“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear–not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain
Most of the time we think of courage as a force that can help us face fearful situations, to bravely run against opposing fire or to act under overwhelming circumstances, to push back, so to speak, against external challenges. But, I believe, more importantly, that courage is about facing and winning our internal battles: emotions vs cognition, selfishness vs selflessness, immediate gratification vs long-term fulfilment, pleasure vs happiness. It is about doing the right thing when it is not comfortable and when it is not easy.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” ― Maya Angelou
Courage is about living life to its fullest. It is about acting and behaving based on what we already know deeply, and then to live through the infinite gains and vulnerabilities of those choices. To be “courageous” is to experience your feelings in the body and to live up to your best self and to stay close to your authentic self.
Courage is the experience of facing the mind when it is in emotional pain, whether it be caused by loss, uncertainty or suffering; when the mind cannot bear what it is seeing or hearing, when longing does not come to realization, when people we care for and love disappear and when hope fades. Courage helps us move through life while carrying, bearing, and even celebrating the life we have just lost. When life does not in any way add up or when things are not going our way, courage allows us to turn to the part of us that has never wanted to be engaged. It is not the solution, but an attitude and invitation, allowing us to go through the door of pain and difficulty. Courage is about finding and opening new doors while moving through the depth of suffering toward a greater level of liberation.
“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” ― August Wilson
Courage provides an opportunity to ask deep, direct, forceful and uncomfortable questions about oneself, questions that can enhance your identity and your relationships toward others as well as the universe. To this end, ask yourself the following questions to know your destination and what are the things that are most important to you. Once you have the answers, develop the skills and the courage to work on them:
- What is the purpose of your life?
- What are some important dreams that you would like to pursue in the next five years?
- What are your priorities?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are the values that are important to you? Do you live by them?
- What are your greatest sense of need, right now?
- What are the things that sap your energy and that you most want to remove from your life?
- Is there a place you feel stuck in? What is that?
- What are your vulnerabilities?
- What you are afraid of?
- How will you bear the inevitable that is coming to you?
- What are the major changes you have to make in your life right now?
- What activities can give you a sense of self-improvement or moral clarity?
- Which experiences can provide you with a sense of connection to humanity?