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Struggling Faith: The God Of Green Hope

Digital artist journal page by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy, using our upcoming ArtLife set of digital assets, by Frances and Connla.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your spiritual life, filled with the life-giving energy of inspiration, will brim over with hope!

I began my arduous search for the God of green hope in February of 2016, following the realization that I had become hopeless.  Clearly, Jesus wasn’t “that guy”, because He and I weren’t exactly on speaking terms by that point.  Lleu Llaw Gyffes wasn’t “that guy”, either, even though I had considered myself a practicing Druid for a number of years previously.  So I began my dive into the Norse Tradition, in hopes of finding “that guy” there.

I had been a “weekend Druid”, but I was anything but a “weekend Heathen”.  From the very start, my journey down the Norse Path led me to daily prayer, weekly blots, and active participation in my newfound Faith.  By June of 2016, I had finally begun to “feel better”, but I still hadn’t fully recovered my hope, nor had I met the God of Green Hope.  A year on, in February of 2017, I still had not found Him/Her/It, and those feelings of quiet desperation began to slowly seep back in, this time compounded by my inability to figure out the “riddle” within that verse that I had been given.

The truth of it was this: I couldn’t find the God of Green Hope because I was looking in all the wrong places.  I was looking outside, when I should have been looking within.

I am the God of Green Hope.  You are the God of Green Hope. We are the God of Green Hope.

I automatically hold anyone suspect who says in a serious tone that they are the god of anything. Sure, people may jokingly say things like “I am the god of homemade tacos”, and I’m perfectly fine with that, because it’s a joke.  But to claim godhood for oneself smacks of a brand of pretentiousness that I have a difficult time fathoming.  It’s part of why I take issue with the writings of Aleister Crowley.  Yet, hear me out.

For a full year, I prayed, participated in rituals, researched, and searched, trying to find that one, great, outside source that would fill me up with joy and fill me up with peace as that passage promised.  A full year, and yet I still felt that I was hanging on the tree.  I looked outside, and outside, and outside, but only on the rarest of occasions did I look within.  And even when I did, my focus was on where I fit into our business, rather than on where I fit into the World.

In March of 2017, I finally looked inside.  The business was tanking yet again, and as I sat in my office literally crying, it finally dawned on me that doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is the very definition of insanity.  So I decided to do something different: instead of shaking my fist at the heavens, I took a deep, long look within. And I discovered something I definitely didn’t want to discover: I was the problem.  The good news was, if I was the problem, I could also be the solution.

Becoming the God of Green Hope:

  • Stop looking back; you aren’t going that way!

Mistakes and triumphs you’ve experienced in the past are precisely that: in the past.  The longer you dwell on either, the more they are allowed to control your present, which in turn leads them to shape your future.  Do you want a future shaped by your past mistakes and triumphs, or do you want a future shaped by you, yourself?

  • Stop mourning, and start celebrating!

Stop mourning all of the things you don’t have, haven’t accomplished, or didn’t do, and instead focus on celebrating what you do have, are accomplishing, and are doing via showing gratitude.  You’re likely great at sitting down and making detailed inventories of things to mourn; take that skill, and instead turn it towards making a detailed inventory of all the things about your life that are actually good.  These don’t have to be big things!  Things for which to be grateful can be as seemingly insignificant as a shockingly blue sky outside your window, or as mindblowing as having your art published on the cover of a popular newsletter or magazine.

  • While you’re making lists, make one of everything that worries you right now.  Read through it, and then discard it, and actually let go.

Worrying is basically looking towards the future with dread, instead of looking towards the future with eager expectancy.  We all do it, and we all have done it, and even after you make this list, discard it, and make a conscious decision to let go of those specific worries, the chances are fantastic you will find a whole new list of things to worry about at some point in the future.  When that happens, you should repeat this exercise.  Worrying is a useless endeavor: all it does is leave you feeling defeated, and make you tired.  It actually accomplishes nothing, so why keep doing it?

  • Rediscover joy.

The marrow of what we really want out of life is locked inside the bones of those things which bring us joy.  Make a third list: a list of everything in your life, no matter how big or small, that actually sparks joy in you.  In case it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten what joy even feels like, these would be things that create a sense of well-being for you; things that make you feel successful or fortunate; things that make you deeply happy or cause you to brim with delight.  Your gratitude list might be a helpful jump-off point for creating this list.  Once you have your list, take some time to actually spend time with these joy-sparkers.

  • Realize that you are enough.

