August 30, 2013

Calming down with geeky mantras

When I'm feeling scared or stressed or anxious, there's not always a lot I can do to snap myself out of it. If I'm caught in the spiral, it's hard to claw up the walls and escape. Sometimes I can feel the worry and anxiety bubbling though, trying to boil, and when I can catch the panic red-handed I can try to push it back. One of my tricks is repeating phrases, poems, or oaths from stories I love.

They don't always fit the situation, and I'm not always successful but memorizing words I love and wielding them as a mantra or meditation that I say over and over again in my head can help me focus and change directions. I suppose some would consider it sacrilegious that I'm using the word mantra in this fashion, but that's how I see it and that's what they are for me.
It's probably obvious, but I turn to the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear most often:
"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."

Frank Herbert's words from Dune ring with truth and give me a boost of bravery when I need it - which is often.
Another one I repeat is the oath for the Night's Watch from A Song of Ice and Fire. I memorized it once, and it's stuck with me and it's there at the tip of my fingertips when I need to pull together and focus. 
"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."

I'm not planning to take the black any time ever, but something about the cadence and language calms me.

I also turns to wise words from J.R.R. Tolkien. More than a couple of poems in the Lord of the Rings trilogy can brighten my day but this is the only one I have committed to memory:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The first verse especially is a helpful reminder when I'm feeling like I've lost my way or that I'm not accomplishing all that I should be.

Written out, it seems silly that these bits from fiction are what I turn towards when I'm struggling but they help me get through those rough moments and you've got to celebrate whatever works.

16 comments:

  1. I've never really thought about using pop culture mantras to help with anxiety, but those are some great choices!

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  2. It's not silly at all! I do the same thing, specially before exams. And I use the same 'poems' you do, with addition of the "fear cuts deeper thah swords" one from GoT, and the mottos "Strength and honor", from Gladiator and "Currahee" from Band of Brothers when I need a 'short form' or just a word of encouragement.

    This summer I went tree climbing (I'm not sure about the translation in english... you know those parks where you have a course in top of trees, 15 to 20 meters high, and you have to walk on ropes, jump, climb, etc.)for the first time with some friends that had all done it several times before, so they had chosen the most difficult walk. I can truly say that if I completed some of the most difficult "tasks" was thanks to the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, I kept saying it to myself over and over so I wouldn't panic. And hey, it worked!

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    1. Short phrases are just as helpful! I very much like the "What do we tell the god of Death? Not today." from GoT.
      Glad to hear I'm not alone in doing this. :)

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  3. Not silly at all! Tolkien is always a good choice in moments like those. I like reading that someone else thinks like me ;)

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  4. "I must not fear" is perfect for relaxing. I loved when Earthworm Jim used it.

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  5. :) :) that Dune Mantra got me through some really tough times as a kid . Great article

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  6. Never thought about the Dune Mantra. Excellent choice. I'm a little more obvious with the Jedi Code, but I can actually bring myself to peace with it. Thanks for posting!

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  7. Recently when I had to give a presentation at work, I psyched myself up beforehand with "You are the blood of the dragon". I think it worked, though I didn´t sack any cities or develop the ability to speak fluent High Valyrian.

    Another one I love (not so much to say, but I find it very inspiring) is from The Return of the King, when Sam is in Mordor: "There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.". A good one for when times are dark :)

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  8. Ha, I've always done stuff like this, even when I was a kid! (I used to repeat "lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" to myself whenever I was scared).

    Usually my go-to is reciting the Jedi Code whenever I'm anxious or upset. Not only does it remind me to calm myself down, but there's something so nicely meditative about having something to just repeat over and over.

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  9. I love the Litany Against Fear!

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  10. You should consider including Patrick's Rune, from Madeleine L'Engle's "A Swiftly Tilting Planet." It's beautiful and is not only a fear-repeller, it's a call for aid and strength. One of my all time favorites. It's here: http://holyjoe.org/poetry/lengle.htm

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