Books, Buddhism

Deep Breath

Currently reading: Dune by Frank Herbert.

These past few days have been a test of patience, patience that I momentarily lost. I am planning to pursue my Master’s in Library & Information Sciences. My union is giving me the runaround with my financial aid. Without this financial aid, I may not be able to go back to school. I do not have 2 G’s in my bank account. Despite this setback, I am finding solace in the novel Dune by Frank Herbert, specifically the training of the enigmatic Bene Gesserit.

The Bene Gesserit are a sisterhood that trains mind and body. Due to their training, they are able to detect falsehoods and even control people through the use of their voice. The training of the Bene Gesserit resonates with me because a lot of their training involves breathing exercises. In Buddhism, meditation involves stopping what you are doing and focussing on your breathing as well. Lady Jessica received this training and passed this on to her son Paul, our protagonist. We see this training in the first chapter when Paul engages in the “mind-body lessons his mother taught him,” which consisted of “three quick breaths” and reminding himself that “all things/cells/beings are impermanent.” (5) Whenever difficulties come their way, they rely on their breathing to master themselves and overcome obstacles. The most poignant example of this training in practice is the desert storm scene.

When the Harkonnens seek to eliminate Lady Jessica and Paul, the chase leads them to a desert storm. Paul’s plan involves steering the ship into the storm in such a way that they ride on top of it to elude pursuit. When they ride into the storm and lose control of the ship, they returned to their training to introduce calm. They also invoked a litany about fear: “I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past me I will turn to see fear’s path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Life is unpredictable. It will throw you curve balls. You will not always have control in the same way that Paul has no control of the ship in the storm. The good news is it will come and it will go. And you will still be here.

I need to remember my own training like Paul and Lady Jessica remember theirs in times of trouble. I cannot allow bureaucratic bullshit and inept imbeciles to take me out of my element. This setback I am dealing with is my desert storm. Everything seems to be going wrong, but I am not going to panic. I need to follow Paul’s example. When captured by the Harkonnens, for example, he goes back to his Bene Gesserit training regimen to keep himself “poised, ready to expand any opportunity.” (209) By staying calm, Paul was able to seize the opportunity and escape from the Harkonnens. If I panic, I will be blind to my options. With that in mind, I will be like Paul and seek refuge in my breathing and see what options manifest.

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