Finding Courage When You Need It

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold.

 

Courage is the foundation of freedom.

Thucydides (460BC-395BC) wrote: ‘The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.’

Today for various reasons I have been thinking about courage. Letting go, not blaming others, and taking responsibility for your own life takes courage, but until you find that courage you will find it difficult to enter the calm and happy place in your heart where you can just ‘be’.

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold. To follow our desired path. Many life coaches and authors focus on the need to be fearless and authentic and that’s wonderful advice. We all appreciate that friendly push to find the strength to be authentic; be fearless and inspired. But what if the fear soon returns? Then we hear our inner critic return again which fills us with the old doubts. The thing to remember here is that no one is truly fearless, but the people we admire – the ones who seem brave and do amazing courageous things, are the ones who have learned to move through their fear. And so bravery is in feeling fearful but doing what you want or need to anyway.

We all have ‘free space’ in our minds, a place which we can choose to go into and be calm, but it takes a while to train ourselves to use that space and not just resort to old familiar feelings when we are stressed or worried. In that calm space we can make our own conscious decisions without reacting to negative situations coming from outside. We can be in charge. This involves not making snap decisions and assumptions i.e. ‘that person was very rude to me in the queue, there’s no excuse: he’s not nice.’ The person may be nice normally but may have had a bad day or bad news. When you are in the free space, you cut people some slack, or at least do not let their behaviour get to you.

For a long period of our lives we may have handed over the responsibility of our lives to others; we may have created a certain belief about ourselves and the world in a way which was not benefiting us. Perhaps we didn’t believe we were free; free to live in love, abundance, and good health. Because of this, it takes courage to re-introduce yourself to the world and to let go of all the old energy blocks and take back the power for yourself. It can be overwhelming to adjust and to take back the power that you once gave away. That is why we say –‘it takes courage to be, it takes courage to do, and it takes courage to have’.

Courage ‘to do’ is relatively easy to understand; we may be afraid to contemplate bungee jumping, or public speaking for example; these are things we can be frightened about but we can picture doing them without having to change our lifestyle. However, if we want to change and be different do we really need courage then? The answer is yes, because unless you are really ‘being it’ you cannot live it. A lot of people dream about having or doing different things but they look from the outside; often we are looking at a façade rather than looking at what is real. It can take a long time to decide to change – to cast away all the old thoughts and ideas we have clung on to for so long.

Who are you really? What is your essence and your purpose? Do you dare to say you are unique? Not only is your fingerprint different from any other, so are you! You are extraordinary. There is only one you. Remember also, that trying to be someone else or putting on a different persona will not help you long term.

So do you really have the courage to be yourself? Only then will you be able to feel really free – be free to decide what you want to do, to be or to have. This sounds simple, but is it?

Admit Your Scared

It’s important to admit it to yourself when you are stuck in fear. Too often though, this process allows you to let the fears become worse. By admitting you’re fearful you will be asking yourself what being scared means to you and you will start filling in the blanks with the answers that don’t help, such as: ‘I’m scared I can’t handle this.’ Whatever your story is – it is just that – a story. It can be changed. Aim to stop adding to your negative storyline and get rid of any over dramatic feelings. Remember that being fearful just means you’re human.

Once you have admitted you are fearful it doesn’t mean necessarily that you just need to move past the fear without a backward glance. It may be nature’s way of making you check something out. Take time to get your thoughts clear. If the fear is groundless then you can tell yourself all is well. If you have a genuine worry then find the time and strength to run your worries past the right person that can help you. (That takes courage too, I know, but once you put into words whatever is bothering you, you are on the road to healing).

Recognise you aren’t alone.

You are in great company. Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with fear at one time or another. So don’t put yourself down. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have, through time, taken a risk and moved beyond perceived safety to something more rewarding. To join the tribe of the brave, don’t focus on what you feel, focus on what you can do about your situation. Once you have ruled out any danger you can take fear as a good sign, a marker that you are alive and engaged. You are completely present in the moment. You are out of your comfort zone but in a funny way, you can actually take comfort from that!

Keep the free space in your heart.

The word courage is related to the French word ‘coeur’ which means heart. When you experience those anxiety filled moments remember to connect with your heart – your core. This is the place where all your emotions flow from – love, warmth and wisdom, and where you get to the heart of the matter.

                        ‘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 

Forgiveness takes courage.

