Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Litany Against Fear

This morning I was reading Nicole Cliff's journey from atheist to Christian.  I'm a fan of Nicole
Cliff's written expressions.  I use "written expressions," because I like the way she writes.  I don't know if she's written any books because I've never searched for them.  I've just run across her articles, now and then, here and there.  Somewhere, I remembered reading that she used Buffy's Litany Against Fear during her childbirth labor.  Buffy prayed a litany?

Today, I had the time to google.  I can't find Buffy's litany.  I surmise she used the famous litany from Bene Gesserit, who wrote the Dune series of novels in the 1960's.  Reciting this litany became "camp."     It caught on and morphed into a socially acceptable bona fide prayer.                      

The 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.

What do you think of it?  Much speculation has been expressed.  My take is that it is telling you to "wait it out."  "Be still" and let the fear pass by, because everything eventually passes by.

Whatever.  It's too long.  My "go to" litany is Psalm 27: 7-14.  But being Catholic, I haven't got the verses memorized.  I use a mantra instead:

All is passing.  (Picture your arm sweeping across your body towards the right side.)
God alone abiding. (Picture taking that arm and bringing it back to cover your heart.)

This mantra works--especially during childbirth labor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Christian here that has also read Dune.

First of all,

"I surmise she used the famous litany from Bene Gesserit, who wrote the Dune series of novels in the 1960's."

There are just a lot of issues with this sentence which erode credibility. I'd highly recommend reading Dune. Anybody. It's fantastic, cerebral, page-turning stuff, which is why it's one of the progenitors of modern sci-fi without being like stereotypical modern sci-fi. It's top notch. Frank Herbert was writing the books until his death in the 1980s.

Frank Herbert. The author of Dune. The Bene Gesserit is the fictional order of sisters in the book series, and the Litany Against Fear comes from their teachings. I'd rephrase this as:

"I surmise she used the famous litany from the Bene Gesserit, the important order of women in Frank Herbert's Dune series."

And I think it's a very powerful passage and not all that hard to remember if you intend to remember it.

It's also almost certainly derived from Eastern teachings like zen which have been adapted over the years into what we could call "mindfulness" today. Mindfulness is pretty much "be present in the moment and observe what's happening without resistance or judgment." The Litany is saying the same thing: I will allow myself to be immersed in fear instead of fighting it or denying it, and I will stay with it until it passes and then I will observe that it has passed and that I'm still here.

It's not inconsistent with Christianity; I think putting it on a sheet with some inspiring Bible verses about fear would be a great little thing to keep in one's pocket. Marsha Linehan, who created Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is heavily based on mindfulness is Catholic. A perfect complement to the Litany would be the Serenity Prayer. You might mix everything into a prayer that looks something like this.

Lord, IN THIS MOMENT, give me your strength to face my fear and the serenity to know that it WILL pass, and I WILL endure, and it can have no power over me.

My Personal Litany

Over at Windows to the Soul Blog , Sister Marie Paul Curly wrote a post before she went on retreat.  She actually wrote her own litany to h...