Re-engage with yourself.  The first question too many of us ask when attempting to “find ourselves” is “am I worthy?”  That is an adversarial tone, and we all know what such a tone gets us when we’re talking about exterior human relationships, right?  So why do we think it will go differently with interior ones?   Think about it like this: let’s say you’ve just met a new person with whom you’re considering building a friendship.  What would happen if, upon first meeting them, you introduced yourself by saying “I’m me, and I’m wondering if you’re worthy of being my friend”?  That likely wouldn’t go over terribly well, now, would it?  They would likely find you rude and pretentious, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  So why do we approach our selves that way?  The simple answer: we shouldn’t.  Enough means “occurring in such a quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations.”  If you are enough, that means that you are capable of meeting whatever life throws at you halfway.  Look around at your life: you’ve made it this far.  You’re still breathing; you’re still sitting here reading this.  If you’ve made it this far, that is empirical proof that you are enough, and enough is the first important step towards plenty:  a large or sufficient amount or quality; more than enough.

Once you have found the God of Green Hope within you, you should start experiencing more joy and peace in your life.  You may find that you need to do these exercises multiple times–I certainly did–and there’s no shame in that. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately feel as though you have been filled up with joy and peace; that will come with time.  This is just the beginning, and we’ll discuss where to go from here in the next blog post in this series.

 

 

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Remember How To Play!

In a recent post, I talked about play as one of the “ingredients” of authentic you.  Today, I’d like to elaborate on that a bit further.  Given the current political climate, playing might be the last thing on your list of things to do.  Most of us are too busy worrying or arguing in favor of our personal political opinions to devote time to such a silly thing as play, right?  But the truth of the matter is, playing isn’t a silly thing at all. In fact, it’s precisely what we need more of in our lives right now.

Playing is something that many adults insist they have outgrown, and that most teenagers will tell you is stupid, and yet those same adults and teenagers will, if given the chance, go to a baseball, basketball, or football game in order to watch other people get paid to play, or will sit in front of a video game for hours, or will engage in horseplay with their friends at a pool party or gathering. You are never too old to play! The way we play just changes with age. There’s a song in the Disney version of Mary Poppins called A Spoonful of Sugar. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve probably heard the song. It says:

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun;

You find the fun, and snap! The job’s a game!

And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake;

A lark; a spree; it’s very clear to see!”

If you think this is a bunch of sweet, sentimental drivel (because the writer of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, certainly did!), let me provide you some proof from real life that it can actually be true. Someone I love very much works two jobs. Her day job is an office job handling very important issues for the company; her second job is at a local fast food restaurant. Her days are exhausting and long. Yet, within both of those jobs—and especially the second—there are moments where something happens, and she finds the fun, and snap! The job’s a game! What if we could make that snap happen? Guess what? We can!

When you are faced with something stressful—any job or activity—you can always turn it into a game, simply by turning it into a personal challenge that you need to win. Now, some would argue that that is setting oneself up for failure, because what if you don’t meet that challenge, and, therefore, lose? That sort of thinking is why we now have Little League Baseball teams where there is no score, and everybody gets a “turn”. There’s a great film with Billy Crystal and Bette Middler called Parental Guidance that demonstrates what I’m talking about. In the film, they play old-school grandparents who are put in charge of their daughter’s three kids for an extended period of time. Billy Crystal’s character is a former sports announcer who really wants to get “back in the saddle”, and he absolutely loves baseball. Imagine his surprise when he attends his youngest grandson’s baseball game and discovers there is no spirit of accomplishment available to these kids, because since the possibility of failure has been eliminated, so has the possibility of success!

You must allow yourself time to play—whether that means turning your present job into a game, or actually taking the time to play in whatever way fills you with joy. Playing for you might mean dragging a toy across the floor for your cat, or it might mean painting your nails, or it might mean cooking a good meal. Whatever takes you to that place where you start to treasure time instead of feeling pressured by it, you need to start doing it now, because when we begin to play, as with the aforementioned Little Leaguers—that’s when we start to open ourselves up to infinite possibilities.

The brilliant martial artist, film star, and philosopher, Bruce Lee understood what I’m talking about. He said:

Water is the softest substance in the world, and yet it can penetrate the hardest rock, or anything—granite, you name it. Water also is insubstantial; by that I mean you cannot grasp hold of it; you cannot punch it and hurt it.”

We should all seek to have the nature of water, for to be like that–to be formless, shapeless, like water–is to fully embrace the infinite possibilities that I’m talking about opening ourselves up to through play.  To be like water means to be both hard and soft at the same time; to accept the possibility of failure at the same time as accepting the possibility of success. It is to believe that anything can happen—and it actually might! When we close ourselves off to either extreme—success or failure—we remove for ourselves any hope of a spirit of accomplishment, just like those aforementioned Little Leaguers. To go through life without the possibility of that—no wonder you might be at breaking point! A three-year-old doesn’t generally go into a game of let’s-pretend considering the outcome—there is no win or lose; it just is what it is. They therefore go through the course of play and come out on the other end with a spirit of accomplishment. They’re fearless. They don’t sit around and dread playing house or fireman or whatever, because they don’t worry about what others are going to think about their performance as they play, and they don’t concern themselves with whether or not they’re going to win or lose. Even if their imaginary fireman falls off the roof in a blaze of glory, or their imaginary cake “falls” because they were jumping up and down in their play kitchen, they’re happy with that outcome because it is how they imagined it; they realize they are the one in control. And they can claim that control precisely because they understand that there are infinite possibilities.

