The Courage Herd began as a response to the still small voice inside asking to be nurtured.
The first whispers were about a project, an exploration of the meeting point of horses, people, place, and the development of Life. An exploration that was about giving back and giving forward. Pushing an edge inside and outside, opening to more and more potential for all Life. An adventure that has no end goal, no set path.
As it started to take shape, I knew it needed a name.
I won’t tell you the boring stuff my logical self came up with. Too long, too short, sounded weird, very literal and flat or a lame attempt on yet another rendition of cool names already popularized. Everything I tried to think up elicited a quizzical, ‘holy crap that sucks’ look from my young adult kids and friends.
Then one day in the shower The Courage Herd suddenly appeared. Have you ever had that experience, where something just shows up and it feels more like a gift than something you thought up?
“Herd” felt right not just because of the horses, also because I envisioned a community of people, horses and of course our beautiful donkey, all working together … as a herd.
“Courage” surprised me. It resonated with a resounding YES, and yet, it’s a word I wasn’t aware of using a lot. But the name had already begun to soak in and claim its place.
As the resounding YES rippled out and started to dissipate a question began to emerge. “What does courage in The Courage Herd, mean?”
To dig into that question with you, I want to share a love, in addition to horses and business, that will really inform TCH: an inquiry into conscious evolution. It’s a big ass area of inquiry that is hard to get your arms around (well you can’t, really, by definition). Consciousness and evolution are huge enough separately, let alone putting the two words together. What I love about the exploration, is the exploration. The act of pushing into the unknown that can never be known. (Stay with me here, I promise to keep it real as best I can.)
This is the spirit in which the question about courage kept calling to me. It kept asking to be sat with the way a great question does. Quietly, in the great unknown.
What first came up were ideas like heroism, defeating an enemy, bravery in a warrior sense. The courage to ‘fight fear’. Not let it get the better of you. This way of seeing courage is certainly still active in our culture and meaningful to many. I see that view of courage like the ancestral shoulders we stand on.
I was looking for something that felt like … more. That felt like the spirit of the horse – not the horse as we’ve made them as vehicles, weapons or tools. The horse as teacher that was enabling me, after 40+ years of “horsemanship” to reconnect with them in a new way, with new eyes. As peers, as sentient beings with insights to share and learn from.
Then I remembered a quote that had sat oddly with me. It was from Winston Churchill:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Some years ago a mini-documentary was made about my daughter, Lia, and her journey with epilepsy. The making of the documentary was a huge moment for Lia, myself and our whole family. It taught us a lot about the power of exploring our stories. It was the first time “fun” and “epilepsy” had gone together in the same sentence. In the final version of the documentary, it opens with that Churchill quote.
When I first saw the quote there, I had a sort of internal “hmmm” reaction. Sort of like, “Wait, what? How does that fit?” Every time I watched it, I had this little discomfort sort of in my gut, and every time I would just ignore it and continue on. And now, it seemed, I had asked a question that was calling me to dive into that “Wait, what?” moment. Funny how Life works, isn’t it?
Sitting and reflecting, this came up for me … In the documentary Lia was definitely being courageous about standing up and opening up. But it wasn’t about her sitting down and listening, was it?!
The mini-doc wasn’t about Lia. I mean it was, but it really wasn’t. Some brilliant person on the editing team realized that Lia’s choice to be vulnerable and open hearted made it a story that would include everyone listening. And with this quote they were bringing together the teller and the listener into one story and binding them through courage.
You probably know that feeling when you get your first hint of having found a thread of aliveness calling you to follow it. It’s like hearing a voice so sweet, so gentle and small and yet so thrilling. You can feel it in your gut as it travels up to your heart.
Courage …. Connection. Shared space. Vulnerability. Big and small. Speaking and listening.
Those feel like courage-ideas in the spirit of the horse.
Of course, once you start following a thread, things begin to open up and show up. People, ideas, situations emerge like clues.
I have this new curiosity for courage now. Like what does this quote mean?
Courage is grace under pressure.
So maybe grace is the divine in all life and then courage is what shows up when that part of us that is divine, beauty in motion, is put to the test? A test that challenges our ability to be present, to connect, to be vulnerable, to speak and listen.
What does this mean for The Courage Herd? We have to find out. I know this – what emerged as a name is not just a name. There is something more, something inviting, something asking to be seen, to be pushed into and inquired upon.
The Courage Herd is bigger than the five horses, donkey, two dogs, cat and myself. It’s bigger even than the people we connect with and serve. And, each of us has a part to play in the project – a very special, unique part. I like to think that the name is a call to write the next chapter in our relationship with courage … a call for a deeper connection, sacred space, diversity, speaking and listening, going somewhere new, together.