Good advice, actually:
“There is no way to suppress change…not even in heaven; there is only a choice between a way of living which allows constant, if gradual alterations and a way of living that combines great control and cataclysmic upheavals. Those who panic and bind the trickster choose the latter path. It would be better to learn to play with him, better especially to develop skills (cultural, spiritual, artistic) that allow some commerce with accident, and some acceptance of the changes that contingency will always engender.”
— Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World
Even though I am over a month late in posting my thoughts, I could not wait to read National Geographic’s most recent article on the Vikings, which appeared in their March 2017 issue.
While much of the article concerned recent discoveries made about Viking culture of which I was already familiar, an intriguing theory concerning Ragnarok was mentioned on pages 38-9:
In the nearly three centuries before the raids on foreign shores began around AD 750, Scandinavia was wracked by turmoil, [Neil] Price [of Uppsala University, Sweden] says. More than three dozen petty kingdoms arose during this period, throwing up chains of hill forts and vying for power and territory. In the midst of these troubled times, catastrophe struck. A vast cloud of dust, likely blasted into the atmosphere by a combination of cataclysms – comets or meteorites smashing into the Earth, as well as the eruption of least one large volcano–darkened the sun beginning in AD 536, lowering summer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere for the next 14 years. The extended cold and darkness brought death and ruin to Scandinavia, lying as it did along the northern edge of medieval agriculture. In Sweden’s Uppland region, for example, nearly 75 percent of villages were abandoned, as residents succumbed to starvation and fighting.
So dire was this disaster that it seems to have given birth to one of the darkest of all world myths –the Nordic legend of Ragnarok, the end of creation and the final battle, in which all gods, all supernatural beings, and all human beings and other living creatures die. Ragnarok was said to begin with Fimbulwinter, a deadly time when the sun turns black and the weather turns bitter and treacherous–events that eerily parallel the dust veil that began in 536, Price says.*
I had never considered that there could have been an actual historical event upon which Ragnarok was based.
This lovely poem was shared by a friend on my social media feed this morning, and though I was skeptical that its words ‘could change one’s life,’ I will grant that its overall message is rather profound one…and personally relevant.
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Jelaluddin Rumi,
Translation from The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks
I love Brene Brown…even when she is throwing out some hard truths.
So you can gather what I am talking about, you might want to watch the video.
Y’see, I , too, am a ‘blamer.’
It’s true of me that when something bad happens, my first thought is often whose fault is this? – and, more often than not, I twist it in my head until I’ve found a reason for whatever happened.
I need to know why. I am a person that needs to know why.
Even if -more often than not – I end up blaming myself for whatever it is that happened in some way.
Yeah. I know that that’s unhealthy.
Yep, I thought that that was holding myself accountable.*
This mindfulness and this desire to hold myself accountable for myself and my reactions to bad things happening is often the way that my thoughts go. And I’ve had enough therapy to know that I’m only doing half the work, too, when I stop and actually think about it.
Why is it only half the work?
Because the full work would be the realization and implementation of the fact that some bad things happen because they are random. Sometimes there is no reason.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes bad things happen because someone wasn’t mindful of themselves or others – and I include myself in that – and rash decisions get made. Things get broken, or feelings get hurt, or what have you, and often emotions fuel those decisions.
But the key is – the process of thinking that there has to be reason somewhere. That there has to be a reason, there has to be a fault. And that there has to be this endless overthinking and wasting of time and resources trying to figure out why something is, why something happened, or what led to this or that result.
As Brown points out, the fault-finding and blame is a discharge of discomfort and a desire for control of the situation, including getting control of one’s emotions and reactions.
And that gets me to thinking about my zen Buddhist therapist who speaks a continuous refrain of how I need to work on letting shit go, learning that the only person one can control is oneself and one’s reactions to the world, and the constant reminder that the only moment is the present moment. He talks endlessly of the fact that the present is the only moment in which we can live, and how when one has realized this, and one focuses on mindfulness and control of oneself in the present moment, only then can one create inner peace and happiness.
Oh yes, it gives me a headache sometimes…this zen business. The letting go, the reactive vs. proactive paradigm, the mindfulness — so much jargon. I cannot deny that this all feels exhausting sometimes, and I’ll admit that I fall back upon ingrained reactive habits and value judgments, and and and….*sigh*
I wallow in self-blame, another waste of time.
I seek control.
But the only control I seek in the end is self-control.
*This video opens my eyes to the mistake I’ve made concerning what accountability is.
Then, everything’s *not* fine.
2016 has been a rollercoaster..and I don’t think that it has just been a rollercoaster for me.
Look at the rest of the world, I suppose.
It would seem that everyone is struggling with something…not just me.
Not just my struggles.
I haven’t been posting, mainly because I’ve been keeping to the relative safety of writing in my notebooks, because 2016 has brought so many changes to my life that when I look back upon where I was, emotionally and spiritually, on this day in 2015, I am agog at how much has changed in my relationships, my attitudes, my writing….hell, even my devotional/spiritual practices.
As a matter of fact, so much has changed in my devotional practice that my head is sort of… spinning.
It’s been an interesting year, to say the least.
At the end of 2015, I was coming out of a major depressive episode.
Certain aspects of my life were either stagnant or evolving in a direction that I didn’t want to travel. I felt stuck and sad and angry.
