We definitely need bucket loads of it to live in this world.
There is so much happening which is downright scary! Some of it preposterous!
How do we keep the forces of chaos at bay? How do we maintain calm and equilibrium, let alone whistle a happy tune, or get cheerful enough about the future that we can plan and dream?
It's a challenge. A challenge whose face is different the world over, morphing month to month and year on year. We could probably agree, that if there was a name for this age, it would be the age of challenge.
Of course according to the Vedas we are in Kaliyuga – the age of darkness, deception – of quarrel and strife. This age began some five thousand years ago, and depending on who you listen to, we have either 10,000, 426,000, 4,800 or 7 years to go until it ends. I am so holding thumbs for the 2025 theory! Meanwhile though, the challenge continues.
Now there are two things you can do with a challenge. Back down or back up.
Back down means you snivel away and shrivel. Which is literally what will happen, one way or another, sooner or later, if you become immersed in the negativity, the misery, the bad news and creation of negative pictures. And of course what we focus on expands.
When you back down from a challenge, you don't fight. You accept 'reality'. You imagine yourself too weak or ineffectual to make a difference or to create change. In other words you don't take up the challenge. So the challenge defeats you. Whatever it is – it does not matter.
'It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges'
No challenge is actually out of your control. And most importantly, neither is your response to a challenge. But when you back down, you are not responding. You are freezing. Stopping. No movement.
On the other hand back up means prepare to confront, face, challenge back, take up the challenge, stand up and roar, say Hell NO!,(PG rating), get busy creating, shift, change, change your mind, manifest, stand bold and deliver! In other words, act. Move. Do. Respond. Fight!
To take up any challenge - whatever that challenge might be, you need courage.
What is it though to have courage? It's not about strength, physical or otherwise. It's not about power, or how many assets you own or control. It's not about how much skill or education you possess.
Originally, courage, derived from the Latin root cor for heart, meant wholeheartnedness, telling the story of who you are with your whole heart. So the Italian coraggio refers to “heart, innermost feelings; temper”.
These days, courage is defined as bravery, the ability to face frightening things. It's also about withstanding or enduring. Courage requires deliberate action, usually in the face of resistance.
So we have two elements to courage. The first element of courage requires that we have or create a willingness to respond – to whatever the challenge is. The second element is that we take that willingness to respond and convert it to action. This action may not be physical, it may be a focus of attention, creating an intent, or holding the space for an outcome. Then there is a third aspect - that we persist and endure and continue and not give up. Until we triumph!
I will not talk here about the courage necessary to carry on once you have lost a loved one, or when some part of you has been broken, or when you live in daily suffering. The ability to wake up in the morning and live another day when your body, mind, or heart has been shattered into a million pieces is courage that many of us are thankful to never have to endure or understand.
Yet this sort of courage beyond courage is faced not by a minority, but by the majority of the people on this planet. In this very moment. And though we do not know it, or can begin to understand it, a part of all of us weeps in sympathy.
So for a moment, let us reflect on and salute the millions who endure and have the courage to transcend. Today. Let us say to them 'Well done! We stand with you!' Let us send them strength. And let us put out the aspiration that they may be happy and free from suffering.
'Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace"
From that perspective, perhaps it is the age of extraordinary courage that we are living in. Perhaps this is the age of heroes and heroines, living and transcending trials and tribulations that make slaying the nine headed Hydra or taming Cerberus seem like child's play. Yet because darkness cannot exist without the light, so in any age of darkness here has to also be lots and lots of light. We need to believe and connect with it. Hold the point of light. Dare!
Courage implies taking some risk. Perhaps it's going into the unknown to pursue a dream and turn it into reality. Perhaps it's defying the norm. Righting wrongs. Standing up for truth or justice. Starting a new venture or business. Traveling into the literal or figurative unknown. All of these risks may place life or limb in danger, and because the danger is both tangible and real, the risk is to be expected, and therefore reasonable.
Often though, courage is about flying in the face of conventional reality, becoming unreasonable. This is a different type of courage altogether, because the thing one is facing is intangible, and forms part of the intangible world. This sort of courage is courage to confront your own mind and beliefs and truth and turn them on their head. Often, while challenging the world and 'reality' as you know it. '
The most courageous thing is still, to think for yourself. Aloud.'
This is the courage needed when you refuse chemo in favour of watching comedy, or fasting, or meditation. The boldest part of that is not what others will have to say about it, (and it will be plenty!) but how you will confront your own inner demons and voices who may mock and taunt and deny. You need huge courage to stand up to that!
The courage that refuses medication or labelling and instead celebrates the genius of a child, because you honour your inner voice and knowing. The courage to allow the bugs to infest your garden without chemicals until balance is restored. The courage to oppose the electromagnetic poisons of our world, and to honour the body's response to these – regardless of what research may say. The courage to start or continue with your business venture when everyone tells you it will fail. 'If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too', says Rudyard Kipling...
All these forms of unconventional courage are underpinned by believing and holding firm in the face of 'actual' reality. And trusting yourself. This is what it really means to honour your heart.
Believing in the impossible is one of my key themes as many of you know. And this is definitely not the same as believing anything is possible. Believing in the impossible is staring something in the face and choosing to believe something altogether different. This too takes courage.
Courage is the antidote to fear. All courage presupposes some physical or other fear needing to be overcome. Courage is action in the face of fear, and often in the grip of it. And like anything else, courage requires practice.
'Courage is knowing what not to fear'
What do we fear? Annihilation of body, or sense of self. That's it really. It's either a fear that our body will die, or a fear that our sense of self will be challenged or ridiculed creating a death of another sort. Ironically this death of sense of self, death of ego, is what we are simultaneously trying to aspire towards when we seek enlightenment, transcendence. Clinging to the illusion of self, we are taught on many paths, is at the root of our lack of wholeness.
So, courage can be seen as the ability to transcend self, and to connect with the part of ourselves that cannot die. Those who risk their lives coming to the rescue of others are definitely doing that.
We are also doing that when we refuse to allow our mind to trap us in fear or in various types of thinking. And in so doing we are expanding the borders and limitations of our reality and beingness, transcending reality itself.
That's what it really means, to rise up. And if ever there was an age and a time requiring us to Arise, it is now! We need to gather the courage to rise up and respond! Create change! Most importantly we need to keep up the courage to dream! The very best dreams – even in the face of reality.
'We are, more or less
The makers of the future.
We create what time will frame.
And a beautiful dream, shaped
And realised by a beautiful mind,
Is one of the greatest gifts
We can make to our fellow beings'
No one can put this better than Ben Okri does in his book Mental Fight – An Anti-Spell for the 21st Century based on a lecture he presented at the inaugural millennium lecture in Edinburgh. I read parts of this book at the launch of my Money Well book.
Ben Okri's words are as applicable today as they were when he first wrote them. He says,
'We that are here now, are touched
in some mysterious way
with the ability to change
and make the future...'
Yes! I believe that. We need to gather up our courage. Stand up and be counted. Speak our innermost hearts' desires. Say Hell No! Say Yes! Say I will confront and overcome! Become the heroes of our story and the heroes of this world.
'We can still astonish the gods in humanity
and be the stuff of future legends,
If we but dare to be real,
and have the courage to see
That this is the time to dream
The best dream of them all.
I love Ben Okri!
We create the world