The Calgary Yasodhara Yoga Teachers offer us deep and rich reflections this month on “courage”. Each teacher chose a text and then selected an excerpt on courage they were drawn to. Explore courage from a variety of approaches. The yogic path is the pursuit of liberation from all limitations. We have to begin where we are. (Kundalini Yoga for the West, Swami Radha, p 160).
Thank you to Shaun Alsford, Nicole St. Arnaud, Wendy Blackmore, Lynn Fairey, Sandra Hindson and Utpala Pittman for sharing these reflections.
1) In a 1994 talk, “Freedom and Sacrifice”*, Swami Radha shared the following comments on courage:
Be realistic. Look at the facts….But only by courageously looking at the facts can you set yourself free….Evolution is the path to freedom but it’s only for those who are courageous.
- How do you define courage? Write your key words, thoughts, images or associations for your understanding of courage.
Video available to view on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/119976162
2) Hidden Language Hatha Yoga
Yoga is liberation from limitations, and fear is one of the biggest – a reaction, not a choice. (The Inner Life of Asanas, Swami Lalitananda, p 62)
Simhasana (the Lion), is the only asana in which a sound is made. In the roar of the Lion, ferocity and strength are given expression, and the lungs and throat are cleared of all the choked-back words and tears that many people hold unexpressed. (Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language, Swami Radha, p 210)
- Practice the Lion Pose while envisioning Durga, the powerful warrior goddess, who rides a lion into battle and conquers legions of demons. (Inner Life of Asanas, p 62)
- Ask yourself: What needs to be expressed and released? What demons do I need to destroy in myself to release me from my limitations? …. to expand beyond my limitations?
- Take time to express whatever comes forward for you – draw, dance, journal….
3) Yoga: A Path to Awareness, Swami Radha
We have to liberate ourselves from our own self-made prisons. These are prisons of attachments, concepts and habits, and the compelling forces of mechanical reactions and untested beliefs. Where are you imprisoned?…Do you have to stay in that prison? No, sometimes it is your own lack of courage that keeps you prisoner. (p 21)
- Practice 4-4 breath for several minutes.
- Reflect on the concept of self-made prisons. What attachments, concepts and habits, mechanical reactions, or untested beliefs are keeping you prisoner? Be willing to look at whatever comes forward. Write.
- Sit in a meditation pose and allow yourself to become still. Visualize your body as empty or hollow like a glass bottle. See a stream of Light flowing down the centre of the form, filling the image completely with Light. Hold this image, a mass of Light in the shape of your body, for as long as possible.
- Ask yourself: what would it take to set yourself free?
4) Carried by a Promise, Swami Radhananda
Swami Radhananda tells the story of her transition from Mary-Ann McDougall to Swami Radhananda in Carried by a Promise. Each step of the journey she draws on her inner courage to step forward into the unknown and meet the challenges she is presented with. She says, The courage comes from my own work. (p 87)
- Repeat the Divine Light mantra out loud five times.
- Sit quietly and think of three times in your life where you drew on inner courage to go forward.
- Write them down.
- What knowledge of yourself or choice, in each case, helped you to move forward?
- Write a story around these three events bringing them to life. Write the story in the first person, present tense as if you are recording a dream. Read the story out loud.
- Put the story into the Light.
- What have you learned about courage in your life? What are your insights?
5) Realities of the Dreaming Mind, Swami Radha
If you want clear dreams, simply pray to get the message straight. …. we have to be courageous and humble at the same time – courageous enough to face the messages and humble enough to realize that we cannot handle all these problems by ourselves, that we need some Grace. By recognizing humbly that we need some Grace, it comes. Then our lives really begin to change. (Realities of the Dreaming Mind, Swami Radha, p 64)
- Practice the Divine Light Invocation at bedtime for one week. Put your request for a clear dream into the Light. Be prepared to record your dreams.
- Choose a dream that you would like to understand clearly. Work with Swami Radha’s method to interpret the dream. Chant a Mantra for five minutes asking for the courage to get the message straight. Write whatever arises.
- Take time to dialogue with or pray to Divine Mother, asking for Her help and Grace with what emerges from your dream work.
6) Living the Practice, Swami Radhananda
We affect and are affected by those around us, so we need to develop the courage to clear the air; we need a daily practice to keep the environment clean and healthy and vibrant. To find resolution is often simple and liberating. Carrying around underlying tensions is much more painful.This means having the courage to address undercurrents, to speak truthfully in an uncomfortable interaction, or to simply ask, ‘What is happening?’ (Living the Practice: Clearing the Air, p 75)
- Identify an undercurrent or situation in your life that needs to be addressed.
- Use your favourite practice to reflect and to clarify. Note any emotions that arise.
- Take time for another practice to decide what action you wish to take. Do the Divine Light Invocation. See yourself and this action in the Light.
- Keep a record of your progress.
7) Time to Be Holy, Swami Radha
The powers of the mind are not easily understood. We have to be extremely courageous to look at the powers of the mind as they pertain in our own life…. These are not easy to see because the emotions create a filter. (Time to Be Holy: Evolution and Maya, p 211)
- In the chapter, Evolution and Maya, Swami Radha asks us to look at the powers of the mind in our own life and to inquire: What they really are? What it really is that we are doing? Why we are doing it? What changes are needed? (p 211)
Do a practice of your choice and consider her questions. Make notes on all that arises.
- You want to survive in your own mind, and your own mind sets the criteria by which you want to survive. That’s a very dangerous trap… It means not having the strength, the courage to accept what is. You must deal with self acceptance – the acceptance of your physical appearance and of your mental and emotional make up…Whether you can accept yourself or whether you feel you have to do certain things in order to survive in the world—these are two quite different ways of thinking. (p 212)
- Based on this distinction between survival and self-acceptance, Swami Radha invites us to: Sit down and think them over. Find out where you are… Can you accept yourself? Or do you feel you have to do certain things to survive in the world?
And she encourages us to do this on a regular basis to understand how much stronger and more courageous you have become about accepting where you are, what you are.
8) Kundalini Yoga for the West, Swami Radha
We must have faith that the Path will lead to the top. Even the experienced mountaineer will occasionally encounter a feeling of fear. Courage does not drop into one’s lap. Courage is gathered in overcoming fear. Faith is not gained unless one is willing to accept the darkness. (p 162)
- Take time to still your mind with a practice: 4-4 breath, relaxation practice….
- Allow yourself to bring to mind your fears. Make a list of your fears. (2nd chakra) Choose one that is relevant in your life now.
- Practice I am functioning from my centre ten times.
- Reflect: What action is needed to address this fear?
- Swami Radha writes that as we climb, the peak may be obscured and the emotional reaction that we might be lost can turn into fear.
- Reflect: What practice will I commit to in order to transform fear into courage and faith? Write.
- Stand in Mountain facing the fear and ask: Where do I stand with this fear?
- Be aware of your stance/foundation and ask: What adjustments do I need to make to stand with courage?
9) Inspiring talks to further explore the theme of courage:
- “Freedom and Sacrifice”, 1994, Swami Radha (https://vimeo.com/119976162)
- Satsang with Swami Radhananda on YouTube ( Swami Radhananda’s list of satsang videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6272A3C304AC880B)
- “After the Fire” with Swami Lalitananda, Podcast on Yasodhara Ashram’s “Courage Compass” ( https://soundcloud.com/bryn-bamber/after-the-fire-with-swami-lalitananda)