Art in Action: 4 Ways to Live Courageously

a in a courage 021516Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.

Strength, courage and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along
Strength, courage and wisdom
Inside of me
— India Arie

Heart is the root of courage. The English word, courage, comes from the Latin cor (which led to the French coeur) which means heart. Courage, then, is bravery with heart. As we face mid-winter and political uncertainty on top of any personal challenges we have, the practice is to be with it all with heart, with courage.

Here are 4 ways to approach your days with the brave heart of courage:

1. Move Your Body with Courage

Your body was designed to move and movement is the best thing you can offer your physical self. But in our all-or-nothing culture, we can have a tendency to push, force and over-do or to sit at a desk/dining table/couch for the lion’s share of the day. Even for those who move regularly, the body thrives when we give it variety, but getting stuck in habit is the norm.

Courageous movement is about deepening your awareness and connection to what your body needs. Move every day and be open to experimenting with new things, rather than only doing what you habitually do.

~ take a different class or run/hike/walk a different route, walk while talking on the phone or dance while making dinner
~ do a stretch you don’t usually do or do one you usually do differently and see how it feels
~ within your usual movement (either at the gym or through your day) play with details like foot placement, core engagement or body alignment and notice what happens.
~ play with speeding up or slowing down movement that you usually do and see what you notice

2. Use Your Mind with Courage

Be open to ideas and opinions that are outside your usual sources. Read a different columnist or the lead story from a source or on a topic you might usually avoid. While you might not agree (or understand), see if you can simply be open before either launching into your argument against or abandoning the experiment entirely.

3. Express Your Emotions with Courage

As I mentioned in this week’s main post, Brené Brown reminds us that “in one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’”

Even though most people would agree that love and relationships are at the core of life, many of us are taught to be cautious with our expressions of love, gratitude and joy.

Instead, express with courage. Think about someone you care about deeply, someone who is important to you. Think about how you feel about them. Make the courageous step to express those feelings – in person, in writing, or over the phone. If the person you are thinking of is no longer living, write them a letter anyway. Tell all your heart.

4. Live with Courage

Once you’ve warmed up your courage muscles with the first three, it’s time for the big one. In her book Top Five Regrets of the Dying, palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware says that the number one regret of dying patients is:

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Says Ware, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.”

Living true to ourselves takes more courage perhaps than the author or we realize, but it is essential to living a life of passion and purpose. Take some time to get clear on your heart’s deepest desire. Get that desire down to its essentials rather than hooking your dream to that which may be out of your control. For example, if your desire is to have a child and you are not in circumstances that allow that, find a way to spend time with children. If your dream is to have a home, ask yourself what is at the root of that – security, perhaps, or groundedness or relaxation – and do what you can to cultivate those feelings. If your dream is to write a book, start writing a few pages a day in a journal.

Take a step, even a small micro step, in the direction you want to go. Move even incrementally toward a life that is true to you.

Any day lived in the service of our highest purpose – no matter how far along we get in the fulfillment of that purpose — is a good day to die.

  1. Madeline said:

    Just lovely. Wonderful suggestions. I like how tangible the actions/ experiments are. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Madeline! Yesterday, I used one: I went into a class with a plan and after talking to the folks who had braved the ice to be there, I realized I wanted to change it. So I taught something else. Stretching those habit muscles! ❤

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