“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.”
I know I’ve quoted this before in a previous meditation, but It’s one of those points that never gets old.
Many of you may recognize it as the “Litany Against Fear” that appears in just about every single volume of the Frank Herbert’s Dune series (I think they’re up to some odd 15 or maybe 500 volumes in the series, it’s so hard to keep track these days)…
The concept is pretty self explanatory, fear is a paralytic to our behavior. It causes us to not act, or worse, act irrationally and destructively. When we act from fear we act from the worst within us and it leads to the worst results.
And I bring this up because I am seeing fear more and more right now. Be it in my personal life or on the internet or news, I see people acting from the negative, from the worst possible interpretations, looking for the how it will all fail. And I won’t say I’m afraid of what the results are going to be—I’m not, I believe everything will always work out in the end—I’m just annoyed because when people act out of fear it delays that ending that actually does work out…and you know if I have a choice in the matter I’d like the happy ending sooner rather than later.
So how do we confront this fear with meditation?
Well it’s not going to be just a five minute process in the morning, while quiet meditation will help, the best thing to do is follow these steps during the day when something you fear actually occurs.
First, if you can repeat the Litany as it appears above. It will center your mind to analyze the fear dispassionately and rationally…and taking that step back from the emotion of fear is going to best thing you can do to weaken the fear. Now this will also be the hardest step. When we get into a period of fear, recognizing it and disengaging is the last thing that you’re willing to consider. Thus I recommend if you can, repeat the litany every hour on the hour. Doing it on a schedule may help you disengage from a fear you didn’t even realize was bothering you and this gives you power over it.
Second, when you recognize a fear that is bothering you I want you to ask “What’s the worst that can happen.” Let me go with an extreme example I’m seeing more and more on the internet right now: all of Europe goes into a whole new Great Depression and the U.S. feels the shock waves. (There are other wacky conspiracy theories on the net that are even worse than this one, but reason would always dismiss those). Okay, so. Time to tighten the belt again, la-de-dah. The poor in this nation still live lives that the Caesars would envy. Here let me cut to the chase and go with the worst of worst case scenario: You die. So? You’re looking at a meditation on a New Age website, I’m guessing you have some belief in the immortality of the soul—so your body dies, you’re still around, and always will be. In fact, there is only one ending possible, after some odd number of lifetimes you reach Enlightenment and eternal bliss—any version of New Age belief pretty much holds that this is the only possibility. Same for most Eastern religions. And if you believe in Heaven and Hell, I think you’re a little foolish, but what do you have to worry about if you’ve led a good life (and if you haven’t I believe the core belief of the Western religions is that it is never too late to change, so get to it). I know initially that might come off as callous, but hey, everyone pretty much agrees that the worst case scenario still ends with a very happy ending.
But if you don’t want to go that far…look at it this way, most of your problems aren’t at the level of whole nations crashing down. You lose your job or your spouse leaves or you go bankrupt. Worst case. You have friend, you have family, you have things you can sell. Will it be painful, yes, but you’ll still be alive and you’ll eventually land on your feet, and worrying about it won’t help. Run the worst case scenarios out in your head, I promise you every time if you extend it out five, ten years you’ll be doing okay. Yeah, maybe you won’t have that house on the French Rivera, but happiness isn’t dependent on external things.
Are you afraid you’ll never find someone to spend your life with? Worst case scenario, you don’t. Can you still be happy? Yeah. In fact if you happiness is dependent on someone else it isn’t happiness. You want someone to share your happiness with, not someone to give you happiness, because no one can. So if you don’t find someone, it doesn’t matter because it’s not the key to your happiness, you are.
You aren’t going to be successful? Eh. Worst case, if you did everything you could and failed, you have the comfort that you were still the master of your fate and learned from the process.
I promise if you run the worst case scenario out for several years into the future, you’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about. You may not have everything you want, but you’ll still be here and still moving through life, and that’s what matters.
Third now that you’ve seen the fears to be momentary, that while there may be some temporary hardship and suffering, that life isn’t a stream of misery and failure, you can now kill that final bit of fear. What is in your power to avoid that worse case scenario? Don’t worry about the things not in your control, they’re not in your control and worrying won’t help. The more you think about what you have control over, the more you will realize that event the worst case scenario won’t happen.
So now you know the worst case can’t happen and it is in your power to stop it.
Now look back and see if the fear remains…or if only you remain.
Try this thought process every time you realize you have a fear about the future and you will help to end fear’s control over you.