Josh Freedman with Six Seconds describes courage as an act that connects with our heart -- because the root word of courage, in French, actually is heart, or coeur. In fact, the Change Map we use in our workshops and coaching includes courage as one of its three anchors (the other two are curiosity and excitement). Here's my recent experience with courage, and what I learned. A few weeks ago I was at a Tree Care Industry Association retreat in New Hampshire , where I did something that took a lot of courage -- for me.
I used to be pretty afraid of heights, and the retreat included a ropes course. I've been working on my fear of heights for some time now, and without hesitation I raised my hand when the instructor asked, "Who's in?" I knew I was ready to do this, or at least pretty ready...
This is me up there in the trees. (Photo courtesy of David Lee.)
I had a two-part safety harness. There was also an experienced guide right there with us -- well, actually she was down on the ground, but she or any of the other guides were skilled at getting us down almost immediately if we asked. And when I was up there, believe it or not, I used a lot of what I've been learning in my meditation practice. I just tried to "stay in the moment". (I also didn't look down much.)
Fellow participants called up words of encouragement as the group up in the trees made it through sections of the course. At one point, I had difficulty maneuvering over a tree branch on part of the course. I paused to try to figure it out for myself, and knew I needed support. A colleague and the instructor who was on the course with us helped me over that tough spot. The experience was a watershed for me in many ways -- I did something new and I was totally okay with it.
Here are some of the insights from my experience:
1) I was conscious of my emotions in the past -- fear of heights, in this case. But I was more aware of how I wanted to be emotionally in the present. It was courage-in-action.
2) I used the power of curiosity about being up among the trees, and courage, to try something new. Being excited to be up there with the awesome, gorgeous trees helped too.
3) It's okay to be tenacious and it's okay to ask for help. I wanted to figure out the course elements for myself, but there was a point when I needed to ask for others to help me -- and I was good with that. Sometimes asking for help when you're stuck, or collaborating together, is the best way to go.
4) I had a great support system. I believe strongly that the safety harness, the instructors, colleagues on the course, and the crew on the ground who cheered me on all the way along, all made a big difference in my success.
And I knew I could safely get down to the forest floor almost immediately if I felt it was what was best for me.
3) My meditation practice actually was a great help -- that idea of being present that's a central part of meditation enabled me to deeply enjoy being up there among the beautiful leafy trees. It was spiritual in many ways for me.
Most significantly, the experience revealed to me that my longtime fear of heights was tied into self-judgement about something else in my life. I would never have known that if I hadn't been open to taking a step forward and trying the course.