Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness.
― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
We have funny ideas about courage. To most of us, it seems somehow synonymous with physical daring. We think of soldiers as courageous, and people who lay down their bodies in front of bulldozers in acts of protest. Somewhere along the line, we have conflated the concept of courage with physical risk. We think you’ve got to have guts to be courageous.
But, actually, the root of the word courage is cor, which means heart. So, the central idea behind courage isn’t guts at all. It’s heart. In yoga and Ayurveda, the anahata chakra is commonly referred to as the heart chakra. It is the balancing point between the lower three chakras and the upper three chakras. It is the mid-way point between the very root of our being and pure ether.
The word anahata translates as unstruck, unhurt, or unbeaten. The anahata chakra is the origin for mystically or celestially arising sound that can only be heard within the realm of pure consciousness.
Consciousness, in this case, does not belong to one individual. It is a fluid multiplicity. The opening of the anahata chakra, then, connects us with the consciousness of others and makes a sound that reverberates across creation. This openness allows the individual to be united with the social, with other consciousness-es.
Courage, then, requires not physical fortitude, but psycho-spiritual vulnerability. And of all the virtues, vulnerability seems to be the most difficult to cultivate. Brené Brown, a researcher who has been studying vulnerability for years, characterizes vulnerability as the ability to be authentic, to present ourselves to others truthfully instead of representing who we think we should be.
Vulnerability, at its heart, means keeping the heart open, no matter what the consequences are. Brené Brown says:
To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain.
Courage, then, does require willingness to accept pain, but not in a “put up your dukes” sort of way. Courage means being fully present in the world in the face of rejection, betrayal, and plain old everyday difficulty. It means being present to the pain of others even when it hurts you, too.
This is the kind of presence that we create by accessing the anahata chakra. It is the presence that is both grounded in our most authentic selves and also fully present to the ethereal consciousness that we share with every other living thing.
From this perspective, courage requires not hard, unwavering aggression, but indiscriminate yielding. Courage is the soft heart fully engaged with the world.