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Fear, Courage and Movement: Possibility Begins in the Body

Courage in Action

As you might have concluded from watching the news or reading your Facebook feed, the last couple of weeks have been an amazing, and upsetting, and confounding time to be alive. Things I thought we might never see happen have happened, things both joyful and horrific. Marriage equality and the murderous attack on black people praying in their church—in  the span of one week, beautiful steps toward equality, and unconscionable steps backward. In talking to friends, it seems that finding our footing right now feels at times buoyant and at others tenuous, as though we’re unsure of what kind of landscape we’re treading.

Perhaps the most indelible image to have been captured in these last weeks is that of Bree Newsome, the 30 year-old activist and filmmaker who scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina State Capitol building to take down the Confederate flag. The first view of this image stopped me in my tracks, stilled my breath. I sat there imagining what it must have felt like, to put hand over hand in the climb, muscles firing while the mind is steady with courage and clarity of purpose. To have the body and the mind and the heart so unified in action. I thought, “that’s what strength is for.”

Newsome’s statement about why she embarked on that climb expands my heart each time I read it. (Don’t miss out on her inspiring words: ) She starts by saying “Now is the time for true courage.” She goes on to say “I did it because I am free.”

I pray for that kind of courage whenever things seem impossible. I know it has arrived when I feel compelled to move, whether that movement is literal physical action or an important internal shift. We all know the paralysis of fear—we feel it in the body. It shows up differently for everyone: maybe you feel cold, or your muscles constrict, your breath becomes high and fast, you freeze. You freeze. But take a step, initiate a movement, and blood and breath find a way to sustain you. Start walking in earnest, and a secret begins to announce itself: possibility begins here, in this body.

The stuck-ness of fear is not just an emotional state but a physical feeling. And so is courage and the will to move beyond fear. Whether the courage or the movement comes first scarcely matters. They sync up with one another and keep on cycling. And in the case of big courage like Newsome’s, that movement kindles an awakening of possibility in other people, too.

So it becomes an imperative for me, to move a little bit when I’m afraid. To trust that my breath and the beating of my heart will make a way for me. I trust it because I’ve seen it happen in others who were generous enough to show it to be true.

Wishing you all a very happy summer. Thanks for moving with us!

Much love and thanks for reading,

Erin H/Grassroots Yoga


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