I recently watched the movie, 127 Hours, a true story about Aron Ralston, the hiker who in 2003 got trapped in a Utah canyon by an 800-pound boulder and had to cut off part of his arm to save his life. You likely have heard the story.
One of the things that struck me while watching the film was how brave Aron was. And not just about severing his own body part. Even before he was pinned in the canyon, he was portrayed sailing over rocks on his mountain bike and plunging several stories down a slot canyon into a pool of water to swim. As a person who is not a physical risk-taker, I was captivated and slightly terrified by his acts of fearlessness.
A couple of days after I saw the movie, I danced a Qoya class taught by my friend Heidi. The theme was Joy. In Qoya, we choose an oracle card at the beginning of class to inspire our movement experience. My card from a deck Heidi is creating, pictures a ship on stormy seas. On the bow is a woman figurehead like you often see on old ships. Her heart is thrust forward as she leans out over the roiling water, like she’s leading the way with love. She is a tiny brave thing facing a huge raging sea.
As I slowed my breath and moved my body in Qoya, it occurred to me: To find joy, I must be more fearless. I must become that tiny brave thing.
But what does it mean to be fearless? Do we all have to be like Aron Ralston? Geez, I couldn’t even watch the movie scene where an actor pretended to cut off his arm! I sat on the sofa with a blanket over my head and my fingers in my ears and asked my daughter to yell at me when the gory part was over.
Clearly, there are different kinds of bravery. But think about it–how many times does fear prevent us from experiencing the joy in our lives? Like financial fear that holds us in a job that doesn’t inspire us when we could be doing our soul’s calling. Or fear of being alone that traps us in an unfulfilling relationship when we could be discovering the delight of loving ourselves. Or fear of someone’s differing politics that keeps us from experiencing a friendship where we might be laughing over something we both find funny.
The things we fear often trap us like an 800-pound boulder that cuts us off from our joy. My antidote? An intention to become more fearless, to become a tiny brave thing by doing tiny brave things. These are acts that may not seem all that courageous to some people, but stretch me out of my comfort zone. Like getting back on the horse that threw me off earlier in the summer and sticking through the part where she was tearing around the arena until she calmed down. Whew.
But first, I have to notice when my fear is getting the best of me. Is it fear or common sense? One way to tell is to check in with your chakras. I most often feel fear in my solar plexus and heart chakras. It presents itself as a sort of heaviness. When that happens, I work to clear them and fill them up with healing light. I also meditate with or wear crystals for support. Citrine, carnelian and sunstone are excellent for boosting courage. If you live in the Denver area, you can probably find them at my favorite rock shop, The Crystal Garden.
I’m also not above using the fake it ‘til you make it approach. Mantra helps here. “I am brave” can be mentally repeated, even when you don’t feel that way. Or try Glennon Doyle’s “We can do hard things.”
If you were to ask Aron Ralston whether he felt fearless during his ordeal, I wonder what he’d say. My guess is that he’d probably tell you he was scared out of his mind. Sometimes it’s the fear that drives you forward. So perhaps the secret is not to avoid fear, but to accept fear as a partner and take tiny brave dance steps toward joy.