Courage – the theme of the conference has been accompanying us both (Till and Ronja) unconsciously for a long time. During our journey through Latin America (Sept. 17 – July 18), we felt a little courageous and a little afraid but rather we felt freely connected with the world and ourselves. Often, however, we were confronted with a fear sensible in other people and our surroundings. I asked myself often, why is there so much fear of loosing ones identity in a context of intercultural encounters? Whether it be loosing “our western values” or “eastern values” quite generally spoken of course. How does the idea arise that culture could be something threatening? How can we make something threatening out of it? When diversity is what makes us special and when it can teach us how to face the challenges of our time.

In conversation with our team, although asking different questions, we had found one common question which connected all of us.

“Why? Why are there so many conflicts in this world? Why so much hatred and exclusion? Why so many right-wing parties in so many countries?”

There is so much fear in this world. Fear of losing identity, of losing prosperity, of losing meaning and above all of getting to know oneself and being confronted with ones own insecurities.

But a conference on fear? That would be little solution-oriented. It was important to us to give courage and confidence. Warmth and openness towards the world, oneself and others. So how could one face these fears, embrace them, let them go and what would one need for that?

Trust, determination, a critical self-contemplation and a desire to act. All of this needs courage. To meet each other from person to person. As me and you, in freedom and love. Or to put it in Rudolf Steiners words:

“To live in love towards our actions and to let live in the understanding of the other person’s will is the fundamental maxim of free human beings.”

Of course these were not our thoughts one and a half years before the conference. Courage, that sounded to us like great heap of confidence and fighting for one’s convictions. It meant to dare to do something. To dare to leave behind the old – something that we personally did not find so difficult. At least in this moment.

It took quite a while until we fully understood the depth of our theme and until we realised that it was present all around the world. After our year long travel our journey was to be continued  rather inside of us than in the outside world. We arrived in Dornach, a small village and a landscape only changed by the seasons. The same handful of people who we met daily and who slowly became friends. The conference now accompanied us daily and we spent many hours discussing about courage and writing down the content of our discussions. This went hand in hand with the process of asking foundations for support for our conference and promoting our conference. As for this we had to have a clearer picture of our topic and why it was so important that it would be worthwhile to come, on the one hand, and on the other hand to support us in financing the conference.

The freedom within our work asked us to work in a very conscious way and to observe ourselves within this process in order to critically reflect on it and us. The deeper we dealt with ourselves, the more we connected ourselves with the topic of fear and courage. What does it actually mean to critically reflect on oneself? It meant confronting ourselves with our ideals and visions and facing the fear of being wrong. What if how I see the world does not fit with how my colleagues see the world? When our ways of working together differ? What if I would have to rethink my whole world view? Suddenly there was fear, fear of not knowing. And then curiosity which eventually developed into courage. When the outside world becomes more still it is when I find to really see what lives inside and then I can become courageous.

Courage – it became a topic very close to us as we wanted to face the possibility that there was to rethink our work again and again. Many of the decisions we had to make were based on our way of seeing the human being, our ideals and last but not least our world view and our relationship to ourselves: On which bases did we want to work together with our team? According to which criteria did we want to grant scholarships to students from financially weak backgrounds? How could we manage to create a conference in which all our ideas and visions could become alive without pushing each other away? How to distribute work without imposing tasks? How to encourage everyone to bring their idea without having the fear of loosing ones own idea?

Sometimes inside our team we felt uncomfortably pushed into a position as authorities which we did not want to be. How did we get into this situation? Sometimes what you communicate non-verbally tells more than what you actually put into words. So we had to critically look at ourselves again – are we ready to embrace and welcome all ideas that want to come? We decided over and over again to express our wish and idea of collaborating openly and freely without hierarchies. Valuing everyones ideas and critically reflecting on them in the same way. Only in the end, I think, we were able to build up this working relationship in which this could actually happen.

What is courage? Follow ones heart impulse in harmony with the mind. A conscious action which you could choose  to undertake and which you are committed to. Roughly, this was how Marina Helou described courage in her lecture. During our journey through the world, we followed our hearts and had many choices to take. It was not necessary to think every thing through nor to commit ourselves. We chose to put our focus on the openness towards the world and to dive into the otherness,  out of love and in love with the world. Therefore, the question of fear was more of an outward question and the question of courage less present.

Here in Dornach, however, preparing the conference, commitment was needed, decision to be taken.  We wanted to find a way in which heart and mind could go hand in hand. This path lead us to a process of embracing our fears and acting out of courage.  It helped us creating an outer and inner space of encounter and love for and with the participants of “COURAGE”

Ronja Eis