Motivation: Moving From Fear to Courage

Motivation: Moving From Fear to Courage

As part of my personal druidic practice, I do daily meditations. A few years ago, I received a powerful message concerning the source of my personal motivation.

Usually I do a visualization meditation, in which I relax, breathe slowly, and imagine myself following a forest path down towards a stream. At every breath, I pass a trail marker, counting down. I allow my imagination to wander; I pass waterfalls and high rocks, sunny mountain pastures and thick brambles. At trail marker 0, I meet… whatever my subconscious has in store for me.

For example, a some time ago I came upon a small Greek-style temple with a dome and Doric columns. In the middle of the temple was a small pool. As I watched, a frog hopped out of the pool, paused a moment, and leapt far forward. Mid-leap, it changed into a bird, and flew away. The frog, I felt, was myself; the bird was my power. Very strange.

But my most recent meditation was nothing like that.


I was concerned about fear. Over the six months or so prior to this, fear was bothering me much more than is usual in my life. Honestly, I was more afraid on a day-to-day basis, than I remember ever having been. What was I afraid of? Financial destitution. Losing my family (somehow, nothing specific). Losing my job. Not rising to my potential. Not being the father and husband that I need to be. Being overweight all my life. I had almost none of these fears before.

What happened? I don’t know. We’d taken some risks in the past year, but most of them paid off in one way or another. We were deep in debt, but I had a good job and no indications that I would lose it. Given time, we’d climb out. Of course I could imagine all sorts of scenarios for things going right, but somehow I felt more drawn to worrying about things going horribly wrong.

I knew that fear itself was the worst enemy. Why couldn’t I shake it? This was my question going into the meditation.

I was meditating while I was driving, as I frequently do. But as I began counting down, I started to feel that the speed of my car was something that my subconscious was resonating with. I felt it would be more appropriate to imagine the trail markers on the highway itself. I did so.

When I hit zero, I began to feel a slow pounding, like an inexorable heartbeat. I got an image of a great landscape spread out under me, and I could taste the fear of falling. The sun seemed too bright and too close. I scrabbled for a handhold, and it seemed to me that my hands were long and thin and had claws at the end. My claws were scrabbling at a smooth surface. I felt as if I were being held firmly but gently by a huge pincer.

I realized I was a mouse. A mouse held in the beak of an eagle. The pounding heartbeat was the sound of the powerful wings of the eagle. And it was flying… directly toward the sun.

The eagle, I knew, would fly into the sun and through it. It wouldn’t hurt the eagle at all. But I, the mouse, would be utterly consumed by the fire. I could taste the fear.

Then another realization hit me. I was the eagle, too. I, the eagle, my greater self, was heading for the light; and the light would completely destroy me, the mouse, the fearful self. I could even imagine the tremendous heat of the sun, and the mouse disappearing into a puff of ash as the eagle breached its surface.

The terror of the mouse was all-consuming, but the eagle’s wingbeats continued to pound the air, strong, unstoppable.

That was it as far as the meditation went. It left me shaking and exhilarated. I had to pull over at the next rest stop and recover.


As I thought about it, I realized some things about myself.

We are all, most of us, motivated to grow and improve ourselves in one way or another. But motivated why? Why can’t we just accept our faults and concentrate on what makes us happy?

For many of us — and for me, much of the time — we wish to grow to avoid pain. We want to avoid embarrassment, so we prepare for our presentations. We want to avoid failure, so we try hard to succeed. We want to avoid rejection, so we practice our social skills. Pain, and fear of pain, is our motivator.

But of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not be motivated by curiosity, or simply the raw desire to improve ourselves? Isn’t it possible to be motivated positively, instead of negatively? Well, sure, in theory. But what would it be like? For someone primarily motivated by fear, it’s hard to even imagine.

Suppose you’re faced with a problem, and a choice of solutions. Option A is a safe, secure, and effective solution. Option B is more difficult, less secure, riskier, and the chance of success is slim. Further, even if you did succeed, you’d be no better off than if you’d chosen A. Option B is just harder. Which option should you take?

The path of fear is option A. The path of courage is option B. Why? Because Option B offers the chance for more personal growth.

Even if option B has no other advantages whatsoever, the fact that it is more difficult means that it is the path where you will learn more. So you should take it, if you can.

Choosing courage means asking yourself, constantly, what the BOLDEST course of action would be. And taking it. Should you ask that girl out? Yes, always. Should you ask for that raise? Yes, always. Should you join a club, run for office, write a letter to the editor? Yes, always. Should you have another child, or buy that nice house? Yes, both! If you are afraid of doing so. Take the boldest choice, the one with the most chutzpah, the one that shakes you in your boots.

Because that is the only way to get rid of the fear. Turn toward the sun and fly directly into it. When you face the light directly, the mouse will disappear. Only the eagle will remain.