"Do you consider yourself to be a brave frog? " Dharma asked as he sipped his tea. "I'm not the bravest guy there is," I replied, "but I think I do okay in that department. I don't go looking for trouble though if that's what you mean." Dharma just smiled. Tadpole, a frog's courage is not the absence of fear; it is the conquest of it. Being able to overcome your fears and do whatever you need to do well, Son, that is what real courage is. On any given day, many of us must wrestle our fears. Some of them may be job-related, some may be of a more personal nature, but each of us has our own fears that we need to conquer in order to live a better life. Everyone, frogs and humans alike, have a desire to change but often fear holds them back." I thought about what my wise teacher had said and then asked, "I get it, Dharma, fear can cripple us but how do we go about becoming more courageous?" "Irwin, that's an excellent question and I have a few tips that you might find helpful."
And so Dharma laid out a strategy for living a more courageous life.
It starts off with making courage a habit. We tend to think of courage as an inborn trait when in reality it is a practice and a way of being. We can actually learn to cope with difficulty. Courage can become a habit. And that starts off with accessing the body. When faced with difficulty, do you get sweaty palms, a queasy feeling in your stomach or, perhaps, maybe you get a vague sense of discomfort and dread. These are signs that your body's going into fear mode. A body-scan, which is simply paying attention to the signals your body is sending to your brain, can help. Once you realize what sensations you're having, that's all that's needed. You don't judge them or try to change them. Breathing
into the "affected" areas can help lessen the discomfort. That leaves us freer to better identify the source of the fear and pursue the things we want in life.
Next, Dharma, says is to listen without attachment. What this means is we all have inner critics that feed us "fake news" or misinformation about our abilities and that we're doomed to fail. Ignoring the critic an be helpful temporarily but it won't make it go away or stop talking. If we can learn to listen to that harsh critic without attachment, without accepting or denying what it says, we then are in a better place to learn from it. "Expressive writing or working with a coach or therapist can help us to understand the origins of our critical thoughts and to glean helpful information without getting hijacked."
The fourth step is to reframe those negative "news" stories. I think everyone operates, to some degree, by telling ourselves how the world operates. And while those stories may be partially true, they' not always 100% accurate. Each of us wears a lens that colors how we see the world. The trick is learning to accept them with a grain of salt. The good news here is that we can learn to reframe how we see life...it isn't always black or white. There are shades of grey and even some color! One way to reframe our thinking is to look at the problem as an outsider. Often, others can see things far more clearly than we can. Ask yourself how a co-worker or friend would see this situation. Put yourself in somebody else's shoes and look at your problem from a different perspective.
Up next, is to create a community. Living courageously means finding others who are like-minded. In other words, find a group who are also trying to honor the values of courage. This can mean looking carefully at the relationships in your life. Which ones nurture and support you and which ones do not. We all need at least a few close relationships where we can share values such as kindness, vulnerability, optimism, and empathy. it's okay to have friends of convenience...you know, the ones we go out and just have a little fun with but who might not otherwise "get us" or offer us a shoulder to lean on when we need it most. Having both kinds of relationships can be useful.
Dharma wrapped up today's lesson by reminding me of the importance of breaking old fear-based habits. The more we create habits of courage, the better able we become to handle the stresses and difficulties that life will always deal us. He closed our lesson today with this; "By living your life with courage, you’ll be more likely to make the changes that will lead to greater fulfillment—whether that’s embarking on a new relationship or job, or helping to save the world." Fear is the great killer of happiness. It cripples us and makes us doubt our own strengths. Learning to overcome fear can be achieved. In our own way, each of us is a superhero. We simply need to find and dust off that red cape.
I hope Dharma's lesson will be of benefit to you. As always, he has helped me better understand what I need to do to become more courageous in my own life. Please stop back by tomorrow. I'll look forward to seeing you. Until then.