What is Brave?

Yesterday, I was at the Under 40 Meditation night at my local Shambhala Center. After the sit, we did a group discussion on the question of what is bravery?

A lot of people said some beautiful things. One guy echoed my thoughts by saying, courage or bravery is doing something despite feeling terrified.

After the talk, I chatted with another person, and he expressed his dissatisfaction with the answers. So, we dug deeper as I also had felt like something was missing.

To me, it seemed like we were placing courage on a pedestal. Obviously, courage is a virtue, and we are all lacking in it to some degree. I wish I could do what I know is right or good more often instead of letting my emotions gain the upper hand. But, the ideal state of character to me isn’t being brave all the time. That would be exhausting.

The ideal is playfulness. Courage or willpower is like a boat that can be used to cross uncomfortable waters. But once you reach the other shore, you can let go of courage and be playful again.

A lot of times, I think we are our own worst enemies placing limitations on what we think we can do. For example, I know when I first began going to the gym, I was really terrified. I thought everyone was staring at me, judging me. It took some amount of willpower and bravery to  stay in the gym and later to return again. But, now, I couldn’t care less. I’m not self-conscious anymore because I know everyone’s just focused on themselves. The same is true about public speaking, playing music, or any public activity. Once you get pass the obstacles and self-conscious nervous feelings, you can relax into a state of play rather than brute force.

Being brave means you feel discomfort and likely fear. Where does the fear come from? The fear stems from anticipation of an unknown, likely horrible outcome happening. Courage is persevering despite this fear and discomfort. But, once you see behind the curtain and realize there’s nothing to fear at all, you can return to play.