The dictionary gives as the definition for ‘courage’: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. Which is interesting because the dictionary gives as the definition for ‘fear’: an emotional reaction to the perception of impending danger, doom, evil, pain, etc… I think we might be onto something here Mr. Dictionary! I am wondering what it feels like to face a challenge without the emotional reaction to the perception of its impending experience; Namely facing danger, pain, etc. without the emotional reaction to the perception of its immanence. How many times have we been in a situation where we knew what was needed and/or wanted to be said or done, and out of our emotional imagination of repercussions, chosen not to act or speak up? How many times have we acted and spoken out of our emotional imagination of what we thought was ‘right’ or ‘ought to be’ when it would have been more appropriate to hold our tongue?
What is this ‘quality of mind or spirit’ that enables a person to face their challenges without emotional reaction and prospective perception? And Can a person feel genuinely without emotional reaction?
To be clear, I feel that all emotions have their place and are valid, for in their raw form they seem to be the immediate nervous system energy arising from the interplay of environment (inner and outer) and individual. Emotional reactions and in particular inappropriate emotional reactions are what I might describe as the complex relationship of the mind/intellect with the pure emotional energy of life. In some sense pure emotion is what we feel deeply and true, while emotional reactions seem to be what we play out through the body/mind when we believe the mentalized and narrated story we tell ourselves while feeling this life. In this consideration, courage seems be the willing ability to not believe the words that follow along emotions; to not allow the mind to turn on itself as an enemy to what is, as it is, here and now; so that one can act and speak with confidence in a relaxed and authentic way while facing challenges, particularly dangerous and painful challenges.
It takes a lot of courage for someone to admit when they are wrong, or have misspoken, or not listened, without blaming, shaming, or guilting their way through it. It takes a great deal of courage to feel what really is for any amount of time without making up a story to pad, avoid, justify, deny, etc. what is felt. It takes courage to be vulnerable; to allow life to move in and touch your raw, and tender heart. To be able to speak and act without defense and at the same time not disengage from the challenge of the moment.
‘Courage’ comes from the root words ‘Cor’ and ‘Agé’ implying the inner meaning of courage as, ‘to engage the heart.’ Or in other words, to place one’s attention on the heart.
The heart is essentially a feeling instrument. It pumps blood in and out through the body all day and night through 4 valves. It feeds and cycles blood throughout the entire body, and it does so in a physical shape that creates an electromagnetic field in the shape of a torus. This field constantly takes in and emits out waves of energy that can be felt. Most emotional energy seems to be felt more in the guts, while the genuine feelings of life or what Yoga might call Divine moods are more likely to be experienced in the region of the heart.
Yoga is a path that one walks to build the stamina and strength to find and engage the Heart; one’s own physical heart with it’s subtle and genuine feelings, and ultimately the Heart of Reality. Courage is the action of placing one’s attention in a free and stable way inwardly to find what is truly present, and outwardly without forgetting one’s self and inner life. Courage is what is gained as one pursues truly knowing oneself through Yoga practice as a conscious lifestyle.
By Brent Kuecker: Yogi. Musician. Educator.
Engage your Heart at Udaya Live, Yoga and music festival this Summer in Borovets, Bulgaria! Take the journey of a lifetime both inside and out with an amazing family of musicians and Yoga instructors from around the world!