Meditation Monday – Courage to be Wholehearted

by Christine Sine
Mural Reservoir Park Maple Leaf

by Christine Sine

Courage is one of the most important qualities that wholehearted people have in common says Brené Brown in her important book The Gifts of Imperfection”. She is not talking about the courage to do extraordinary acts of heroism here. She is talking about the ordinary acts of courage that make up our daily life, like the courage to say no when we are asked to do something we don’t really have time or motivation for. Or the willingness to admit we are too tired, too anxious or too much in need of down time to commit. It’s this kind of courage that makes us unafraid to laugh and dance and play with childlike abandon when we are happy, in spite of the fact that those around us think we are crazy.

The kind of courage that Brené Brown refers to means owning who we are now, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. I sometimes feel it takes a process a little like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. It recognizes our worthiness to be loved and cared for without self judgement or condemnation for perceived failures. At the same time, it opens us up to be loving, caring and compassionate towards others we see as imperfect, without expecting them to change. It is expressed when we risk being vulnerable and disappointed. Like when we miss out on a job we coveted. Or even when we pretend we are not really excited about a fantastic possibility that may not come to pass. As Brown says, admitting how we feel may not decrease our disappointment, when what we hoped for does not happen, but when we are honest about the delight of anticipation it greatly increases our joy when something good happens. This kind of courage is liberating and opens the doorway to wholehearted living. 

What I like about Brené Brown’s approach to wholeheartedness is the way she identifies things we need to give up as well as things we need to embrace. There is no place for perfectionism, powerlessness, self doubt, the need to be in control, exhaustion as a status symbol, concerns about scarcity, anxiety as a way of life. These all need to be discarded if we want to live wholeheartedly. In their place are resilience, compassion for ourselves and others, gratitude and joy, rest and play, laughter, dancing and song. 

It really does take courage to make these kinds of changes in our lives. For me personally, the courage to step out and live a wholehearted and joy filled life came when I reoriented my time away from work and productivity towards awe, wonder and play. It didn’t mean I gave up work for pleasure but it did mean I incorporated more fun and pleasure in my life. We live in a world that is very focused on work. The first question people usually ask us is “What do you do for a living?” And we feel guilty if we don’t have a high powered job that keeps us busy 24/7. Giving myself permission to go out and enjoy my garden, to go for walks when I had deadlines for articles, and even to indulge in some rock painting when other seemingly more important tasks had not been completed, enlivened and refreshed me in unexpected ways. I might have worked less, but I accomplished more because my hours of work were more focused.

Evidently this kind of courage makes us more compassionate, less critical and more relaxed people.  It’s one way that we love ourselves and reach out in love to others, something that is only possible when we feel comfortable with who we are. This was certainly true for me. I was definitely less critical both of myself and of others and I was able to reach out and meet the needs of others in ways that had not been possible before. 

Take time to prayerfully think about this today. Where do you need to step out in courage and not be afraid to share your vulnerability with others? Where do you need to learn to say “no” so that you can relax and slow down?  

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