The biggest difference between you and that three-year-old is that the three-year-old doesn’t realize they are opening themselves up to the infinite possibilities; they just do it, whereas you’re obviously going to have to work on it. And that work isn’t going to be easy, more than likely, especially since you might already be at breaking point. Hopefully, if you’ve already started the process by cultivating gratitude and the other “ingredients”, this will be slightly easier than it might have been otherwise.

So how the heck do you do that? How do you go back to being as fearless and worry-free as a three-year-old?  Whatever is breaking you down to the lowest common denominator right now, how would you have looked at that same thing when you were three?  Let’s use the present political climate as our example, since that seems to be on so many people’s minds right now.  People have died and are dying (with possibly a great many more deaths in the future) thanks to the actions of a few people bent on extremist religious views and a subsequent act of terrorism. Now thousands more people are homeless and seeking shelter wherever they can, away from the horrible treatment of their tormentors.  Those people are being treated as if they are the same as those who are making them flee their home country in the first place, and arguments are breaking out everywhere between strangers, friends, and loved ones, most of whom have absolutely zero control over this situation at all.  How would three-year-old you deal with that?

Three-year-old you might be just as frightened–if not even moreso–than grown-up you.  Three-year-old you might run to your parents and ask if the bad people are going to come here and bomb something next.  Three-year-old you might need to sleep with the lights on, and hug their blankie extra close at night.  Three-year-old you might be scared to even go to the grocery store, much less places where large groups of people gather, like subway stations, or airports, or shopping malls. And when the grown-ups try to make three-year-old you go to places like that, three-year-old you might pitch a temper tantrum, the exact same way that adults are pitching temper tantrums all across social media right now!

Another scenario might involve three-year-old you deciding this is a great opportunity for a game of let’s pretend, wherein three-year-old you pretends to be a soldier defending their homeland from the evil terrorists, or a doctor helping the sick and the injured, or a refugee trying desperately to escape by playing hide and seek with their pursuers.  This three-year-old version of you understands that fear and worry are best dispelled through play, because play opens us up to infinite possibilities, instead of leaving us at breaking point.

The three-year-old soldier sees the world in black and white; good guys versus bad guys.  They take a look at who did the bad thing, and those people are the bad guys, and then they take a look at who got hurt by the bad thing, and those are the good guys.  That may seem like an overly-simplistic way of looking at the world to adult eyes, but there is actually a tremendous amount of Truth in that perspective because often children understand what we cannot: when bad things happen to people, those people are victims, and the victim is always the good guy.  This simplistic worldview breeds active compassion: compassion that doesn’t just sit there, but aches to do something about all the horrible things it sees happening in the world.

The three-year-old doctor cannot play without someone to treat; without boo-boos to fix.  Teddy bears become bombing victims, and baby dolls become refugees.  The more victims are sought out and found in the toy box, the longer the child can play.  Once again, three-year-old you arrives at the understanding that victims are the good guys, and the entire foundation of playtime becomes active compassion: compassion that doesn’t just sit there, but aches to do something about the bad things in the world.

The three-year-old refugee casts themself as the good guy, while the people seeking to keep them out of other countries, or driving them away from home are automatically understood as the bad guys.  They understand that they’re the victim in this scenario–they’re the hunted; they’re the prey. I mean, face it: that’s how hide and seek ultimately works, right?  If you’re the one hiding, then your opponent is seeking; they are hunting you.  This, too, breeds a level of active compassion which most adults seem incapable of right now, because it causes us to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  We are more likely to practice active compassion if we fully understand what the victims are going through; what they’re enduring.

In the end, all three of these three-year-old versions of you are the ones in control: their situation pans out precisely as they imagined it, so they always win, and there is no possibility of loss or defeat. Why? Because let’s pretend doesn’t work without its inherent infinite possibilities.  But what do these three scenarios teach us to do about the present political climate? How can we, as adults, play our way through that and come out on the other side still feeling like responsible, intelligent adults who didn’t just sit on our hineys, but actually did something?

As adults, we can play through this situation the same way as the aforementioned three-year-olds: in your mind, play out those three scenarios, and see if you arrive at a different place–mentally, emotionally, and spiritually–than where you were before.  When we allow ourselves mental playtime like this, we should find ourselves back in a place of control, where fear and worry no longer hold sway.  Once we find ourselves freed from worry and fear, we no longer need to fight each other, and can instead fight for the good guys, or against the bad guys.

Whatever you are presently facing in your life, apply “three-year-old you” to it, play through it, and see what sorts of possibilities suddenly pop up!

**Portions of this blog post appear in my upcoming book, Start At Zero, which will hopefully be available sometime during the holiday season!