“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Redmacher
Are you feeling fearful? Are your surroundings unfamiliar? Do you need more courage to confront the new year?
During my lifetime I have crossed many thresholds, leaving an old life behind while facing a new adventure. I have often approached these thresholds with joy as I took on the responsibilities of becoming an adult, a wife, a guardian, or stepped into a leadership role. At these times I have entered the new territories of life and accepted the challenges and the unknown outcomes.
At other times I have been pushed across a threshold by circumstances. My life was forever changed without my permission. For me, these uninvited passages have included the loss of a beloved, the recognition of a difficult diagnosis and the act of being discredited by the actions of others. At each of these times, my fears grew exponentially as my courage to move forward in life evaporated. I wondered if I would ever be myself again.
When my fears were activated, my response was to cover myself in a blanket of anger, self-doubt and confusion. This response seemed to be a reasonable reaction to being overwhelmed by fear. But, it didn’t help me adjust to the new terrain of my life.
In this new land of uncertainty, I imagined that land mines were buried everywhere. There was no clear path to follow. Each step required a decision. Each decision required courage.
The relationship between fear and courage has always intrigued me. Finding courage would not be necessary if I had no fears. Psychologists say that my fears are generated by my past experience of loss, pain, or trauma. However, sorting out the past from the present was too arduous a task for me.
Over the years, after stepping or falling across many thresholds, I have developed a practice of courage. This practice requires that I first honor, in ceremony, each of my fears. This can take some time because I can always discover many layers to my fears. For ceremony, I create an altar for my fears, placing on it a symbolic object that represents each fear. Each morning I spend time at the alter greeting my fear of abandonment, fear of death, and fear of the future. In time, my fears greet me like old friends offering me encouragement.
Once my fears have been thoroughly honored they don’t hold me in such terror. I can then step around them, into my life again with the courage I need to persevere and withstand the new challenges that confront me.
I am now ready to begin my practice of courage. This practice involves small steps at first. I chose to perform a simple task of creating something that I love with full attention to its utility, beauty and nourishment. I make a favorite soup. It takes three days to shop, make the stock and finally create the hearty meal. I practice joy by setting the table with special dishes and embellishments. The warmth of the soup reminds me to nurture myself in this challenging time.
Next, I move on to the challenge of meeting someone who is very different than I am. I practice listening with an open heart and closed mouth. I want to hear what their fears are and how they manage their passages. This practice teaches me to be patient with myself as well as with others.
And, when I am ready, I find something risky to believe in. Maybe it is simply a person to trust or a cause to support. I have found that once I am engaged in an activity that feeds my soul, I have the courage to be me once more.
In this new time, this new year, I am wishing for you a practice of courage to live fully, love deeply and choose joy.
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