In The Face Of Fear – Action

Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. For in action there is magic, grace and power – Goethe

I came across this quote, strangely enough, in a book on Zen flower arranging. It seems to be one of those popular quotes that are dragged up for use in almost any circumstance. Still, something in it spoke to me. I can’t say that I particularly go for the term magic – I am pretty sure that the power of action doesn’t come from a supernatural source, just from a source which for the most part we neglect or fail to comprehend, and maybe after all that is what more accurately characterises what we tend to call magic. However, power and grace I can go with. And the quote is particularly helpful for me just now.

I have, and as long as I can remember have had, a sense of anxiety as my background emotion – it seems to be almost programmed into my body, and at something like an operating system level come to that. Sometimes it is relatively quiet, sometimes it can lead to a quite debilitating fear. A lot of people find this hard to believe of me as I have done things and held responsibilities that many people seemed to find terrifying. I had little problem with them as the outside threat seen by others was nothing compared with my inner fears.

Life is much quieter for me now; the anxiety and fear remain, and if anything are more noticeable without the distractions of external pressures. Still, action is the antidote to fear. Sometimes any action will do. Sometimes it is an achievement just getting up in the morning, getting dressed, feeding the cats, lighting the stoves and milking the goats. Beginning these simple tasks can dispel the fear. At other times there is one particular task calling me to be worked on which, for some obscured reason, becomes the focus of my fear. Then I can find myself becoming exceptionally busy on just about anything that avoids me having to look at the one thing I need to be doing. Beginning this one thing, in the face of the fear, is where the power and grace lie.

In some ways knowing all this helps to stop other things in the future becoming immobilising with the fear they bring. Sometimes, though, the fear and avoidance seem to creep up unnoticed and for a while action seems impossible – but it isn’t. And, nervous as I am to disagree with Goethe, I am relieved to say that often I don’t even have to feel or believe I can do something – just starting is all that it takes.

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One thought on “In The Face Of Fear – Action”

  1. I know well the anxiety as background feeling. It started, as I recall and relatives would seem to agree, before I even went to school. And yes, it does get programmed into the body and there are ways to ease that. I have come to see it as a sort of recognition of impermanence and grasping for control, to cling on to attachments. Avoidance can keep it going, whereas staring it in the face it tends to melt. I think the interesting thing might be – just what action? And as a friend once said to me ‘thank goodness for obsessives; they keep things in working order’

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