I had a great opportunity through work to attend a short lecture on timid souls this evening. It ended up actually being a talk about courage. The lecturer and author interviewed lots of people she felt were courageous and then wrote a book (and the lecture) about what she found. Her spectrum was fairly broad – everything from women giving birth, to dare devils and fantastic-feat-doers, as well as political and social heroes. She looked for common threads among them all and found a few. Here are a couple of the notes I made.
- Courage is as infectious as fear.
- When someone tells a story of a time they were courageous, they often start it out from a point of fear. So fear is a necessary ingredient and has a yin and yang relationship with courage. It’s important to stay balanced.
- Being brave looks like a true and real thing on its own from the outside, but in reality, everyone is just pretending to be brave. If you aren’t afraid, then your courage isn’t actually real. There’s no need to be brave if there’s no fear.
- Courage only really appears during the story telling. While you are living the moment, it can feel like it’s only fear.
- Being brave is only about pretending to be brave. It’s about telling yourself a story and believing it.
- Training yourself makes the courage come more automatically in fearful places.
- Although it feels like courage can be about being confident in yourself and your own abilities when you are afraid, it can also come from a place of service to a group (think – “no man left behind” in the army). Both are equally powerful.
The last thing I wrote down was, “Is fear real?” After thinking about the process of fear – courage – joy, it’s hard to think that it is real. It’s just something our mind throws in our way, a stepping stone to the actual truth of joy.
Of course, fear feels pretty real. Sometimes it feels physically oppressive it is so real. Maybe it’s more like a different state. Just as an ice cube turns to water and then steam, so fear turns to courage and then joy. They are all pieces of each other.
It’s really cheesy, but the whole thing made me think about my days in Hawaii. I had to face so many fears on that trip. One of my friends there was helping me with my fear of swimming in the sea. I was getting really freaked out in a gentle sea where I kept getting picked up and put down by waves such that I kept losing my connection to the sand with my toes. He encouraged me to just go with the motion and when he saw I was visibly terrified, he kept repeating a mantra, “joy is the other side of fear.” So true! After defeating that fear, you are elated and courage is the only way through it.
I had many opportunities to repeat that mantra on that trip whether it was swimming in the sea, jumping off cliffs, performing music, or just making the best out of a bad situation. These days, I find myself faced with far more emotionally terrifying places. A wise person has given me the mantra of “patience, courage, stillness.” Such a simple reminder, and yet so powerful.
I think most of all patience with oneself is the biggest helper to courage and is something I often forget about. Patience with other people comes so naturally, but to see that I am being impatient with myself requires an observation of self at which I am not yet practiced. Having it as a tool is powerful though and has already fortified me in so many ways.