Entering the Field of Courage
Life is challenging. We are attached to certain outcomes, painful circumstances occur, changes are thrust upon us. We do not always know how to navigate the terrain before us.
Life requires us to have courage and bravery, to face the situation at hand and to make difficult choices.
On a recent walk in the November woods, I learned a good friend was going through the emotional upheaval of a divorce. Voice tight with pain, my friend described the situation and the challenges she was up against. Listening to her, it occurred to me that there is an important distinction between bravery and courage.
Courage means “with heart” whereas bravery refers to valiant boldness.
Courage is the actual field of our experience. With courage, we can enter the changing terrain with a sense of heart, or softness, as well as a sense of availability and willingness to face whatever is arising. The field itself is courage, and we enter it with gentle patience, demonstrating our innate fortitude and strength. Our natural resiliency sustains us for this journey.
Bravery is about action - actually facing the terrain. Bravery wields the sharp sword of clarity that allows us to directly face the fear, sadness, doubt or anger. It allows us to be bold and strive valiantly to stay present, bearing witness to whatever has arisen. Bravery means we can stick with our experience instead of running away from it.
Slowly, we are able to see directly what we are struggling with. But it is a journey and first we have to feel. First, with courage, we have to taste the challenge itself. Becoming familiar with the taste, the challenge is more known to us and we can make decisions based on accuracy instead of assumption or habit.
Navigating challenge is sometimes a slow journey, but starting with the field of courage can make it a gentle journey. There is no need to thrust ourselves out in front of ourselves (or a speeding bus) - we can walk slowly with mindfulness.
Courage allows us to take responsibility for our feelings and bravery allows us to act from a place of genuineness.