I’d like to think a little bit about forgiveness too and how showing forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Showing forgiveness is not easy for any of us to contemplate and real forgiveness takes a lot of courage. But again, when you are coming from that free space in your heart you find a new way of moving forward. Think about a situation in your life – perhaps when you have felt you didn’t deserve the upset that came your way – then think about letting go of old hurts and resentments – the churning of old turmoils and the bubbling feeling of being hard done by that lies not far from the surface – let them go – let them really go. Wish the situations you encountered love. Show forgiveness and tell yourself you have no further need for resentful feelings in your life and feel yourself grow.

I urge you to think about your life, to go through the issues that need your forgiveness. Take the time to ask yourself if you are really ready to be the person you want to BE, to be ready to DO what you want to do and are really ready to HAVE what you want to have. It takes courage to be ready to receive. But if you are prepared go deeper with your thinking you will understand that with courage you will have the necessary requirements to BE.

So we are all individuals, each with our own way of accepting and facing our fears. Most of us are by no means always masters of control but if we think about going into our clear space – let go of our fears and aim to be courageous and bold, we will feel much more alive and vibrant and our new found inner strength will shine through.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be more courageous? You may just find you are more bold and courageous than you knew. In fact, I think you already are.

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Love That Knows Our Name…

 

To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting, it is at the core of everything.’

Having recently experienced loss, I entered an all encompassing tunnel of sadness where daylight seemed all but obliterated and the sound around me was literally muffled. Life was put on hold except for all but the most necessary of tasks and the most basic needs. Time seemed to be suspended and yet the days passed quickly; the world going by my window and the morning light still throwing shafts of sunlight across the floor every morning whether I liked it or not.

But going through the motions of daily life I came to know more about love and kindness than ever before. People I knew well showed great kindness and kept me going, but what also surprised me was the outpouring of love and kindness from neighbours, from waiters in coffee shops and even people on the end of a phone that I called to report the loss of my dad to for clerical purposes. And I wondered why often it is not until we feel deep pain that we also find the most love? When we are in a ‘normal’ state; on an even keel and just following routine, we don’t always stop to notice the small but profound things that are ever present yet not on our radar during the bustle of everyday life. But in a state of grief life changes; normal and trivial irritations lie unnoticed, worries about work deadlines, so important last week, stay in the ‘in-tray’ tucked at the back of our minds, and the cloak of regularity falls from our shoulders.

Most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that love us; maybe we even take it a little for grated at times; sometimes complacency can come with familiarity, but perhaps when we are sad or in pain, even if we are not always vocalising what we feel or are going through, our vulnerability opens us up to others and their natural and inbuilt   ability to reach out. And if we do open up, even to strangers, more often than not we are treated with a compassion we were not expecting, yet in reality is never far from the surface.

Think about times of adversity, tragic terror attacks or emergency. We help each other, open our homes, give money we can’t really afford, offer the coat from our backs even….then we retreat back into our safe world again for a while. Maybe there is a comfort from day to day routine where we just focus on our own world, but we all seem to have an inbuilt mechanism to bring our love and compassion to the forefront. And there are times when we show that and are shown it just when we need it.

There cannot be many parts in our day that are not touched by love in one form or another; it may not always be obvious but it is there. It is waiting in the wings – an unceasing energy and in limitless supply. Even when doing a mundane job like housework, chances are you will have the radio on in the background and before long you will be humming along to a love song. In the coffee shop you may see a mother absently plant a kiss on her baby’s head, or hear a dad shout ‘love you’ out of the car window as he drops his child off at school – (they may be embarrassed but they will remember).

When we love deeply there are no boundaries. The heart finds a way to love when the time is right and knows when to give love out. Sometimes we need courage to reach out, but when we do we are rewarded a thousandfold. Love can be gentle when it needs to be; it can be held in a reassuring wink from across a crowded room, it can be in the gentle squeeze of the hand or the fragrance of a bunch of primroses. Love can be bold too. It can be shown by standing up for someone against the crowd, it can be in the giving of a chance of life to another, or it can be shown by knowing when to let go. And most of all, love is unconditional.

Having said this, there are still times when we feel alone; times when we feel no one understands what we are going through. Perhaps we are floundering, perhaps we are ill or have been treated badly or unfairly. Perhaps we are thinking ‘why me?’ These are the times that we find it harder to reach out, but these are the times we need to remind ourselves that we ARE loved, even in darker times.

I have to remind myself now, especially having experienced loss, that love is borderless. There isn’t a set number of times you can tell someone’s you love them. There isn’t a set amount of love to go around. Love has a bottomless pit. And love can encompass us even in times of immense sadness and get us through. So many people who survived the terrible atrocities of the holocaust emerged to live again in the light and found the courage to give and receive love.

