Since the Girls Trek Too mission is to inspire women to live life as an adventure, I was excited when America’s Courage Expert agreed to share her wisdom with us. Please welcome Sandra Ford Walston, author of the bestselling book Courage: The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman. Sandra is a speaker, trainer, and coach who has helped thousands, from individuals to Fortune 500 Companies, move from StuckThinking™ into courageous leadership. Here are a few of her thoughts on how we can let go of fear-based thinking and experience the power of everyday courage in our lives:
Courage in the Midst of Fear
By Sandra Ford Walston
Root of Courage
One of the four cardinal virtues of the Classical world, courage has diminished in importance in these postmodern times as most people equate this important virtue with acts of bravado in the face of fear. By limiting courage in this way, we fail to perceive the courageous aspects of exploring new ideas for a project, breaking from consensus, transcending rejection, or initiating progress in the face of complacency.
The word “courage” comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit.” So courage is really about acting from your heart and spirit — from the center of your being — the true identity hidden beneath the false self of the ego. By delving into the heart and spirit of our true identities, we begin to recognize our innate courage as well as the ego’s insidious control mechanisms, which capitalize on fear and insecurity. As we recognize the fears that the ego uses to justify its self-importance, we undermine the ego’s power to dominate our lives and begin to manifest our true identities. We discover the personal truth within our being and recognize courage as the key to spiritual truth.
Fear Paralyzes the Heart
What percentage of your life is filled with regrets? Regrets represent the times in our lives when we allow fearful insecurities to undermine the courageous choice. The task, then, is to cultivate courage and then trust that going for it is better than dying without it. This is the difference between heart and mind. Learning to stay centered in the present may not banish fear or the blame it spawns, but you will at least begin to diminish the tendencies that keep you stuck in fear. Fear blocks and paralyzes the heart; therefore, fear blocks courage. Slowing down makes the difference.
The process of slowing down puts us in touch with reality — our own everyday issues instead of the sensationalism of the media culture. This astonishing yet simple process releases you from the inner tyranny of old fear-based habits and scripts, uncovering a deep set of self-actuating principles. Marianne Williamson writes in The Gift of Change, “We are lifted from weak to strong; we are lifted from lack to abundance; we are lifted from pain to peace; we are lifted from fear to love. None of this happens in an instant, but over time, through the daily process of living.”
Many contemplative practices can help initiate this transformative process—sacred reading, chanting, Tai Chi, hiking, a silent retreat, and so on. Any choice that moves you beyond words and thoughts and into the inner silence of the heart allows the fears created by the ego to dissipate. “Within each experience of pain or negativity is the opportunity to challenge the perception that lies behind it, the fear that lies behind it, and to choose to learn with wisdom. The fear will not vanish immediately, but it will disintegrate as you work with courage. When fear ceases to scare you, it cannot stay,” says Gary Zukav in The Seat of the Soul. The stillness found in contemplation provides a maturity to your inner experience thereby accelerating your spiritual courage.
Courage Cradles Your Actions
Fear is a manmade creation just like slavery, apartheid, and poverty. The dualistic concept of fear versus courage keeps us stuck within the mental limitations of ego. When human beings claim their courage, they begin to experience the heart and spirit truth that transcends the duality of the mind. In recognizing transcendent truth, we begin to see that fear is simply an illusion used by the ego to maintain its position of control, and this recognition dissolves fear, allowing love to fill our hearts. This is the experience of “dying to self.”
As courage consciousness matures in your life, you will notice huge shifts in your perspective about fear. You will find courage cradles your actions, allowing you to validate the choice of courage consciousness over attachments that trigger life’s unwanted fears.
Soon, with an inner gaze, we discover that there is courage in the midst of fear. It is found in the simplicity of just being quietly centered in the light of Spirit, and that takes courage!
Sandra Ford Walston, The Courage Expert, is an international speaker who also provides training for respected organizations such as IBM, Wide Open West, and Hitachi Consulting. She’s author of 3 books – COURAGE, STUCK, and FACE IT! – and the Courage Blog. She’s qualified to administer and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, is a certified Enneagram teacher, and an instructor at University of Denver.