As I was running today I was thinking about Sabooka's post about identity, and that so many of our issues seem to arise from fear responses. This reminded me of an exercise from The Spiral Dance called Banishing Fear.
The exercise has three parts. In the first part we generate a list of things we fear (the more particular the better). If we list our fears we see them outside of us and thus can look at them more fairly and openly. If we do this together, we may all find out some very interesting things. Then people who want to try the exercise can work with it.
The rest of this is most effective if ritualized. The act of consecration makes the process more powerful and indelible.It generally involves cleaning the space where the activity will be done, then taking a bath or shower and consciously purifying yourself. Starhawk suggests casting a circle of protection to make the space safe. I generally do this by walking around the room a few times and saying something like: The work I'm about to do is important to me and deserves my full attention. I do not need to think of anything else for the rest of the evening. I will not allow anything to disturb my concentration, etc.
In the second part each of us takes the things from the group list that mean the most. I find it's best not to ask why I'm afraid, but more to just really see the fear for what it is in my current life. Then I write the fears out on paper, writing them over and over until the repetition of the writing takes away some of their power. If you scrawl all over the paper so you're writing over the words you've already written so much the better.
Next you prepare to burn the paper in a safe container that will hold the ashes. While burning the paper, Starhawk suggests saying something like: These fears are now outside of me. I have seen them for what they are, responses to my past that I no longer need.
Once the paper has burned thoroughly, it should then be pulverized. Starhawk suggests then taking the ashes to a stream or open water and pouring them out. While doing so, she suggests words like: The fears are now ash. In pouring them out I set myself free.
I've found this exercise really useful for a variety of problems.
here are some fears (gut reactions):
I'm afraid I'll die
I'm afraid I'll never finish my novel
I'm afraid I'll never have a girlfriend
I'm afraid of being weak
I'm afraid of speaking out when I'm challenged
I'm afraid of making moves on women