I had decided to end relationships with several persons whom I’d come to over-value so much that I’d thought of these folks as the basis of my spiritual community….so deciding to cut ties with those friends felt like cutting ties with my sense of community.
As well, I felt stagnant in my spiritual relationships. I needed something to change but I didn’t know what or how
Though I had hope for 2016, I’d never in a million years expected the changes that were in store for me regarding my marriage, my circle of friends (or whom I would have considered my circle of friends), how I’d come to spend my free time,the people, places and things I would come to value, the skills that I would develop or the way that my devotional/spiritual practices would be completely overhauled.
Yes, my spiritual practices would suffer a complete overhaul in 2016.
And that is why I have chosen WorldBreaker as the title of this post.
Because, oddly enough, in retrospect, one of the only constants I see in the pattern of 2015 to 2016 was …Loki
And yes, that is true…I am working with Loki now.*
Though in late December 2015, I’d even gone as far as to pack up all of my altars -including His – because I was feeling disconnected from all of Them.
I was throwing what was essentially a tantrum of enormous spiritual proportions.
I was trying so hard to feel and to do, and yet all I could feel was an immense sense of frustration and disconnection.
I was feeling what I thought that I was supposed to feel and I was doing what I thought was the ‘work’ that I needed to do…
And yet I was ….not.
Though I will admit what I did feel was this:
“ I wish you all had one neck and I had my hands around it.”
(Those, by the way, are the second to last words of convicted murderer Carl Panzram, just before he was executed at Leavenworth Penitentiary in 1930)
(Do you see the WorldBreaker yet?)
Because that, my friends, is how I felt (inwardly, of course) about the whole business of not just the day to day functionings of my mundane life, but my spiritual life as well.
In late 2015, I definitely felt that if Life were a person, I wanted to choke that motherfucker out…and hard.
But I am not a violent person, so I could not even begin to guess where those feelings of rage were coming from at the time.
But I do…now.
(Yep. That was me…being upset. And oh…not working on my shit. But boy, did I think I was!)
So, what changed?
Well, I can’t exactly write a recipe book now, can I?
It was my journey from 2015 on and through all of 2016 that required a change in attitude towards a lot of situations that I didn’t particularly like that involved people that I didn’t particularly like.
I was entrenched in a battle of control and blame in my mundane life, and I was believing that these situations were somehow within my realm of control… but they were not.
I was the face of acceptance on the surface, but underneath all of that, I was angry and withholding.
I kept telling myself that I had let go of the past, but I had not….not entirely.
I was full of assumptions and waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I was waiting and hiding and grumbling to myself.
I had expectations based upon assumptions, and I was feeding an ugly vicious cycle of blame and insecurity.
In short, I was living in the past, but thinking that I was moving on.
I thought I was open. I thought I was being accepting and fair and loving and generous. I thought that I was letting go. I told myself constantly that I was holding myself accountable. I was convinced that it was I who was fair and open and honest…and others were not.
It wasn’t me who refused to be, it was them.
And in my spiritual life – well, there’s a mirror. I was insecure, tentative…also angry.
I had so much stuff on my altars. I was meditating every day. I felt like I was constantly giving Them time, giving Them energy, giving Them thought.
So why was I having the dark night of the soul? Why was I feeling a fallow time? Why did I feel so disconnected?
You refuse to be open.
You refuse to be generous.
You do not allow….
You do not permit….
It will begin…when you begin.
And so, in 2016, I began without even being aware of what I was beginning.
(Enter the WorldBreaker, stage left.)
Looking back upon the year, I realize that there were many occasions wherein I was thrust into many uncomfortable situations.
I look back upon these uncomfortable moments and I recall feeling forced to explain myself in many ways.
A lot of these moments featured me being forced to examine myself – my social anxieties, my prejudices, my decisions, my beliefs.**
But 2016 also rewarded me – the year even brought me a lot of growth, and even some new friends – or rather, I re-connected with myself in re-connecting with several ‘old’ friends – which led to my social circle increasing exponentially and unexpectedly at the same time.
As well, 2016 brought me joy in unexpected places (Arizona) and heartache in others (Washington DC)…but in the end, the slow change toward actually letting go of my need to control/create a specific outcome led to unexpected and entirely unforeseen outcomes.
While I do not have a lot of the same people in my life that I had had in 2015, I do have people in 2016.
As well, in 2016, I have done things that I never thought that I would do, I experienced things that I’d never dreamed of experiencing before, and craziest of all, I am actually working with yet another God that I had once insisted that I would *never* work with.
(Hel, as recently as two months ago, I would have refused to even look at Him, let alone work with Him in any way.)
Funny, how things can change so completely and so abruptly, eh?
But that, my friends, is the story of a decision for another day entirely. 😉
So that was the trajectory of my 2016.
A year of rapid, dramatic (sometimes even melodramatic) emotional and spiritual change for me.
Courtesy of a relentless Breaker of Worlds.
Hail Loki, indeed ❤
*In retrospect, I realize that up to a point, 2012-2015 was essentially ‘making a good show of working with Loki’ compared to actually ‘working with’ Loki
**I felt ashamed, exposed…and about three months ago, it peaked in that a few folks even vilified me for speaking my mind, for writing what I wrote in this blog. And yes, it stopped me. A lot.