Courageous Presence

October 14, 2014

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I’m excited to announce that beginning today, On Purpose will have periodic guest contributors. I hope you will enjoy these new and different voices and find them valuable.

With warmth,  Heidi


Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can

Words of mindfulness: being present with some kind of intention, bringing a sense of awareness that is open, trying to “be here now.”  Yet knowing what a seemingly simple idea this is, we also know of its challenge and complexity, that being present can be a courageous act of faith.

 

These words were first spoken by a man whose actual presence was courageous, Arthur Ashe. He was the first black American player on the US Davis Cup Team and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. He later gained notoriety as one of the first professional athletes to contract and die of HIV/AIDS.  This also forced him out of the closet as a gay man.

 

In July of this year, we were reminded of this quote by Michael Sam as he accepted the Arthur Ashe ESPY Courage Award.

Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can

This, he says, is courage. And Michael Sam, was receiving the award for being the first openly gay college football player. When you listen to him talk, you feel his presence, his openness, that he has a pure heart. And yet he says he was simply choosing to just be himself, to stop trying to stop the feelings in his heart, to stop telling the stories that had become lies.

 

The second time he broke through the homophobia barrier was when he was finally called in the professional NFL draft, after his college playing days had ended. He was the 267th  draft pick, a number that if he had not shown up as himself, had kept his sexuality to himself, probably would have been chosen sooner. And probably would have had a more financially lucrative deal with the NFL. In the moment he got the call, he was simply there; so full of joy and relief he turned and planted a celebratory kiss on his boyfriend Vito’s lips. The pure hearted lion, once again. Just showing up, bringing what he had, doing what he could.

 

In our daily lives we often need to have such courage. It might be to prepare for a job interview, or to stand up and present to a group of people, it might just be to get out of bed.

 

So, when Michael Sam acknowledged Arthur Ashe’s words when accepting the Courage Award, he reminds us, especially our LGBTQI same gender loving friends and family and people of color, “To anyone out there – especially young people – feeling like they don’t fit in and will never be accepted, please know this: great things can happen when you have the courage to be yourself.”

 

And in our mindfulness practice, as we begin a meditation, as we face our lives with presence, these words are so simple, yet carry so much truth. They can help us be courageous.

Start where you are

Use what you have

Do what you can

 

 

 

Cary Virtue has been practicing mindfulness meditation since 2008. In 2012 he participated in the Commit to Dharma program with Larry Yang at the East Bay Meditation Center and is currently enrolled in the Certification in Mindfulness Facilitation program at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center. His work as a Peace Corps Volunteer doing HIV/AIDS prevention in Malawi, Central Africa, inspired him to get his Masters in Public Health, and he has worked the past 20 years in the field of preventive health and wellness.
Contact Cary at caryvirtue@gmail.com