On Bravery


I’ve been thinking about being brave, a lot, lately.

The world is a total shitshow right now. Bomb threats at my old office against people I love, murders, troops are being sent to the southern border of the U.S. to chase away immigrants…

All you have to do is glance at the headlines on any reputable news outlet and see it. It’s terrifying and right now it feels like it’s at a fever pitch.

Even though I covered breaking news for more than 10 years, and was literally steeped in this kind of thing all the time, it feels scarier now than it ever has.

Brave (noun, verb, adjective): To endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.

Having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty having or showing courage 

brave soldier

brave smile


Like me, you are probably seeking some solace. Some way to ease the panic–and while I can’t say this is the magic bullet, it has given me some hope.

The Only Way Out is Through

Back in 2012, one of my teachers, Christina Sell wrote about bravery for Yoga International. Elana Brower reposted it, here (in case you want to read it). In it Christina writes:

“During this challenging phase, as our fears and flaws surface, we have a chance to work with those aspects of our personality that get in the way of knowing ourselves on a deeper level…I call this stage of sadhana the yogic “fine print,” where we discover that direct lessons about faith will come through the doorway of doubt, where compassion is taught through pain, where true beauty is revealed only after facing what is ugly, and where courage is found in the dark recesses of what scares us most. The fine print of yogic practice shows us that these pairs of opposites inform one another in complementary and meaningful ways and that, as psychologist Carl Jung suggested many years ago, “The only way out is through.”

And what we are facing, right now, is ugly. It’s scary and it’s cruel.

I was attending my teacher training in San Marcos, Texas with Christina back in November of 2016. It was right after election day, and most of the students in my cohort had been rocked by the news of our current president’s win.

I remember that we wore safety pins that day as a sign of unity against the kind of violence, nepotism, hatred, and baseness that began to emerge. In that practice we worked on lifting our hearts, opening our chests in spite of what we felt, and when we finished, the practice made a difference.

Fear Has A Posture, Courage Does, Too

When we get scared, like I am today, our bodies react. Hip flexors tense, breath becomes shallow and quick, we hunch or crouch to protect our vulnerable hearts.  Some of us numb ourselves to the fear using drugs, alcohol, food, sex–anything to just make the fear stop.

But — the only way out is through.

In my classes I often ask students to focus on the places where they feel sensation–particularly if it’s an uncomfortable one. I tell them to send all their energy there, and stay with it–breathing through the discomfort, moving the energy as they sit with it.

You know what happens?

The discomfort lessens.

As we sit with our fear, our anger, our rage, and examine it–feel around the very edges of it–really make friends with it, that sense lessens. It releases its hold on the heart. It releases the rashness and the need-to-act immediacy of the feeling.

And on the other side of that fear, is courage. Courage lifts our hearts, broadens our chests, raises our heads and moves us forward.

It’s through our courage that things will change and evolve. It’s through our courage that the voices of those who are in danger, oppressed, discriminated against or hurt will be heard.

So How Do I Find Courage? The Practice

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