I wish you courage.
I once had a very wise, kind, Uncle. He was also my Godfather. He worked as a missionary in The Congo for most of his life and had a lovely honesty about him. On family walks when he came to visit us he used to stop and lie down on the bench in Marlay park to take a short nap when he felt tired. This would delight us, as children, and horrify my conservative, respectable Mother which would only add to our delight! “This is what we do in Africa”, he would explain, “we sleep when we are tired.” He was a Dutch man, open-minded and non judgemental. He was also extremely wise, insightful and compassionate.
When my mother died he held both of my hands in his, looked tenderly into my eyes and said to me, “I wish you courage”. How strange, I thought, how do you give someone courage?
I pondered on this many times over the following difficult days. What does courage even feel like, how do you ‘get it’? I reflected back on the early times in my life when I had experienced courage. There weren’t that many; I had had a sheltered, supported, somewhat idyllic, childhood. But I could remember times I felt a little shy approaching new friends, times I was nervous on stage, a time I bravely spoke out against an injustice and someone agreed. I started to get it; I started to recognise my own ability to turn on courage, like a switch. I knew it was in there, but what was the secret to accessing it?
It came to me on my yoga mat. I was teaching. My Mum had recently died, I was having a difficult time at home. I felt weak and unable to cope. The moment happened in downward dog when I was about to lead the class into stepping forward to warrior. “I can’t do this’, crept into my head. I want to kneel down on my mat and howl. I want to crumble, to collapse, I want to kneel down, and howl and howl and howl.
And then, I found it.
I took a deep breath in, lifted by head, proclaimed my instruction and stepped my right foot bravely forward between my hands at the top of the mat. From there we all rose up. We stepped forward and we soared up, towards the sky, reaching up, looking up, breathing in. We continued with our flow.
And now I know where it is. I know how to find it. It’s in my breath. It’s in my warrior. It’s in the pause. It’s in those around me, breathing in with me, pausing and waiting a moment if I need to stay low, looking down. And standing strong with me to support me as I inhale and rise up. It’s everywhere.
Take a deep breath and step bravely forward. Pause and look around you and know that you are supported. I wish you courage. Thank you Uncle Frans.