January 23, 2012

For You, Have Courage When You Feel Afraid.

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

~ Anaïs Nin

It has become a mindfulness cliché. “Do one thing that scares you every day.”  I have a friend who has the Anaïs Nin quote as her email signature. Every time I read it, I say “Yes! I can do it. I can do whatever comes next. I won’t be afraid.” If it were as simple as doing frivolous things that scare you–like sky diving–it would be easy. This is not about recklessness or adrenaline. This is not about being daring. If you are doing it just for the sake of being wild, it is clichéd.

But then, sometimes it’s not.

Sometimes you find yourself in those moments that rip your chest open. It’s everything you can do not to wrap your arms around yourself to feel protected. You are at the edge of cliff looking down at where you know you want to be, and the knot in your stomach keeps you from making that leap. You wrap yourself up in thoughts of every day. Pretend it’s not there. Protect yourself from the bumps and bruises you’re sure you’ll get if you jump. But the protection is an illusion. Staying safe–that’s what hurts the most.

Staying safe in your cocoon is easy. It’s warm, and comfortable and if you don’t open the door you don’t risk getting cold. If you don’t open that door you miss everything. You miss who you are meant to be. You miss your purpose. You miss love.

Maybe that’s okay with you. I know I have moments where it feels okay to me. It feels like it would be better to stay still. It would be easier to pretend there is no cliff, there is no leap to take, there is nothing more. It would be easier to close the door and keep on keeping on. If I close my eyes, maybe I can just sing myself a song and drown out that dream that lives between my heartbeats. Hum loud enough and I won’t hear it anymore and things will be easy and safe.

But after awhile, you’ll find there’s an ache that wells up in you. You’ll find the cocoon suffocates rather than protects. No matter how loud you hum and how tightly you shut your eyes, life keeps coming and the cliff’s edge nears. And what will you do? Will you dive in to the cool water below–fuck the risks–because it’s where you’re meant to be? Or will you sit there teetering, quivering and never breaking forth into your real life.

Trungpa Rinpoche talked about how the warrior isn’t brave on his or her own strength. It’s because of our sad, tender broken-open hearts that we can be brave. It’s not about armor. It’s not about keeping your shield at the ready to protect yourself. It’s the opposite; it’s stripping off your armor and laying down your shield. It’s getting to the cliff’s edge and diving in. It’s refusing to give up and stay in the bud even though that feels easier.

“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa

How’s this for a deal? On the count of three, we’ll all hold our breath and take the leap into whatever awaits us. It’s got to be better than giving up, shutting down and staying safe. We don’t do it because we have courage already. It’s the not giving up that makes us brave.

Or stay in the bud if you have to. If it still feels easiest, you can stay. But maybe you can’t anymore. Maybe that burning in your chest to be more than you are right now can’t be ignored. Maybe that drive to change the world can’t be hummed away. Maybe the cocoon is just too tight and you need to rip through it. Maybe like me you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, but you know that you are made for more than a sit-com life sitting back in your chair watching everything go by like a ticker-tape parade of mediocrity. Maybe like me, you haven’t figured it all out, but you just can’t stay in the safe harbor.

It’s okay to be scared. Do it anyway.

(Photo: easylocum)


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