I want to get the words “Courage” and “Bravery” tattooed across my back, so people could associate me with those things, as they read them while they chase me. Jarod Chintz
My friend who does reiki has me choose an oracle card at the end of a healing session – she and I have a big thing for oracle card decks – and I chose ‘Courageous Intention.’ I still get excited when things have the word intention in them. Since I’ve been writing this blog, anything to do with intentions feels like synchronicity and it has to get a mention.
I have talked a lot about intention in this blog already. So then, what of courage? It’s easy to think of physical strength, of bravery, or acts of valour. It’s easy to think of saving people from burning houses or dangerous waters, but what of us ordinary folks? Are we not courageous too? Those of us on the other end of the spectrum from the adrenaline junkies, whose hearts race when a door slams, or a harsh word is spoken, what does courage mean for us?
Courage is grace under pressure. Ernest Hemingway
One of my biggest fears all throughout my life was being discovered as a phoney. Apparently it’s a very common fear for people to have – wish someone had told me THAT sooner. Basically I judge myself via an internal filter of all my past experiences, doubts and insecurities, whilst others judge me by my external actions.
When I was younger, in my rebel-without-a-clue phase, I had great, lofty intentions, but shitty actions. Now my actions are, generally, pretty commendable, but because my thoughts and insecurities don’t match up, I feel like a fraud.
In fact, when people compliment me, my most common reaction is to think “if only they knew…”
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu
If they knew what? That my (clean) laundry pile nearly takes up a whole room? That I yell at my kid sometimes, that I slack off at work at times, that I’m really quite lazy, that no matter how good I do something, I always know I could have done BETTER?
As a kid when I’d show my folks something I’d done – cleaned my room, polished my shoes – the family joke was to say “the army wouldn’t accept it, but I will.” Or my dad, when I got 98% on my English exam, quipped “Where’d you lose the two percent? There’s some room for improvement right there.” Now my brother grew up in the same house and his self-esteem is just fine, so I’m not blaming my parents. I’m just primed too take things way too personally and seriously.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. Mary Anne Radmacher
Yesterday, I had a difficult conversation with someone I care very deeply about, someone I love. And they told me this constant self-pity about how I could have done better, not only does it damage me, it also denies the other person any chance to have their own feelings, because I make everything my fault.
When I heard this, I felt a familiar reaction. It’s a reaction I have to feeling I’ve done something bad, that I’m not good enough. I call it ‘retreating’, some may call it disassociation. It’s like I start to disappear.
Recently, on the night of the lunar eclipse, I was posting on Facebook that the original Greek word for ‘eclipse’ comes from the word for ‘abandonment’. Literally the ancients thought the moon has abandoned them. A friend told me of a Clarissa Pinkola Estes recording that covered this concept, so I downloaded it. Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories About Abandonment and the Unmothered Child by Clarissa Pinkola Estes Ph.D.
Estes describes the effect I described as ‘collapse’ – it’s the best description I’ve ever heard for what happens to me in these situations.
Collapsing is a syndrome where when someone is angry or being negative towards you, instead of staying strong and present as an adult, you go into a psychic regression, get hooked into old feelings, feeling worthless, unprotected, not knowing what to do next, wishing to be invisible, even wishing you would die to avoid the pain of rejection and separation that you feel, the abandonment that is triggered. Instead of acting sanely in relation to the present circumstances, you journey to a horrible place in the past and react from the feelings of that place.
I should point out that being an ‘unmothered’ child is not always about ‘bad’ mothering. It can be due to illness, either the child’s or the mother’s which results in physical or emotional separation or affects bonding at pivotal developmental stages in the child’s life. It can be due to traumatic childhood experiences. Whatever the cause, the effect is often a gaping need, an insatiable desire for love in adult life.
That psychic secret is – in order to grow the internal mother, you have to be willing to be decent and good to yourself. The more you are willing to accept self-love, self-respect, it doesn’t matter if your ears stick out or your hair stands up or if you’re too short or too wide, too tall or too fat, it doesn’t have anything to do with that. It has to do with caring about all the things that you are, you can have favourites, you can have some lesser parts then others, but a caring for all the things you are. THAT is what develops the inner mother and you can actually feel her grow and see her grow, before your very eyes–to accept your own love and your own respect, and regard for yourself. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
So yesterday I made a pact with myself not to ‘collapse’. I breathed deep into my chest and focused on being fully present in the moment. I was proud of myself for that. And I thought of this idea of mothering. I mean who has been perfectly mothered? Sometimes our personalities just don’t lend themselves to being nurtured.
Is there even such a thing as perfect nurture? Jung argued that effect of our personal mother on us stems from the power of the mythological mother archetype, not just our own mother’s nature.
So how do we engage this mother archetype within us? What will bring out the ‘inner mother’ – that nurturing force – in our psyche?
