As poet David Whyte says, we are often tempted by the word, courage, "to think heroically: to run bravely into the burning building, to stand against opposing forces, to do something, in many ways, extraordinary and unexpected in the ordinary course of our daily lives. Perhaps, too, we think of courage as something to be rewarded publicly, as though if someone doesn't witness us dive in front of the bus to save a life it won't have happened at all." Linguistically, the word courage comes from the Latin root word cor, or heart, and one of it's original meanings was to speak from the heart (literally, "to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”), and when we are honest, it's the expression of our deepest feelings that often requires the most bravery.
Unlike webbed toes or curly hair, courage isn't something we're born with, but something we practice. It is a quality we devlop when presented with the opportunity to take risks: to trust after heartbreak, to acknowledge our deep vulnerabilities, and to compassionately examine our fears of rejection, loss, failure, and disrepute. Like the heart itself, courage is a lotus with many petals, all of them associated with qualities that even the most cynical of us hope to embody: bravery, strength, steadiness, trust, self—reliance, integrity, love. It rests on a profound trust in the stability of one's own center. Courage is the measure of our sincere participation in life; in all of the possible ways, there is an immense power in simply showing up.
Yoga, the union, is waking up to the vast amount of love that surrounds us and we are capable to hold. On the mat we watch the mind spin and judge and swing between like and dislike. We hold space for these narratives to exist and see, over time, that they are not real. In our relationships we practice courage when we express our needs, create appropriate boundaries and develop both the trust to rely on and be relied upon by others. And while it takes a certain bravery to rush into the proverbial fire, it also takes a tremendous amount of courage to also bear witness to and leave space for its flames. This tenuous balance is our practice.