Monday, November 5, 2012

Where Courage is Born

A friend of mine told me a story in which his wife was pissed off. She let him have it with a list of grievances about the things he does wrong and how unhappy she is with their relationship. She couldn't keep her feelings bottled up anymore and wanted him to have a taste.

My friend suffered. It hurt to hear these things, but in this heated moment he experienced clarity. His ego shut off. His wife's words were like noise that didn't warrant a reaction. He noticed her heart and the suffering she radiated. It was like he allowed his brain to quit reacting so that their hearts could synchronize.

Taking in this deep feeling of sadness and anger, he responded by saying things like, "you must feel frustrated." Eventually his wife started to nod her head and say, "yes, that is how I feel." Then she would go on some more, and again he would acknowledge her feelings. She'd agree again, until finally she calmed down, satisfied that he had understood her.

I think of the brain as the place where knowledge resides. Science tells us that it is a nerve center, which also controls much of our bodily function. The brain is also where my ego lives like a radar, looking for a threat to defend against. The brain is where the screenwriter writes me into every scene of the movie called "My Life."

The heart organ holds a different kind of intelligence than the brain. I sometimes think of it as the part of the mind where wisdom resides. When something feels wrong, for example, it seems like my heart is telling me this, not my brain.

Take a moment to find where your heart is in your chest. Maybe you can feel the tenderness, like an emotional antenna, expanding and contracting.

The heart feels like a sense organ. If we become familiar with its raw sensitivity, we start to see the world differently. For some people it will sound like I'm talking about magical pixie dust. Others may already be familiar with the experience of feeling the world, rather than just thinking about it.

This heart centered perception, gives us familiarity with what is, free from judgement. We get comfortable with just being in our bodies. If you are meditating and you feel in your body, you must be on the right track.

The path of living with heart is one of opening up to vulnerability. Being vulnerable acknowledges the voice of shame in your head, which constantly reminds you about the cost of failure and how everyone will laugh when you fall down. Acknowledging this voice doesn't mean surrendering to it. It's just acknowledging and having a sense of humor about it.

But the glorious part of comfort with vulnerability is that it makes you feel alive, like a 16 year old athlete running out onto a fresh cut grass field. Its that slightly shaky, but spirited feeling that I'm scared, but I'm going to do this anyway. Being vulnerable gives you a electrifying connection to the big scary world.

It is at this moment, on the field, when the lights are shining on you and it sounds like a thousand voices are shouting at you. Some voices hope you'll win, some voices fear you'll lose, and some just remind you to fear shame. But when you have the audacity to leave this all alone, you tune into the raw tenderness in your heart, you acknowledge the fear and discomfort, and still, you rouse yourself to step up to the challenge. you walk right into the fear... it is at this moment that the heart gives birth to courage.