Courage: Inner Task for the day given by Cynthia at the Stonington Wisdom Gathering, May 29-June 5, 2022
This week, we’ve worked with containment. We’ve worked with concentration. And today I’m going add in a third: courage, which tends in the direction of the fourth, conscience. But if you get this third along with the other two, conscience will take care of itself. So courage means the way of the heart: cour-age. So when all the fun and games are over and we finish blissing out on how much fun it is to be in the heart, it gets down to the fine print: courage. Yes, but can you walk it. And to walk it, you have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, of your own fear.
Courage does not mean the absence of fear. It means fear does not deter you from the inevitable path laid down by your conscience. So you suck in the fear. You deal with it. You become aware of it. You give it space and you keep on walking. We’re going be studying this in some of the teaching I do today. So the task that I’m going to give you starts with the question, where do I experience fear?
But the real question lies behind this. What set of behaviors have I invested with the task of masking for me the direct experience of my own fear. What set of behaviors inside myself have I adopted to mask for myself the direct experience of my own fear? We all absolutely do this. And it’s an interesting place for work, if you can work at it in sensation, not with psychoanalysis. It’s like our fear is a castle generally constructed on the roots of our false-self system as Thomas Keating would tell us, whatever is the frustration of whatever program — security and survival, esteem and affection, power and control, whichever program we’ve got our eggs in the basket of. So fear arises, is the castle, around that. Our set of behaviors is the moat around the castle that keeps us from the direct experience of that fear.
And, for most human beings, fear is decisively a terrible thing to experience. And we do anything inwardly to protect ourself, to deflect the direct experience of our own fear. For most of us in these entitled classes, the moat has to do with a set of slightly strained, enforced control behaviors — whether it’s managing, planning. You know your own. So the task that I’d like you to explore today is complicated. It takes a little while before you identify the players. So we’ll get started. Can you notice when this behavior begins to arise in you. Can you notice the sensation of it?
What happens? Can you get so quick in yourself that you begin to notice, not the fear itself, but the beginning of the onset of the behaviors you start falling into, when something in you has already picked up that fear is out there. Uh oh, this isn’t quite as comfortable as I want it to be. And notice, and pay attention to those behaviors as they live in your body. You know the smile. For some, a tightening in your shoulders. For some, you’ll notice a change in your pace. Almost all of you, if you’re paying attention in the area of concentration, will notice that something has been added to the moment that throws it off pace. Your attention scrambles. See what you can notice. And when you begin to feel the arising of those familiar, angst deflecting behaviors, stop. Go right into the fear. Experience it as sensation in your body and say quietly, welcome.
Because my sense is that as we are able to live more fearlessly inside our own fear, more welcomingly, we don’t really have to develop all these deflective shields, which is where really the problems enter in, in the enactment of courage. If we just all admitted, we were scared shitless, we’d be fine. We could start to rebuild, but it’s all this: oh, well, we got to do this. And we’ve got to have this exactly this way. And we’ve got to have this. It’s all those things that create the chaos. So let’s angle in and see if we can see. It’s a subtle seeing, but if you begin to play with it, and of course the key to this for all of you, three quarters of whom make your living in the psychologically assisted professions, don’t do it with analysis. We’re not telling the story of why we got fearful or analyzing it, or hooking it up with some incident in time. We’re trying to see what happens in our body-emotional energy center when this happens, because it’s going to take you away from the full expression and claiming of your kesdjan self, however, airtight the excuses.
Inner Task Series by Cynthia Bourgeault
Cynthia Bourgeault gave these inner tasks at the Stonington Wisdom Gathering May 29 – June 5, 2022. They were posted to the Facebook Wisdom Community as Inner Work Practices for June 2022.