The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.”
We all seek the experience of being connected and alive. The difficulty is that to find the connection we desire, we must not be afraid of it. Courage is not as much about going off to fight dragons as it is about facing our demons, tolerating our feelings, and not reacting so quickly, in order to hear what our emotions are trying to tell us. Empathy requires a profound fearlessness to listen to and even embrace what we do not know, sometimes for a long time. Sometimes it takes great courage to not do anything and just listen.
One day a young woman in her mid-20s, Joanne, showed up at our door. She was strung out, suicidal, and wanted help to kick her heroin addiction. Judith and I knew her a half dozen years earlier as a bright, loving, and capable friend. Now with her mind and body compromised by drugs, she was fighting for her life. Joanne spent the next month at our house. Never completely clean, her ability to be honest with herself was patchy. Several neighbors helped where they could, but none of us had much experience with this sort of thing. We called on our friend Peter, an ex addict now clean for 30 years who surely had some understanding of what Joanne was up against. Peter wept as he told us of people he had known, befriended and tried to help that had died and his fear of putting his heart back on the line once again with someone who might go back on the streets and self destruct. This being true, the next day he offered to go with Joanne to Narcotics Anonymous every day for the next 30 days if she would commit to it! He cared. Her courage to fight moved him; his courage to help moved her. When last we spoke, Joanne was on a healing path! Peter, died recently and the mark he left most on me and the people who knew him is the courage he had for authentically being his caring, playful, jokester, artist self.
Carl Rogers, the founder of humanistic psychology, said, “What we are most ashamed of is often what is most common.” We’re wired to tell our stories, and even though our mother culture teaches us not to reveal our imperfections, this is where we can deeply connect. Common sense tells us that we are all in this together and this being the case there is a collective processesing and learning we are a part of. Living our lives more courageously honest and transparently is an essential shift towards healthy community. Through the years in our workshops, there is nothing more moving than when someone who is afraid to reveal his or her self musters the courage to speak out and does so for the sake of genuinely connecting and contributing to the others in the room.
When someone courageously risks vulnerability against all his or her imperfections, it opens the hearts of those near by. Surprisingly, people who are considered the least likely leaders can end up inspiring us the most. Everyday people and everyday acts of courage and heart change everything
To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heart beats, the silent space that says we love only by grace.
Wildness, wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands”.
Our passages from childhood into adulthood, committing to life long relationships, becoming parents and entering elder hood are moments that ask us to look inward. Initiatory rites of passage in elder traditions honor such thresholds from one stage into the next. When our eldest son, Devin turned 15, over the course of a 7 month period he met with an extraordinary group of men who gathered regularly to guide and ready him and his peers for their solo vision quests, a rite of passage into responsible adulthood. Drawing from the Lakota tradition, each of the young men went “up on the hill” for inner guidance and vision, alone in the wilderness and without food for several days and nights. The process was life changing and meaningful for all who touched it. You see, these young men leave the village to face death, to find their own truths, and then return, all for the sake of enlivening the whole community. Such rites speak to a gaping hole in modern culture’s lifestyle, a wanting and needing that honors the unique gifts that every stage of life contributes to the circle.
In our culture of consumerism there are endless possible things we can buy or do to distract or fill ourselves up in order to “fix” the emptiness and pain inside of us. Maybe “Life” is truly awesome, and that is why it feels overwhelming to go fully into it. Life has an elegance that surpasses by far anything we might devise. Wisdom lies in knowing when to sit back and allow the unfolding. Too hurried an activism may lead to lesser consequences and, more importantly, may cause us to trust ourselves instead of learning to trust life. Our bodies put us in direct contact with life. Originally we chose the name, Liminal Somatics for our company because a “Limin” is the threshold of a door, and somatics is the integration of mind, body and spirit. To cross thresholds of life, we must engage our whole selves. This is a core principle in all our trainings at Liminal Somatics.
Let us know if you would like to host a workshop in your area. Stay tuned, David’s book on Practices for Embodying Nonviolent Communication and Judith’s book on Connective Culinary Arts are both in their final edits!
love and light,
David and Judith Weinstock