By Christa Chantelois BSN, MAC

What do you think? Is it time to re-frame the dynamic between hero and fear? To not only look at what scares us but also at our gifts. Sitting in quiet stillness and listening within, where the dualities of our power and fear reside, is the place of truth and transformation!

Traditionally, a hero or heroine is seen as courageous and has powers beyond normal that he or she uses to accomplish or defeat something larger than life. Joseph Campbell beautifully frames what a true hero is, writing:

We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. … Where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outwards, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

As for fear, it has been minimalized in the portrayal of the fairytale hero or heroine. However, in the past fifteen years or so there has been a trend for the hero or heroine in movies such as Harry Potter or The Lord and The Rings to show great fear and feel incapable of fulfilling their quest. And they did it anyway! A popular description of fear is “face everything and rise or forget everything and run.” Granted, there are valuable times when fear tells us to run! But what about all those times during the day when fear whispers its quiet deceptions to us about our worth, failures, limitations, and on and on? Fear is like a double edged sword; one side assists us in safety and protection, the other side is sharpened by all the false messages that come to us through media, people, and experiences. It takes courage, the heart of a hero, to face our personal fears and do something to lessen the hold they have on us.

Richard Rohr encourages us to face our shadow side, face the contradictions and unauthentic aspects within us and in life. He states that this actually can lead to full consciousness. Parker Palmer echoes this when he states that “the deeper we go into the heart’s darkness or its light, the closer we get to the ultimate mystery…” Beginning this pilgrimage to discover the hero within calls us to increased awareness; awareness of the fear experienced in our body as physical sensations or symptoms, awareness of our beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves, awareness that the fear we experience may not belong to us.

This awareness can come through a multitude of approaches, such as yoga, meditation, the willingness to do an honest self-inventory of our shadow side and of our light, listening to and being in nature, and training our mind in compassion. Sylvia Boorstein’s paraphrasing of the Metta Sutta could be used as a daily affirmation,
May all beings be at ease, omitting none. Let none, through anger or ill will, wish harm upon another. … boundlessly open our hearts.” Pema Chödrön offers the following technique: “We can begin to open our hearts by feeling compassion toward ourselves, and then bring to mind others who are in the same situation…it turns out that when we contemplate the suffering of others and open our hearts further, it actually gives us more strength. It gives us purpose and endurance. Opening our hearts awakens our intrinsic courage because our compassion and natural heroism are connected.” This builds empathy for our self and all other beings.

Heroism is softer, gentler, and infinitely stronger than reacting to our fear with opposition. Nurturing the hero in each of us begins during our seemingly small daily encounters with anxiety, doubt, and insecurity. Living this way allows our daily experience to be more tolerable and makes space for joy; and, when bigger fears arise, our inner hero will calmly, lovingly accompany us through the storm.

Published in Nature’s Pathways, September 2017