I've been musing all day about this v. good post by Theodora Goss. Goss is discussing, in particular, how one grows as a writer, but I think that what she says has broader applications to other areas of our lives, including our desire for spiritual and magical growth and our attempts to integrate Fire and capital-W-Will into our lives. Goss says:
I was thinking about the quality of courage today.
I suppose I was thinking about it because I’d seen some things recently that were not at all courageous. That were cowardly. I’m not thinking in terms of physical courage or cowardice. I’m thinking about how we all deal with our lives. The problem is that courage is a sort of muscle. If you don’t use it, the muscle becomes weaker, eventually atrophies. And then you can’t use it, you can’t lift what you need to, or even bend where you need to because it has become stiffer, less flexible.
Courage needs to be exercised.
. . .
Often, it seems to me, when you do something that requires more courage, it ends up being easier than the thing that requires less.
. . .
Each time you put yourself out there in some way, each time you do something that takes courage, you’re exercising that muscle so the next thing becomes easier.
. . .
On the other hand, if you routinely avoid what you fear, you start to believe that you really can’t do whatever it is. And you shrink from other things as well, thinking you can’t do them either.
. . .
And how, you may ask, do you build courage, if it really is a muscle, as I claim?
1. Find something you’re afraid of.
2. Do it.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, as many times as necessary.
That was the thought I had today, because what I saw instead was cowardice, which led to weakness, which led to more cowardice and weakness in a feedback loop. And none of us wants to be there, dying a thousand times before our death. Among other things, it’s no way to be a writer.
Goss' discussion reminds me of an October 2010 podcast by T. Thorn Coyle in which Coyle said:
And, where's the struggle? Is it a struggle of not believing in yourself? Is it a struggle of feeling like you don't have the resources you need? Is it a struggle of of lack of time, lack of energy? Is it a struggle of lack of support around you? Or lack of support from your daily practice? Is it the fear of success? The fear of failure? Where's that struggle?
My trainer, Carrie Rockland, with whom I do a trade that's very fruitful for both of us -- we end up teaching each other, which I greatly appreciate . That's one of the ways I keep fire in my life is to seek out teaching from those who have skills or experiences that I don't have -- but Carrie is coming up on a big competition in which she is having to fight someone that she fought many years ago in order to go up a level in the belt system in her martial art. And in talking about this, she wrote something that was so clear that I want to share it with you. Carrie wrote, "More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight." I want us all to take that phrase in right now. "More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight. "
We talk ourselves out of it before we even step on the mat, half the time. We talk ourselves out of it before we even gather the resources needed to see a project through. We talk ourselves out of it before we make that initial step or have that first conversation. We talk ourselves out of it before we even let ourselves brainstorm and dream.
Fire can help us with courage. That fire in the heart is that strong heart, that courageous heart. And that is something that our Gods can help us with, our friends can help us with. It's something that can help us face the necessary battles, if you will, or take those risks that we're less willing to take
Fire helps us push out of our comfort zone.
You know, some comfort is necessary. we need some ease in our lives and we need some rest, but we also need our comfort to be challenged.
I'm musing a lot about the roles of Fire, Will, and courage in my life. There's not a lot of Fire in my chart, but there's a whole lot of Earth. And, somehow, for the first half of my life, I wound up needing to work like hell to break away from a dysfunctional family, to raise Son on my own, to run educational programs with no money in a dysfunctional school system, to find a spiritual path for myself (which, you know, Sun in Pisces, was kind of important), to go to law school while I worked, to establish myself in a new field, to survive breast cancer, . . . well, you get the picture. And I think that I simply drew (about as heavily as one can draw upon any one account, I simply drew) from all of the stubborn, determined, not-going-to-give-up Earth in my chart and, somehow, thank the Ancestors, made it through.
And, then, suddenly -- finally -- I got a chance to slow down. I got a chance to experience some of that "comfort" and "ease in our lives" that Coyle talks about. And I've taken full advantage of it. But, lately, I'm feeling more and more of a need to begin to push myself again. Certainly, not as hard as I had to push myself for the first part of my life, but to begin, in Coyle's words, for my comfort to be challenged. This is where Goss' words come in: "On the other hand, if you routinely avoid what you fear, you start to believe that you really can’t do whatever it is. And you shrink from other things as well, thinking you can’t do them either." Goss is right and her metaphor about courage being a muscle is right.
Where are you challenging yourself? Where do you need to invoke Fire? Where do you need more ease and comfort? In what ways is being a Witch an exercise in constantly challenging yourself and invoking Fire? In what ways is it a move towards ease and comfort? What elements do you draw upon to make up for the lack of other elements in your make-up?
Picture found here.
Update: As Thalia notes in comments, the notion of forcing yourself over and over to face fear can have different meanings for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families. Thalia discusses the very important notion of treating ourselves compassionately and not berating ourselves for being afraid. Thalia's right; we all have to find our own balance and our society often gives short shrift to the courage that it can take to NOT beat ourselves up, to give ourselves permission to create a zone of comfort and ease. Having compassion for ourselves is often one of the bravest things we do.