I've been waiting for Denis Villeneuve's take on Dune. I've enjoyed this story since watching the David Lynch version numerous times over and over again. Reading the book helped me understand some of the deeper messages that were missed in the Lynch film...and which were explored to a greater degree in the new movie. For me, the Litany Against Fear has helped me so many times in my life, I can't even count it. I can outline when I do employ it.
1) Competitive Moments
Whenever I was challenged for first seat in concert band or competing in a speech and debate tournament, I would utter the words before I hit the drum or said my speech. As much as I practiced, there was always a level of uncertainty on how well I would perform. Would I be able to summon up the proper passion and purpose to convey the piece as I imagined, as it should be? What if I hear someone play the piece better or a better speech? What if I miss a note or stumble a word? What if I dropped my sticks...or my argument faltered? There were so many scenarios dancing around in my head. Uttering the words helped me focus on the task at hand. And the task was to play or speak and compete.
2) Medical Moments
Health issues always bring a level of anxiety for me. Especially when the health issue may be chronic in nature. Will the pain ever go away? Will the symptoms dissipate? What will the doctor say this time or next time? Will I ever feel like myself again? Can I wear what I want to wear without feeling so self conscious about the scars? The worry. It hovers and there is nothing you can do while it surrounds you like a blanket not quite touching you. It's just messing you a little bit. A wisp of worry in your head, a frightful flutter in your heart, and a feeling in the pit of your stomach. Saying the words supported me when I couldn't always hold someone's hand sitting in the doctor's office.
3) Final Word Moments
Judgements, conclusions, or decisions that are out of my hands -- these experiences led me to a fever pitch of stress. Job interviews, promotional opportunities, and getting accepted into different educational or leadership programs would take me into fearful places. Questions of worth and value swirled in my head. Should I have gone to a better school? Man, I should have not asked that one question when I did. Did I put enough on my resume? Were the words I chose not formal enough? How many better qualified candidates can there be? Whispering the words offered me a sense of what I can control...my breath and my thoughts.
When the brain veers off into fear, doubt, worry, and stress, it's doing what it's supposed to do -- protect you from danger. We're all programmed to feel it. What's different? The source. Developing the skill to respond accordingly to the source takes time. For me, these few sentences helped me build a foundation of recognizing levels of uncertainty as well as levels of agency -- what I can control. Leading with my breath, taking what is before me all in, and then closing my eyes to settle into what I need to discern and inform me on what to do next. Is it to play? Is it to speak? Is it to listen? Is it to say "Yes"? Is it to say "No"? Is it to just be? Is it to flow?
The precious seconds I give myself while I say the words allow me to shift my focus and perspective into an action that serves me. Although I've been practicing this since 1987 (Thank you to Kyle MacLachlan for saying them so well in the first movie that I watched over and over again), it wasn't until 17 years later in 2004 did I realize how and when I employed it. I'm grateful for this tool in my calming toolkit. What's most special is how I see it's usefulness passed down from Lady Jessica to Paul in the new movie where both mother and son say it in concert as well as independently from one another -- how each character experiences the same feelings and leverage the words when needed.
If Dune inspires you...and you need a virtual hand hold, try this practice out.
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.”