Half a shade braver…. That was the title of poet, David Whyte’s recent public reading. I find Whyte is the perfect combination of wistful poet, philosopher, spiritual traveller and word magician. Half a shade braver…for me that had such a lovely ring, at once gentle in the half part and fierce in the brave part. None of us like to be bullied into action and yet we sometimes ponder pushing our boundaries, becoming more than our current selves.
Whyte likes to toss out questions that nudge us in that direction. It’s never a heady thing but always something pithy we can apply in our lives. This time he was contemplating bravery in the “now”. He wasn’t asking us to do the impossible, no hot coals to walk on, no plane to jump from. He wasn’t asking us to dive into our darkest places or to transform ourselves on the spot, as we sometimes tell ourselves we should. He was simply asking us to contemplate taking a small step somewhere in our daily lives. How and where could we be half a shade braver? Could we show up just a little more? Could we resist the temptation of laziness, of habit where it doesn’t serve us. We don’t always think of that as bravery, but he reminded us that resisting the pull of habit is indeed a brave step. Could we be just a little more awake to our old tricks, to our tendency to seek comfort? Could we think the beautiful, generous thought, instead of the small, critical one? Bravery is everywhere, hiding in small things. We don’t need to rescue a drowning child to be brave.
Whyte often asks us to examine the conversations we have with life, with others, with ourselves. That’s a brave thing to do. Relationship is perhaps the hardest place to be a little brave, to say no when it’s easier to say yes, to resist the knee-jerk of fear propelled habit. Or sometimes it might be to say yes, when we’d rather say no, to resist the pull of our stubborn ego.
Our primary relationship is always with ourselves. And from there we move outward, to our relationship with loved ones, to our community, to strangers. And our work, our real work whatever that may be, what’s our relationship with that? A lifetime’s attention to bravery exists in just those places. Could we be less doubtful, believe in ourselves and others more? Could we make the next step strong, instead of tentative?
Both my Buddhist practice and my art practice have shown me over the years that I echo the relationship I have with myself into every other place I go, that if I was a half shade braver in my relationship to myself a cascade of change might ensue, a line of clattering dominoes. If we are tight in our lives and work, if the line we draw on the page is measured and controlled, perhaps a little more abandon and spontaneity is the brave thing. If we are all ready spontaneous and loose perhaps a more measured attention to detail is what bravery looks like for us?
Our heart always knows what half a shade braver looks like for us. No one else can tell us.
I find it an invigorating question to put to myself during the day. Where can I be just “half a shade braver”? How about you? Where is life calling you to be half a shade braver somewhere?
I am continually posting new artso if you have a moment, pop by and see some of my new work. On an ongoing basis I am also reworking the words there to communicate the story behind my art and give people a flavour of the person behind the work. I feel like it still hasn’t quite hit the mark. Let me know what you think! Writing copy for a website so different from writing a blog. I am experimenting with how I sell my work these days and I will be taking down the prices as I ponder seeking gallery representation. So if there’s anything calling to you right now, you can simply use the shopping cart. In the coming weeks I will replace the cart with an “inquire” button, still easy, but one more step. The site, like us all, is a work in progress. I am always interested in feed back or your thoughts about life, art and practice. Say hello in the comments or a short note!