What does it mean to be courageous?

Many of us think of courage as something to be called on in emergencies or in dangerous situations, but for many people, it takes courage to do everyday things.

For some people, just getting out of bed takes all their courage; for others, it’s driving a car, going out on a date, or starting a new job. But there is another kind of courage: our courage to face and overcome our own ignorance. What kind of warrior’s courage does it take to confront the ignorance that is causing us physical, mental, or emotional pain?

Courage really involves many ideas, and can affect all areas of our lives. If we are courageous in one area, this suggests we can be courageous in others, not just in the physical body, but also with our emotional, mental and spiritual states.

Emotional Courage = not buying into or being hooked by another person’s ego-trip (or by our own ego) into a situation based in emotional turmoil, such as defeatism, low self-esteem, the need (yours or someone else’s), to be right, to feel secure, to be in control, or gain approval in any way that we can.

Mental Courage = not allowing negative mental chatter to consume us, and refraining from replaying over and over in ours minds a situation that did not have the outcome we had hoped for. (This situation is caused by creating an expectation and then not accepting what has actually happened.)

Spiritual Courage = bravely standing up for our positive spirit and learning to release all attachment to outcomes and wanting to control. It means understanding that you are worth the effort to get in touch with your soul wisdom, either through some form of meditative practice, or through reading, watching, or listening to material that inspires or feeds your soul, or both.

The warrior inside of us knows that this is an important fight against indolence, depression, inactivity, and ignorance. It should be carefully noted that “fight” is used here, not in the sense of attacking, resisting, killing or stamping out, but in the realm of spiritual steadfastness, in gaining an understanding of ignorant emotional, mental, and spiritual states, and in combining compassion with practicality. That is the first layer of the warrior sensibility.

There is also a subtler level where we feel just as vulnerable, but under a completely different set of circumstances, Those are risks, like walking down a dark street, or journeying in a different culture, that may come unexpectedly in the package of living.

Some Stages to Warrior Courage:
1. Recognizing the need to be practical in everyday living situations, i.e. locking the car, not leaving your purse in the shopping cart; acknowledging that there are people who will do bad things, and knowing that a predisposition for evil acts is actually ignorance at the deepest levels.
2. When something “bad” does happen, recognize and acknowledge the anger, frustration, hurt, disappointment, that arises in your mind, body and spirit. Acknowledge the trauma that has been created by someone’s (or your own) unwholesome action).
3. Recognize the hassle of replacing, or living without, or dealing with other physical consequences of the action.
4. Accepting the hassle of replacing, or living without, or dealing with other physical consequences of the action.
5. Doing one’s best to release the attachment to what was, and to accept what is. (This is the tricky part and involves real introspection).
6. Attempting to forgive yourself for whatever part you played, i.e. “I forgot to lock my door,” or “I knew I should not have been in that place at that time.”
7. And here’s where we need to invoke warrior courage mixed with compassion, and embrace the idea of forgiving the perpetrator and moving on with our lives. Without this step suffering is inevitable.

In this dualistic plane, there is no doubt that that there are people who are karmically committed to do evil here, to work on the ignorance of others. That is their karma; how we deal with it is ours. If we allow evil to come into us through our own ignorance, we are aiding and abetting it. Perhaps we have even allowed ourselves to be seduced into thinking that whatever is creating the physical, mental and emotional pain in our systems is somehow right for us.

Here is another way we can confront the ignorance that is causing us pain:

We can acknowledge it; then we learn to protect ourselves from unwholesome outside influences; then we acknowledge, overcome and release it through constancy of purpose. Our responsibility is to become warriors for our own wholeness.

What are some of the ways we can uproot the ignorance that is causing us pain in our systems?  Courageousness, in this context, lies in our persisting in discovering that ignorance and identifying its sources.

1. Take stock of what is around you. Are you okay with your physical surroundings? What can you change if you are not happy with them? If it’s just that you’re living in a mess, clean it up, de-clutter, and perhaps add some fresh flowers. Sometimes just setting your surroundings in order will help to clarify your mind. When your mind is clear, areas of ignorance become more obvious to you, or, at very least, you’ve created a clean space to sit down and look within for them. If you are in an overall situation that is toxic to you, take steps to change your circumstances if at all possible.

2. Take stock of how you feel inside. A famous actress I once interviewed (now 80 and still working) said she does body checks periodically throughout her day.  Do a body check. What does your body need right now?  Exercise? Food? Water? Rest? Stretching? When your body is in order, it becomes easier to identify mental areas that feel out of order.

3. Look at those around you. Do they have a positive or negative effect on your life? Are they kind and life-affirming, or do they make you fearful or angry by triggering old patterns they’ve set up in earlier interactions, or by knowing which of your buttons to push and then pushing them? We can avoid such people, and may have to do this to recover our equilibrium, but there will always be those who know how to manipulate our areas of ignorance and get pleasure from doing so. In every encounter, we have the option of creating a positive or negative outcome. One way to deal with difficult or deliberately unkind people is to act as a witness, not judging or reacting to their behavior. Each time you do this, your own negative reaction lessens, and you become stronger.

4. Begin or continue a meditation or mindfulness practice. When you sit quietly and watch your breathing, your areas of ignorance will become very clear to you. They will manifest as negative emotions (sorrow, anger, fear, etc.), or as physical sensations of pain, stuckness, difficult breathing, even headaches or stomachaches.

It is within these practices that we can begin to manifest our warrior self, facing each manifestation of ignorance bravely, witnessing our physical, mental and emotional response, and staying with it until it releases, as it inevitably will. We may have to do this over and over again, but eventually, and by activating our own warrior spirit, we can and will free ourselves.

Many Blessings ~ Melinda

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