We learn how to live and work and grow and play in the material and physical world and yes we need to do that, of course. The world is our resting and our doing place. For now. As Professor Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying – ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love’.

Love is all around us and is a natural spiritual state, but what happens to the love we felt for someone who has departed this life? I believe love crosses realms. It stays with us long after a loved one has departed. In fact, it never leaves us; it sits in our memories, it stirs us when we least expect it, it appears in our dreams and it runs through our veins. It is part of us; both our past and our future and for all time.

If love is energy then surely it cannot be extinguished by death.

 

A Trace of Me

Love is part of who you are,

A vital speck sent from afar.

And sometimes when you close your eyes,

You see from the past, familiar skies.

And you will know, and one day see,

That somewhere, there’s a trace of me.

                                                                                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

 

Does the Universe Have us Covered?

Is there a force bigger than us that we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

I‘ve been talking to someone close to me who suffers from anxiety and trying to talk them through it. When someone is seeing the world around them as a bleak place it is very hard to come up with something that will make them feel better. I find myself offering techniques and advice that I know from experience can help, but at the same time I sometimes question the suggestions I offer, even though I am praying that the smallest bit of advice could just be enough to provide a ray of hope or bring a spark of  light in a dark time. Of course,  anxious feelings arise for all sorts of reasons; there may be health worries, both real and imagined, relationship problems, problems relating to the past, work related problems and many more, and each cause may need to be addressed in a different way. Sometimes just a loving hug and a chat with a friend may be enough to help the clouds to disperse and the anxious feelings to lift, but at times when a person is in the severe grip of anxiety then professional help may be needed. Whatever the situation and whatever help we seek or try to give, is there a force bigger than us that can we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

Does the Universe really have us covered?

I think it does. I really hope it does. Why are we here otherwise? We may hear a lot of bad things and we are bombarded with bad news constantly; we know bad things happen to good people, but we also hear amazing stories on a daily basis  – tales of amazing feats of bravery, courage, bravery and kindness. We hear about people who never give up; who find hidden strength from somewhere. We marvel at new life, when a baby takes its first breathe;  we despair when we lose someone dear to us and we wonder how we can ever recover, yet somehow we know that this is all part of the pattern of life.

I think of myself as a spiritual person with a Christian background. I was brought up to go to church regularly and read the bible;  I like the background that has given me even if I don’t attend church now on a regular basis. I like to believe there is a power that is bigger than us, that is all encompassing and is loving, and I find that even though I often have doubts, faith is what gets me through. Faith in a world that is inherently good and a life force that cannot always be explained and is beyond understanding. What compels eels to cross the Atlantic from the Saragossa Sea to spawn in the Irish rivers of their origin, or birds to cross whole continents, following a favoured route that no one could explain, to land atop the same trees every year? In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget that miracles happen around us every day; we lose our powers of observation and fail to see the wonderful and awesome occurrences happening in nature on  daily basis.

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So what should we do to reconnect with the Universe when we feel we have been set adrift? If we can hold on to that faith we have deep down, whatever the sort of faith we have or follow, we can feel grounded in times of crisis. A spiritual practice I have found to be good is a ‘loving kindness meditation’. Just set some time aside, shut your eyes and generate feelings of compassion by repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy, healthy and free of pain.’ Direct this to yourself at first then gradually increas your circle to include you family, your friends, the country and then finally, the whole planet. You can alter the words to find something that you feel comfortable with. Do this on a daily basis and at times when you feel stressed or anxious. Make time for this even when you are busy and notice the difference it makes to your day.

Thinking again about my loved one. I wish I could do more to make her feel better and I wish I could take all her worries, wrap them in a cloth bag , throw them out to sea, wish them love and wave them goodbye for good. Indeed, I will picture that very thing happening. In the meantime, I will actively help in every way I can until she can move forward with regained positivity. Even then I will be by her side – figuratively if not physically. And I will have faith that the Universe does have us covered.

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 I lay upon the ground today, Looked up to the sky,

Concentrated on the clouds, As they drifted slowly by. 

Connecting with the Earth beneath, As it wore a peaceful face,

I felt the whole world turning, In this quiet and tranquil place.

And could I see a reason, Shine through the clouded sky

For all the actions unexplained, The many questions why?

I saw beauty and perfection here, Sweet birdsong filled the air,

So I must trust life’s answers, Lie in wait, somewhere.

(C)    Lyn Halvorsen