What will is to have guidance, the guidance of intuition, the guidance of common sense, the guidance of consciousness. Consciously knowing what we’re made of, what we’re capable of, what our good points have been- what our bad points – and guiding ourselves through life with that knowledge. That is the deepest internal mothering that you can ever have. And if you are an unmothered child THAT is what was missing in your upbringing. But have heart. No matter what happened to you – that light still lives inside of you. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
The Mother archetype is embedded within all of us. In it’s most primal and nurturing form, it is Mother Earth, the sense of homecoming, of nurture, security, love and the root of life itself. She holds great power over our sense of security, for the mother can also be devouring and destructive – her storms may leave death and destruction in their wake. The Mother can provide sustenance or deny it.
Just as Corn Mothers smite the land by withholding crops (which results in death), so do some Mothers symbolically “smite” their children by withholding love, attention, and communication. The Mother who gives the “silent treatment” or isolates their children as punishment withholds their nurturing, life-giving love. Symbolically, this is much like the famines in the Corn Mother mythos. This withholding stunts the emotional growth of children and—if severe enough—damages them irrevocably. Janet Boyer
When we lose our grounding in life, and collapse into our ‘Victim’ archetype, we have lost contact with the self-sustaining power of the Mother archetype. Many people go through life believing they have to have someone, or something, take care of them and their needs in order to survive. At it’s extreme is the victim mentality.
For me it was chasing the feel good, as an addict, I sought the soothing warmth of escape. Alcohol, drugs, food, sex, anything to dull the raging storms. Feeling the world was unsafe, I cocooned myself in an all consuming chemical hug.
These issues – seeking security and stability – are very much at the core of the base chakra energy. Here we can connect with the mother archetype through connection with Mother earth itself.
Located at the base of the spine at the coccyx bone, the Root or Base Chakra is said to govern your energetic expression of self-preservation, personal survival, integrity, and your identification with the physical world, including your own body. It represents your sense of security and safety in the world. It influences your adrenals, kidneys, muscles, and arterial blood. It is the foundation of energy in the body. It manifests strongly in the motivation to ensure personal survival by way of food, rest, shelter, and sexual expression.
Called Muladhara in Sanskrit, which means root support, the base chakra is like the root system of a tree, the foundation of your entire chakra system. Without a strong base chakra, your entire chakra system can be compromised.
The root chakra reflects your inherited family and societal beliefs from your formative years. Think of it as your tribal chakra, connecting you with the collective wisdom and vibe of your tribe. If there was instability or trauma during your formative years, and you learnt to view the world as an unsafe place, then issues of survival, emotional dysfunction, fear of abandonment, fear of letting go, scarcity, poor boundaries, anxiousness, and restlessness, may affect you. You may feel as if you have no real home, that you cannot settle in and feel safe in the world. Or you may have a fear of any change to your sense of security.
The upper chakras in most people were waiting for the foundation below them to be strong enough to support their opening. The wounds to the lower chakras were common: physical and sexual abuse, oppressive power dynamics, betrayal of the heart. Anodea Judith
When our root chakra energy is in balance, the Mother – the nurturer – is balanced with the Victim – the one in need of nurturing. The root chakra concerns itself with our basic survival needs, food, shelter, warmth, care. It defines the grounds of our basic well being. It is the foundation of our being. It is our anchor.
It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. Marianne Williamson
I think it’s all too easy to expect perfection as the reward to doing inner work. That’s not my experience. the more I look within, the more murk I find. The courage then, comes from continuing the work knowing this. From not avoiding those “sharp pains of self-discovery.” For some of us, for whatever reasons, life is incredibly thorny. It’s sharp points catch us as we move along, sometimes they are small nicks, other times we can become hopelessly entangled in thorns and need a lot of help to get free.
For me it’s time to stop judging my progress. I’m not a total phoney, nor am I perfectly authentic. If I were, where would be the courage? Courage lives in the face of fear. I fear being exposed and judged and found wanting, and yet I keep putting myself out there. Writing this blog, launching my Chakradance business, the more I expose myself, the greater the risk of rejection, but also the greater the chance of connection and intimacy.
Besides what choice do I have? I have already put myself out there, and now I just keep trudging ahead.
Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads. Erica Jong
Affirmations for the base chakra and mother archetype:
I am strong, safe, and secure in the world. All my needs are being met for my ultimate wellbeing. I am fully integrated in all aspects of my being. My body supports me. I love every part of my body. I am filled with energy and vitality. I am home.
Abandonment is a common pattern we all carry. Humans have a primal need to be safe and secure. Traditionally, abandonment by the mother or the tribe meant certain death. We are primed to protect ourselves through inclusion by the family and the tribe. When the tribe has failed to protect us in some way, the psychic damage continues to resonate in our lives, consciously or unconsciously. It may not be a big factor for some, but for others it feels like an overwhelming burden.
Going within, doing inner work, it is so easy to feel self-indulgent and self-absorbed. I mean, what good does this bring to the world? I’m not saying what I do is the apex of courage, nor is it the quintessential journey for everyone. But for whatever reason, for me, it has been, and continues to be, my journey. I intend to honour this inner journey and trust that in some way I don’t have to understand it will be of service to others. This is my courageous intention.
Images of Found Objects Mandalas: