I’ve done some courageous things in my life. I remember the feeling when I was about to embark on my first Sea Shepherd mission. I had been assigned to the fibre glass stabilised monohull, Brigitte Bardot. Such a small ship for the wild waters of the Southern Ocean, up against big swell, ice and whalers! My friends had been on it the year before when a rogue wave smashed over one of the wings and near broke it off. They were able to keep it together with ratchet straps, I believe, and hobble back to land in mostly one piece. And here I was about to get on it for three months – our destination the Southern Ocean, one of the wildest oceans in the world, to defend whales. It was a test of nerves, conviction, resilience and determination.
The second year I served I was relieved to be on the much larger steel vessel, the Bob Barker, a much more suitable fit for these waters. On the night of our first conflict with the whalers, I went up to the bridge at midnight for my watch shift and the energy was heightened. We had been sitting on the slipway of the massive floating abattoir, the Nisshin Maru for eight days, blocking the hunt. That night, the harpoon ships, fast as they were, launched their attack to throw us off. It was a ten-hour fight, the harpoon ships trailing steel cable, criss-crossing in front of us, each time we had to circle back to avoid the ship being completely disabled. Eventually the Nisshin was off our radars and we had to cede that we lost this one. The oceans the next day were so calm, in contrast to the choppy mess of the night before. It was like the spirit of this wild place was gifting us the perfect conditions for convalescence, to rest our weary spirits.
I met so many hero/ines in my time with Sea Shepherd. So many people I was inspired by, who inspired me to be there, whose bravery and commitment meant they were willing to risk their lives, leave their comfortable homes, loved ones and dry land, to spend months at sea, defending their fellow earthlings.
I have spent the past six months creating an online course, or two courses as it turns out. These courses, The Courageous Heart I & II have so much of my heart. Interestingly it all only came together when I let go of the integration of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’ framework, which has helped me contextualise and give meaning to my journey. Not just in the above adventure, but through all of those times in life that require bravery and a leaping into the unknown. You know the ones – life is full of them – those times we leave the comfort of the status quo and venture forth into the discomfort of the liminal. We go through hard times and we come out… changed.
And perhaps it’s because this story’s time is past. We’re entering unchartered waters now. The story has always been a collective one anyway. In reality, even behind the figureheads who light the way, there are so many other people, all supporting one another and working together toward a shared vision.
I’ve heard the Deep Ecology elder Joanna Macy say, with what’s to come, ‘we’re going to need each other like never before.’ And it’s true. The new vision emerging from the edges appears to be one of collective care and mutual aid. And yet, it’s never that simple – life so often holds contradiction – paradoxically there is so much division and toxicity in the dominant culture. The coronavirus crisis is revealing the shortcomings in the individualist capitalist everyone-for-themselves way. We are in great danger, with the rolling crises of climate change coming down the pipe, and it is vital we dismantle that way of being and seeing, and start taking care of each other and navigating these waters with courage, resilience, honesty and love.
Luckily, all of us can access our courageous hearts. Studies have shown that people are generally naturally willing to put themselves at risk to save others – that is the first impulse. However when we have more time to think about it, this is when hesitancy comes in. Still, our tendency is for care, and that care is something we can cultivate and tend to. The writer Mary Daly said, ‘courage is like a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts.’
In these two companion courses we enter this work together to get to the heart of something vital and real. In the first we apply the lens of Yogic and Buddhist teachings and in the second we spiral through Joanna Macy’s the Work That Reconnects. These courses can be taken together as a way to spiral deeper into the content… or just sign up for one.
Courageous Heart I: Yoga & Buddhism for Challenging Times, is self-paced, with all of the content up and ready for you.
Courageous Heart II: Coming Back to Life in Times of Crisis starts Monday September 7, and is 4x weekly webinars focusing on the potent praxis of the Work That Reconnects.
Please join me in the weaving of this web.
Love and Metta,