the other emotions that often coexist alongside fear when taking important action in your life. Emotions like excitement and anticipation sometimes have the same physiological effect but are very different than fear. Don’t let fear squash these other emotions, but put it in the back of the line of emotions, instead of the front where it often it is used to being.
Speaking of fear, I’m deathly afraid of bungee jumping. The mere thought of it makes my stomach churn and adrenaline begin to pump through my body. That’s a fear which simply keeps me safe. While there may be some sort of small value in “conquering” that fear by going out and jumping off a bridge with rubber bands strapped to my ankles, I believe that there is really no benefit to humanity or myself for doing so and therefore will most likely go to my grave having never bungee jumped.
I have a greater fear, however, involving what I’m doing right here—teaching and writing about yoga and mindfulness. It’s scary to expose myself (my spirit, my thoughts feelings, and fears) by stepping up in front of a room to lead a class or push send on an email to thousands of people. Each time I send an email, I’m afraid that it will be riddled with typos and that people will learn my dark secret that I can’t spell my way out of a paper bag.
The reason teaching and writing about yoga causes me fear is because it’s one of my greatest dreams and my heart’s gift to the world to share yoga and meditation with people to make the world a better place. I’m afraid of not reaching my potential or failing in my job. I think it's a very big deal and I take it very seriously. But, I look at those fears squarely in the face and practice courage by continuing to step in front of the room to teach and sitting down to write and publish. Often times, I hover over the publish or send button wondering why I do it. Then with courage, I push send, close my laptop, and walk away knowing I just made one small, brave step. I practice this courage regularly because I believe that what I do matters, both to me and to the world. I still have fear around teaching and writing but I’ve also built up my courage greatly and push those fears to the back and bring excitement and possibility of connecting to people to the front. Plus, the more you do it, the more confidence you have about it.
The world doesn’t care if I bungee jump. I yield to that fear and it keeps me safe. However, the world does care if I connect people to their best selves through yoga and meditation so I walk past that fear in the hope to possibly make a difference in people’s lives and therefore I experience courage which make feel truly alive.
What is one small, courageous step you could take today that will push you toward your dream? You don’t have to register for an ultra marathon today but maybe you could go buy some shoes and begin walking.
Or perhaps that small, courageous step might be to register for my next course: Sourcing Your Heart’s Gift. It’s an online yoga and meditation course that helps you live an extraordinary life from your heart. The world needs your gifts. Dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share them with the world.
Registration ends next Monday, February 12th!
If you've ever been moved by any of my emails, would you mind please forwarding this onto some friends who could use this message or post it on social media? It helps me enormously.
Sourcing Your Heart's Gift
an online meditation and yoga course designed to help you to dive deep into your heart to discover and develop your purpose and courageously share it with the world.
6 weeks February 12—March 26