So, what does courage tempered by wisdom look like? How is it different from the kind of courage that prompts our friends to say “You’re so brave!” when what they’re really thinking is “You’re so out of your mind!” Yoga set me on a path of awareness and self-discovery. As I’ve walked along this path, I’ve learned the value of doing things that make me uncomfortable. When I am uncomfortable, and I push myself to be in the moment and experience the discomfort rather than run away from the uncomfortable experience, I grow. And I learn a little something about myself.
This past weekend I threw myself into the uncomfortable end of the pond. I swam for all I was worth. My motto this weekend was, “Play big or go home.” I watched others around me cringe in discomfort while others refused to participate and observed others removing themselves from the situation causing the discomfort. Through it all I was present. I did things that if you told me I would be doing a few years ago, I would have laughed and thought you (and me, for that matter) were crazy. Yet here I am feeling freer and better for my experiences (and all of the discomfort that went with them).
As I read through an excellent article on Yoga Journal.com about bravery, the quote I excerpted above jumped out at me. I’ve heard the phrase “you’re so brave” from quite a few friends over the years. Now I chuckle to think that perhaps what they really meant is that I am out of my mind. Of course being a yoga practitioner, my first reaction to that is — and that’s a good thing. For when I’m “in my mind,” I tend to be a little more critical, a bit more fearful, a little less game to push my edge and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
As I’m learning through my studies of the Yoga Sutras, yoga’s goal is to improve the quality of the mind. Cessation of thoughts is not what we’re after. Rather it’s controlling the thoughts that our mind conjures. Somewhere during my time on the mat, I came to replace the thought that new experiences are scary with new experiences are an opportunity for growth. The quality of my mind has improved, yes. Of course it still has quite aways to go.
As I fully participated in my weekend experience, I found myself being grateful for my higher quality mind (basically, I upgraded through yoga). Yes, my mind did jump in bed with my ego to produce a few judgmental thoughts (a few being “this is crazy,” “what would people think if they saw me doing this,” or my favorite “I’m nuts.”) but I ignored them and went about my business. The business of growth, of courage, of transformation.
One of my favorite Melissa Etheridge songs is Brave and Crazy. Do the two go together? Or is it just that in order to be brave you have to be out of your mind, or, crazy?
Crazy or not, I sure do enjoy being out of my mind.