Courage is a huge theme in my life. It seems that either I’m praying for some, feeling grateful for having found a little bit, appreciating it in other people, or studying it. I don’t think that makes me unique. Everyone wants to be brave. Before embarking on any journey, including this one, it’s important to talk about what we need to bring along. It’s extremely difficult to dedicate your career to studying topics that make people squeamish. Wholehearted living is not a one time choice. It is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It is a process and i believe it’s the journey of a lifetime. What does it take to live and love from a place of worthiness? How do we embrace imperfection? How do we cultivate what we need and let go of the things that are holding us back? I understand that courage, compassion and connection seem like big, lofty ideals. Belonging is an essential component of wholehearted living, but first we have to cultivate self-acceptance --- why is this such a struggle? The good news is that our vulnerabilities are what force us to call upon these amazing tools. In this way, courage, compassion and connection become gifts --- the gifts of imperfection.
The root of the word courage is cor --- the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic. I think it’s critically important to define the gauzy words that are tossed around every day but rarely explained. We can talk about courage and love and compassion until we sound like a greeting card store, but unless we’re willing to have an honest conversation about what gets in the way of putting these into practice in our daily lives, we will never change. Play is an essential component to Wholehearted living. I realize that definitions spark controversy and disagreement, but I’m okay with that. Ironically, I think the most valuable contribution that I can make to the ongoing discussions about love, belonging and worthiness stems from my experiences as a shame researcher. We need common language to help us create awareness and understanding, which is essential to Wholehearted living. You know the dig-deep button, right? It’s the button that you rely on when you’re too bone-tired to get up one more time in the middle of the night or to do one more load of throw-up-diarrhea laundry or to catch one more plane or to return one more call or to please/perform/perfect the way you normally do even when you just want to flip someone off and hide under the covers.

Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Men and women who live wholeheartedly do indeed dig deep. Courage sounds great, but we need to talk about how it requires us to let go of what other people think, and for most of us, that’s scary. Recently when I was lost in an Internet fog and rather than working, I was just lulling myself into a haze by mindlessly playing on Facebook and piddling on the computer. It was neither relaxing nor productive ---- it was just a giant time and energy suck. I tried the DIG Deep --- get deliberate, inspired and going. I told myself, “If you need to refuel and losing yourself online is fun and relaxing, then do it. If not do something deliberately relaxing. If we want to know why we’re all so afraid to let our true selves be seen and known, we have to understand the power of shame and fear. Find something inspiring to do rather than something soul-sucking. Then, last but not least, get up and do it!” I closed my laptop, said a little prayer to remind myself to be self-compassionate, and watched a movie that had been sitting in a Netflix envelope on my desk for over a month. It was exactly what I needed.
Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. Don’t force yourself to start working or to do something productive. Rather, prayerfully, intentionally and thoughtfully do something restorative. If we can’t stand up to the never good enough and who do you think you are? We can’t move forward. Compassion is something we all want, but are we willing to look at why boundary-setting and saying no is a critical component of compassion? Are we willing to say no, even if we’re disappointing someone? Practicing courage, compassion and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. When we’re looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, able to bend, and most of all, we need someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles. It’s about connecting with the right person at the right time about the right issue. I have ultimately found a powerful fit between the stories I heard in the interviews and the work of American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron.
In her book The Places That Scare You, Chodron writes, when we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience the fear of our pain. The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum meaning “to suffer with.” The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are at accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become. If we really want to practice compassion, we have to start by setting boundaries and holding people accountable for their behavior. In our personal, social and political worlds, we do a lot of screaming and finger-pointing, but we rarely hold people accountable. Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming and blaming.It’s hard for us to understand that we can be compassionate and accepting while we hold people accountable for their behaviors. The key is to separate people from their behaviors --- to address what they’re doing, not who they are. Our innate need for connection makes the consequences of disconnection that much more real and dangerous. When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness --- the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging.