The bud is hard. Then it softens, bursts, releases the pollen, and fragrance spreads through the garden. The blossom becomes more than itself. It becomes a community of birds, insects, worms, human senses, and new flowers.

So it is with my heart. When it is armored, closed tight and safe, my heart is only me. But when it opens, softens, allows itself to be vulnerable, my heart is more than me. It permeates other hearts, a field of heart radiance, a scent that has no circumference, a cup that contains the sky, and all the weightless stars.

The unconditional vulnerability of my heart is called "courage." I am only beginning to learn this, because I was raised to armor my heart, to harden and separate it against others, so that I could be "self-reliant." I was raised in the cultural myth of American hyper-masculinity.

I am just beginning to open. I have a long long way to go. But now I am learning that Courage means to soften, not to harden, my heart.

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