Last week, a friend called me up to chat. XYZ had happened, and long story short, she had a decision to make. In weighing her options, she found aspects of her truest self surfacing. They were perhaps unexpected, the kind of things that live beyond our assumptions about who we are or how we want to be viewed in this world. This true-self spoke, and her decision felt clear. I thought “Listening to your heart is brave.”
Last weekend, I helped prepare someone for his first yoga class. I love doing this, because it keeps me in touch with what it feels like to be a beginner, which as a teacher, is a connection I never want to lose. In talking through child’s pose, and a mind/body/breath connection, in my excitement to have him join me in class, I went a little overboard. My explanations might have agitated more nerves than soothed them. Nonetheless, he persisted, with enthusiasm (and a little trepidation). I thought “Trying something foreign and new is brave.”
And while, as I have written before, I am continually in awe of the courageousness of the people I love, what struck me this week was the deeply personal nature of what it means to be brave.
You see, in the case of the first friend, the choice on the table was prompted by another friend of hers, who in her own way, was acting bravely as well. And yet the pair ended up making completely opposite decisions. Same courage, different results.
Meanwhile, my yoga practice is not a place where the unknown lives, but rather a space that is safety, that is support, that is home. I don’t exhibit the same kind of bravery as he will when he steps onto a mat for the very first time. Same yoga, but only one of us is exploring a brave new world.
Courage means different things at different times, in different ways to different people. I have shown bravery in creating endings in my life. I have also shown bravery in creating beginnings. Courage has meant saying no and it has also meant saying yes. Both to stand up and fight or to lay down my arms- depending on the time and place.
It is not the act itself which is brave, but the way in which we choose it. Does it serve our truest, best self? Then it is probably brave. It could be riding a roller coaster or going vegan- what matters is whether that choice opens up our horizons.
I think, perhaps, that the only act which is continually courageous is allowing ourselves to live in the present moment, and committing to responding to each new circumstance as it arises.
Bravery is being here, being now.