Cultivating Courage


The Season of Winter is upon us in the North

For a variety of reasons, I woke up to a deep heaviness in my heart. Immediately, my mind started flipping through the reasons, trying to quell the rising emotion. Quietly, tenderly, I set aside thoughts of WHY and instead moved softly to be with myself, to listen to the undulating sensations moving through my body that whisper stories in a language my mind cannot comprehend.  

As I sat bundled up outdoors, watching the cold winter sun rise and listening to the birds wake, tears streamed down my face. I decided to go up into the mountains for a snow hike, to breathe with the trees and be closer to the heartbeat of the earth.

The trees and the ground covered in thick snow and silence remind me that death and life, tragedy and delight, dark and light are all part of the vast spectrum of beauty in nature - both around us as well as within us. 

Walking in the Dark.  

I got into coaching years ago to try and tame that which was proving to be untamable - my wild desires, my fiery excitement and my strong emotions. I was angry, grief-stricken and scared. I wanted what felt dark inside of me to stop talking so loudly. I didn't want to explore the shadowy parts of my internal experience and so, as it so happens, it was coming out in all sorts of weird ways: illness, issues with money, emotional eating - anything, ANYTHING to avoid speaking up, speaking out, crying, howling, or actually feeling (and expressing) what I was feeling. 

To be sure, we are conditioned to avoid our strong emotions, contrasts, ancient wisdom and connections. I've come to believe that not only do we need this wildness that is within us, but it is the source of the wealth and abundance we crave, the kind of life we want to live and the wisdom we long to embody. It has depth and texture and a connection to something that is necessary to be awake and alive. 

The parts of us that are rejected by the tamed and socialized mind hold important medicine. It is essential to listen to and dance with the full catastrophe head-on - for ourselves, for our clients and for our communities.

The metaphor that comes to mind is that of a tree: the more light we seek to embody and to experience, the deeper our roots need to plunge into the dark earth. Shadow and light seek divine balance.  

Courage Grows When we Face the Dark

Years ago, when I stopped drinking, I also broke up with a long-time boyfriend at nearly the same time. I was so wracked with pain, heartache and sadness from the breakup and years of numbing myself with alcohol that I thought I would die from the pain. I felt as if I were running through tar that was swallowing me whole. I would have done anything to escape that feeling - but I had no where to go without my alcohol. 

I had also started meditating. One day, I decided to actually stay with the bleak feelings during meditation - to see just how far down into blackness it would take me. I honestly thought I would die or go mad. It was a huge act of faith to sit there. I went into the heart of the pain - which I felt in my heart and my belly and I started to drop into a deep well. It took my breath away... it went down, and down, and down. After breathing and staying with it and dropping into the pain, further and further I went. After about 5 minutes it stopped - I could feel/sense the bottom. 

The interesting thing was, I felt SO alive in that moment - feeling the ache of my heart without trying to get away from what was happening. This was a vital step in learning how to be with myself and other's discomfort. I knew I would live, despite the pain. I knew that was the worst it was going to get and I could and would make it. Not surprisingly, things in my life began improving quickly after that and my growing capacity for tears, for joy, for peace and for anger broke my heart open and gave me back my life. 

Expand your courage. Embrace your full experience.

This work of seeing and knowing yourself fully is not only the most courageous work you will ever do, but it is necessary in order to be the healer, the coach, the teacher, or the creative you wish to be. Because this is precisely what your clients want from you: to be seen fully in their full potential and gritty darkness. So turn inward with great love, your work is not only for you, but for the world. 

You are invited to turn toward what frightens you. To explore with curiosity and love, what parts of yourself do you walk away from (light or shadow)? What places do you dare not tread within you or express? What places do you judge and deem unfit? I would wonder, what would happen if you turned to face the shadowier parts of your nature with curiosity and compassion? If you allowed yourself to be at one with yourself and the entire spectrum of your experience?

Could it be that in those places some of your most powerful gifts and deepest truths are waiting for you? I know for sure that what you seek to offer others is only found in what you offer to yourself completely. For you, for your community, for your work - cultivate spiritual courage and embrace the full catastrophe, sister.  

I'll be right here by your side. 



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