How often do we use the word ‘courage’ to denote someone who acts bravely in the face of adversity? It’s certainly how most people understand the word and its tone of battle-like determination. Yet, when I reflect on what it means to live a courageous life, it is based on the original meaning. Courage comes from the Latin, Cor, meaning ‘from the heart’.
A courageous life is one whereby you tell your heart story without a flutter of doubt about your north star. It is a life based on inner values and the ability to speak your truth. The languages of trust, listening within, intuition and authenticity are ones few people would associate with courage, and yet, they are essential companions walking ‘hand and heart’ with the life of those who listen to their inner drummer.
The treadmill of life, which we are all hoisted onto at birth and ripped off at our expiration date – no matter how great and glorious the world has decided we are – has most people just trying to get by. At times, it feels like we have to run just to keep up, or else we’ll fall off. If you ended up being born into Western society, you’ll have been enculturated with beliefs about your worth stemmed firmly in external validation (it begins at birth with our measurements and weight!; and continues with grades, certificates and awards, for example), and status symbols of car, career, house, wealth, and so on. A Yang-based cultural soup encourages egocentricity. Now, it’s not that we shouldn’t aim or reach for such things if they’re meaningful to us. The question, however, must be asked: Does this desire mean something to me or am I trying to prove something to someone else? Parents, siblings, peers, friends, and so on? Honest reflection isn’t encouraged by those around us because, if it were and we were true to ourselves, we’d probably all make radically different choices. However, to our great detriment, almost everyone lives their life based on what other people will think.
If we truly made decisions based on what felt right to us, and on what made our heart move through this world with joy – and therefore lived our days without fear of censure, or the desperate need of applause – how might our life look? Would it even be recognisable? What if, we were simply true to our inner calling?
My work as a Heart-led Funeral Celebrant is based on listening intently to the stories I hear of other people’s lives, and then it is up to me to craft meaningful ceremonies and create stories from the snippets of information I’ve gleaned. Being immersed in a family’s grief has a profound impact on me. Deeply empathic, it’s as if I draw their pain right into my heart. The one thing that always stands out for me, though, is the simple truth: we can’t take ANYTHING with us when we’re booted off the treadmill. Except love. Read that again, if you need to. Love. Where does love emerge from? The heart.
A humanist, of course, doesn’t believe that love continues after death. I do, though.
So, if we really understood that everything is temporary, and that all the stress, madness, ambition, control and power are, frankly, pointless, would we live differently? How about greed, consumption, jealousy? Who are we without our titles, roles, and material possessions?
I met a gorgeous young lady recently, aged about 16, who was not only a truly lovely person, but she had a wonderful singing voice too. Afterwards, in conversation I said to Seanna about how blessed she was to have such a gift. I confessed that I mourned the lack of any such gift or talent. She replied “You do. You’re really good at reading people.” Her words stopped me in my tracks. She was right. I’d never really considered it before as a ‘gift’, only as a given. With radar-like vision, I see people because I look beyond the labels, badges, jobs, empires, wealth and all the other human-made plasters. I look into their heart, and perhaps even deeper than that.
Who are you?
How would you identify yourself if all these externals were taken away from you? I ask these questions not to be morbid or cruel or condescending, or even disrespectful of your life path and choices, but to encourage a deeper awareness of what creates a courageous life.
Who will miss you when you’re gone?
Why will they miss you?
It certainly won’t be because of your fancy clothes, expensive car or eye-watering mortgage, boob job or bikini wax. I doubt it’ll be because of your job title or manicured lawn or your business logo.
A life invested in mindful awareness of the sacred all around, and the offering of compassion, kindness and love, is one that not only contributes to our well-being, but it also leaves the world a better place.
Legacy isn’t about our constructions and empires and pursuits, it’s the feeling we leave in others when we’re gone. And this can only come from the heart.