Thursday, August 13, 2009

MPOW #27 - Hero

"The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by." - Felix Adler

"True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost."
- Arthur Ashe

Lately I have been inspired by many and have been thinking a lot about the people who inspire me. In schools and camps, people often ask children to talk about their heroes. Sometimes, out of whimsy, I love to pull out such childhood questions and see what the answers are. For this mindfulness practice of the week (MPOW), start by asking yourself: Who is your hero? or Who are your heroes?

This is the first step. The idea is not to choose an idol, but an inspiration. Telling the difference between idolatry and admiration is a second part of the mindfulness practice. What about that person do you find virtuous? What trait impresses you? Once you pinpoint this trait or traits, see what it would take to bring that trait into your life. My heroes are people who behave in ways that I admire but have not yet found the strength to emulate myself. Grove Alexander's quotation parallels the Buddhist notion that environment is just a blink away: "Less than a foot made the difference between a hero and a bum."

After choosing your hero, this is a great opportunity to find that same behavior and virtue within yourself. It is there. You don't need to change yourself or become a better person in any way. Instead you can reveal this for yourself in the same way that a master sculptor reveals the statue in the marble. It is not necessary to accomplish the same feats as your hero, that may actually be counterproductive to your goals. Forcing yourself to do something that doesn't align with who you are is not a change, it is a form of self-hostility. Instead, focusing on the virtue and behavior. Do this gently; you are already perfect and whole.

if you want some more inspiration about heroes, see Paula Grant-LeClaire's Hero Quotations at Bella Online.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” - Christopher Reeve

“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.” -Bob Dylan

This post is dedicated to my heroes, especially the people who have patiently taught me the things that I have been impatient in learning.


  1. I don't know that there is a person that I admire, but there are definitely people who have characteristics or virtues that I admire, but I've always stopped there...Never tried to see what it would take for me to cultivate that same virtue in me...I guess I'm trying to do that right now with compassion...I live in a very mean, selfish and downright nasty city and being here as long as I have...I have simply become one of them.

  2. I'm also cultivating compassion. Remember to celebrate every step. There is no goal other that to keep cultivating. One of the biggest challenges for me has been to have compassion for myself.

    Jessica, good luck on finding the virtue in your city and finding happiness for yourself. We're all in this together. (From the Red-Green Show)