Being conscious of all of life

I loved Mariam Gates’ post last weekend, Brave Heart, about her son’s broken arm.  Mariam’s recounting of her conversation with her son – when he tells her he was not brave because he scared and was cried – is heartfelt, and the reflections she shares about what bravery really means are stirring and thought-provoking.  She writes that she is “not interested in bravery that is synonymous with fearlessness” and while I’ve never thought of it so clearly and compellingly, I find myself nodding.  Yes, yes, yes.  Fearlessness seems like a defense mechanism, doesn’t it?  An over-simplification of this life?  Mariam calls it disconnection, and I think that’s right.  I’ve never been fearless; if anything, I’m often consumed with fears.  Fears run through my veins along with hope and wonder and memory, sometimes making my heart skip a beat, sometimes clouding my vision so I can’t see anything other than that which I dread.

So maybe fear is not fearlessness.  But then what is it? Well, I like Mariam’s definition:

I think bravery is about being conscious of all of life.

Why yes.  Yes, that’s it.  Isn’t she utterly right?  Isn’t true bravery about remaining open to the fear, about letting the fear permeate you, even, and not running away from it?  Of course you could call this a self-interested response, since I think one of the central themes of this blog is being aware of everything, of all of life.  But truthfully I hadn’t thought of it this way before, and when I read Mariam’s post I found myself agreeing absolutely.

Bravery is staring into the sun, even when the brightness of life – and the brightness is precisely because life’s minutes are burning in front of us – is painful.  Bravery is not flinching and not looking away, even when the emotion of a moment overwhelms us.  Bravery is not hiding, in a thousand ways little and big, from our own lives.  Bravery is letting heartbreak gouge your spirit, because you know that that leaves a deeper well for joy.

Bravery is about being conscious of all of life.

Thank you, Mariam, for putting it so beautifully.


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  1. Posted February 29, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    “Bravery is letting heartbreak gouge your spirit, because you know that that leaves a deeper well for joy.”


    Fear is, I believe, the most common human experience. Bravery is feeling the fear and moving into it with an open heart.

    Thanks to both of you… Love this.


  2. Posted February 29, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    I was recently reading about the different between fear and anxiety (people tend to think they are the same thing). It said, basically, that fear is specific, usually attributable to something that you really SHOULD be afraid of. Anxiety tends to be more general and amorphous. Fear has utility, I think.

  3. Posted February 29, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Love this — and am so glad to know of Mariam’s wonderful blog. The thing is, fear never goes away, not at five or at fifty. But it’s fear that allows us to find our courage, fear that creates a space for bravery — and when we lean in and feel it and “do it anyway,” fear that fuels our growth.

  4. Posted March 1, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE Mariam’s blog. She is hilarious but also breaks my heart open. I too loved this post about bravery and her wise words to her son.

    At 39 I am only beginning to learn how to be conscious of all life and not try to block out the uncomfortable parts.