Courage

I feel so lucky! I was recently able to attend a full-day workshop in Amsterdam held by the poet David Whyte. And, those of you who have been following this blog know that he is my very favorite poet (and author in general).

The title of the talk was Robust Vulnerability. But the theme that stuck with me the most afterwards was that of courageous conversations. The kind of conversation you have with your loved ones, where you bare your soul, not knowing how the other will react, maybe going out on a limb, but determined to carry on the conversation anyway.

And I thought back on all those times that I avoided having that courageous conversation, trying to stay safe in the world as I understood it at the time.

Or the conversation that you have with yourself, admitting something that is almost too big to contain. Going out to the edge of what you understand about yourself and knowing that you can’t hide from yourself any more. Maybe admitting longing, defeat, or heartbreak. Maybe it’s about a step that you know you must take… even though you don’t know what will happen when you do.

And I challenged myself to hold that courageous conversation with myself and, through my writing, with the world.

Whyte used the term moulting. When birds moult (exchanging one coat of feathers for a new one) they shed everything that makes them attractive, trusting that the new coat will come. Some of them do this feather for feather but others do it all at once. And facing the world with a naked skin makes one very vulnerable.

We humans often try to keep ourselves covered with a coating that makes us as attractive as possible to others. Shedding that skin makes us feel way too vulnerable. The night after the talk, I dreamt that I had lost all my curly hair and had bald patches all over my head. Fortunately, my subconscious was not telling me to shave my head but it was telling me to pay attention to this concept of shedding all the masks that make me look as attractive as possible. To myself and to the outside world.

And this, I think, is courage. If we can show this kind of courage in our lives and our relationships, we emerge stronger and more beautiful than before.

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