On Finding Courage

Instead of a New Year’s resolution, I like to pick a word. This year’s is courage. From David Whyte:

Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public—to show courage, to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade. But a look at its linguistic origins leads us in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, coeur, or heart.

Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future. To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences. To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a professional future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. To be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

There is courage in leaving home and traveling to unknown places, but there’s greater courage in venturing inward. It takes bravery to investigate our own hearts—to hold up our most deeply held beliefs for questioning.


I’ve operated on fear most of my life. Fear told me that people would reject me unless I never ever ever ever messed up. It told me that my dreams probably wouldn’t work out, so why bother? Fear swallowed my self-trust and sent me scouting for danger even when—especially when—everything seemed to be going my way. It made me critical and cynical.

I’m over it.

But undoing habitual patterns is hard. Freakishly hard. I designed this trip to help shake me loose—to propel me inward as much as forward and to force me, with so much unfamiliar, to notice and question the parts of my inner dialogue that hold me back from doing the things I really want to do.

Every day you get to choose. You can accept knee-jerk, fear-based reactions and you can blame something or somebody else for how crappy you feel. You can berate yourself for not doing or being better, and you can wish that things were different.

Or you can look for possibility. You can sniff out a learning. Laser your attention on how much you already have and what you can give to a situation. Then you give it. This is courage.


Tomorrow I head to my brother and sister-in-law in Virginia. After a few days with them I officially leave my comfort zone for Tennessee.


*I should probably put it out there that this is not a “proper expression” of Warrior III—my head, hips, and heel should be in a straight line—but the photo had so much more feeling than the “correct” one, I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes correct is boring (except when incorrect gets you hurt, so please be careful with your body).