Bravery is not about being fearless
A useful thing about having children is that you often find yourself revisiting basic ideas in order to answer some of their never ending questions. At home we have often discussed the idea that bravery is not about being fearless. True bravery is about feeling the fear, acknowledging it, weighing up the options and still choosing to do that thing that scares you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about inner strength recently and I think that the same rule applies. I don’t believe that our inner strength is about being tough, boundaried and resolute, facing all situations with identical fortitude. Instead, I think it’s about allowing for our vulnerabilities, being open to our emotions and accepting that we cannot always control our circumstances.
If we can admit that there might be pain and difficulties, and still choose to be open and honest with ourselves, then this is a very great strength to possess. All of us will, at times, encounter things that feel unendurable and yet while we might hurt and cry and sleep and cry some more, our deep core of strength is still there, quietly working away and somehow we do endure.
Finding and recognizing this deep strength within ourselves.
There are days when we feel effortlessly strong, when our environment and circumstances happily conspire to make us feel invincible. That’s the easy part. Unfortunately our lives are not consistent and many of the factors we rely upon for this easy mantle of power are beyond our control.
When we’re being challenged it can be hard to connect to that feeling of strength. We might feel tired, anxious, jumpy or washed out and we can get the impression that our strength ebbs and flows, but I believe that is confusing our strength and our energy. Certainly when things are tough we need to nurture our energy levels, but I believe our deep core resilience has great reserves.
When we refuse to put on a brave face, when we refuse to turn away from our pain or try to spin a bad situation to our advantage, in those moments we’re connecting with that deep well of inner reserves and choosing to trust ourselves.
All days are different, nothing remains as it is.
There are some days when we walk into class feeling on top of the world, and other days when even walking through the door feels like a monumental struggle. But either way you have made the choice to arrive and be present and that is a reflection of your strength.
When we’re practicing yoga we’re choosing to open ourselves up to challenging mind and body, knowing we might find some struggle, but we’re still here. Our strength is in our willingness to engage.
In yoga classes, we often talk about good stress, useful discomfort and challenging our boundaries while staying safe, and certainly the yoga studio should always be a safe space to move, feel, explore our inner reaches and just ‘be’ without fear.
In class, if something feels unendurable we can simply stop- it is, after all, only yoga. On our mats, we can practice our stress response in a safe and contained way. We can examine how we deal with sensations that we dislike and thoughts that trouble us and see if we can find ways to cope. If we can’t, we can instead practice allowing ourselves to stop, taking the pressure off without self-recrimination.
In life we may encounter situations that feel unendurable but that we cannot step away from. In these moments, it might be helpful to remember that strength doesn't always look the same.
Sometimes being strong is about knowing you need time out to stop and take care of yourself. Sometimes choosing to retreat and nurture your reserves rather than fighting on and wearing yourself thin is the bravest choice to make.
There are people in my life who are endlessly impressing me with how strong they are. There seems to be a deep life force within them, keeping them going despite the various blows they face. I think we all have this deep well within us. it just doesn't always look the way we expect it to.
Sometimes there's a visible quality of toughness in our movements and actions, but most of the time I believe it's something quite different. Most of the time it dwells quietly within us, giving us the stability to sway with life's currents rather than being swept away by them. It gives us the roots we need to keep engaging, keep rising, keep enduring, whether our surface self can feel it or not.
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