Today’s exploration of the writings and sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda (founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship and its meditation and healing techniques) stems from one of his Para-grams. This little deck of cards offers a slew of philosophies and musings on a wealth of spiritual aims and concerns. On this Silent Sunday, after a quick flip through the pack, I was drawn to the Courage card.
Nearly three years ago—January 2018—I experienced the first symptoms of arthritis in my left hip. Because I managed to assuage the discomfort and retain strength and mobility, I charged through that year and half of the next without a diagnosis. It was not until mid-2019 that I learned the cause of the initial pain (which had begun to creep into the other hip, too). By the end of last year, I had my first cortisone shot.
As for many, if not most people around the world, this pandemic year has seemed to usher in a particular quality and trajectory: major hurdles, followed by bits of relief, only to be followed by an even rougher patch, a dose of reprieve, and then back to foreboding and challenge. Some have deemed 2020 the roller-coaster year; the up/down, all-around, nauseating, terrifying, unpredictability of the ride certainly applies. Yet when on a roller-coaster, one knows that the adventure will end: One can withstand the speed and heart-racing drops, for the finiteness of the experience is guaranteed.
That this painful time with my hips should come to an end with surgery, to meet with a surgeon and schedule a hip replacement has turned out to be another example of 2020’s brand of uncertainty and frustration. I have been able to persevere, to be patient, to stay strong and positive: Much of this stems from faith in the divine; from a belief that things play out as they should and always were going to; and from sheer determination to focus on God when the challenge threatens to take me down. And it is a true blessing to have friends and family who offer their unwavering encouragement and support.
The last few weeks have been especially problematic, physically. I finally admitted to a friend yesterday that each morning, I pray/wish/hope/beg to be able to walk when I arise in the morning. To have reached this stage and feel otherwise healthy is another hallmark of 2020’s unique tenor: Irony and paradox abound.
So when I came across the Courage card this morning, I recalled that almost without thinking, I had chosen a kundalini kriya for Courage a few days ago. At the time, I did not feel anxious or frightened or especially worried about any one thing: However, I intuitively felt the need for the practice. If nothing else, certainly it would shore up my will and fortitude for when I might need them again.
But today’s Para-gram caused me to think a bit more about what Courage means to me. Other words come to mind: perseverance, grit, steadiness, clarity. Yet Courage feels—on an intuitive level—like a more pervasive, omnipotent quality. Courage shows up when one is most down; Courage propels one when energy dissipates; Courage lights the way through conflict and strife, through pain and hopelessness. Perhaps Courage is the presence of God and the power of the Universe when one feels too worn to pray or meditate, to think or act, to hope or believe.
Paramahansa’s words on Courage further point out that one can become too steeped in, for example, the experience of physical pain or emotional upheaval. A world fraught with disease and fear can overwhelm Life as the Divine would have us see it. The following Para-gram reframes the notion of what it means to be Courageous:
Do not take life’s experiences too seriously. Above all do not let them hurt you, for in reality they are nothing but dream experiences. Play your part in life, but never forget it is only a role. If circumstances are bad and you have to bear them, do not make them a part of yourself. What you lose in the world will not be a loss to your soul. Trust in God and destroy fear, which paralyzes all efforts to succeed, and attracts the very thing you fear.