Did you know that the lotus flower is a symbol of courage in many cultures? It’s a beautiful reason. The lotus blossom starts every day in the dark muddy waters and rises to reach the light so that it can blossom and reveal its true beauty. At night, it closes and retreats back into the dark water, only to begin again the next day. This daily struggle to reveal its true self makes the lotus a lovely symbol of courage and resilience.
Courage is possibly the most important value for an authentic, fulfilling life. It allows us to rise from our own muddy waters and for our inner beauty to blossom. Courage allows us to open to new possibilities each day, to take chances, to be our authentic self, to travel our own unique path, to fulfill our dreams and live the life we desire.
I love that “cor”, the Latin word for “heart” is the root of the word “courage”. This feels significant to me, that we find courage in our heart.
Courage doesn’t mean “fearless”. It means having strength in your heart to face your fears, to master them and take action in spite of the fear or anxiety you may be feeling.
We all have fears. And we live in a fearful world. Fear can be a very healthy response if you are in a dangerous situation. Your body is designed to prepare you to respond to threats with a fight, flight or freeze response.
But everyday fear in the form of anxiety and worry can be crippling. It will keep us from experiences that might enrich our life in the most amazing ways. We can only grow as a person if we move out of our comfort zone. That takes courage, courage involves risk, and it also involves trust. Trust in ourself, trust in others, trust in the unknown. Facing our fears and doing it anyway takes inner strength and will-power.
The more we practice courage, the more we push ourself out of our comfort zone, the more we will gain confidence.
The question is…how do we cultivate courage?
It can take a lifetime of practice, experience and support to understand our fears and cultivate courage. But we do have some tools ready at hand to help us. Yes, once again, our powerful yoga, meditation and mindfulness
practices are extremely helpful to build a strong base from which to we can live courageously. These powerful practices help us to build resilience and to manage our stress so that we can face our fears and act from a place of calm steadiness. They allow us to go deeper into our own hearts and minds, help us to better understand ourselves, to be aware of our emotions and feelings so that we are better able to discern reality from the stories we tell ourselves.
It seems to me that the first step towards courage is awareness and understanding of our fears. And that takes regular practice. (Please check out the HUM Home Practice page or the blog for loads of resources and help with your practice.)
We may not often need courage to face extreme life-threatening moments. But everyday we face new situations which do require courage. Starting a new job, leaving your job, starting a business, having a difficult conversation, an important meeting, dealing with children, showing up for a friend in need, saying I love you, putting your art or your writing out into the world, etc. Sometimes your courage needs a little boost.
I looked at what I do when I need a boost of courage in difficult situations, and I’ve asked my most courageous friends for their tips and tricks. Here are 11 quirky (and very useful) things you can do to give yourself a little extra boost of courage to take a risk, face a challenging situation, to face your fears…and do it anyway.
And then just do it.
Stand tall. Mindfully notice your posture as you stand. Imagine a string attached to the crown of your head lifting you up towards the sky. Feel your spine straight and tall, let your shoulders relax down and away from your ears, feel your long neck. Feel the sense of lightness and spaciousness. When you stand in this tall, upright posture, people will see a strong and confident person, no matter how you’re feeling inside.
Get grounded. Try a one minute grounding meditation. Close your eyes and take a few breathes. Bring your attention to your feet on the floor, as you sit or stand. Press them into the floor, noticing the connection with the solid earth, always there to support you, no matter what. Just notice this the connection and support. And open your eyes whenever you’re ready.
Strike a pose. Standing for a few moments in a powerful yoga pose can make you feel strong and powerful, grounded in truth. Try a Warrior II pose to feel grounded in truth, strong in your core, brave and ready for anything.
Shake it up. Try a shaking practice (just stand and shake up your entire body, using all your limbs, up and down, side to side, any which way, for a minute or so) to get your positive energy flowing and to move away from fear. And it will surely put a smile on your face!
Call on your Light Team. Do you have lucky stars, guardian angels, ancestors, saints or departed spiritual leaders you call on for help? Why no invite them all to join your Light Team. And when you need them for help and protection, simply ask them: “Light Team, please help!”
Remember other times you’ve been brave. This should give you the confidence that you are strong enough for any situation.
Repeat a positive affirmation. Such as… I am strong and courageous. I am ready for whatever happens today. I am supported and loved. I am on my way to making my dreams come true. I am the master of my own destiny. I can definitely do this.
Call a friend for a “pre-game” confidence pep talk. The support of a loved one is always a boost in courage and confidence.
Put on red lipstick or red shoes. A little splash of red, the colour of courage, will give you confidence and will also keep you grounded in positive energy.
Just breathe. Calmly. Focusing on your breath as it flows in and out of your nostrils. Try to lengthen your exhale (vs the inhale), pausing after the exhale. This will help stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system (which helps to relax you and reverse the effects of stress).
Connect with your inner fire. Rub your palms together for 30 seconds or so, creating heat in your hands, then cup your hands over your eyes and feel the energy of your inner fire, your inner courage.