In the great American novel Dune, author Frank Herbert gave us the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood whose members train their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning, to rise to extraordinary abilities. I have never forgotten their “Litany Against Fear.”
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
There are times when we all feel fear. In these days, there seems to be plenty of good reasons. So many of us are facing major life changes, major losses. And we wonder how we will get through, how we will come out on the other side intact. Some mornings we awake and it all hits, seemingly right in the gut. It can feel like a physical blow. And we think, how can I have a productive day today when it is starting out like this?
Coping with fear is an essential personal skill. Many years ago I took the EST Training. Some of you might remember it. One thing I came away with that has stood me in good stead in the years since was the idea that it is possible to have a thought or a feeling and do nothing about it. I was young then, and that was a new idea. You mean I could feel frightened, or angry, or desperate about something, and just let it be?
I really soaked this up then, and it allowed me to go through the coming decades with a kind of strength I had not had before. I could just let those thoughts and feelings be there and keep doing what I was doing, what I had committed to, what I had given my word for. It was not necessary to act it out, make changes, or do anything, solely because of the urgency of the feeling. I could choose, rather than be driven to act.
Fear is a part of our lives. The question we have to ask ourselves is, have we developed the ability to choose when to act on it, or does it drive us like a deer bolting from a noise? No doubt it is a wretched feeling, something we naturally want to escape. But often the circumstances that are generating the fear persist, and are nothing we can change. So we are left with the feeling. Then the moment of choice comes. Will I go on or will I let this cripple me? Will I keep putting one foot in front of the other, or will I make self-destructive choices?
The one constant in life is change. And this too shall pass. “And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”