Followers of Game of Thrones (of which I am shamelessly one) know the answer to the question: “What do we say to the God of Death?”
In the series, Arya Stark learns this from her first swordmaster at the age of 11, and it serves her well.
I believe GOT has grown to capture the attention of some 10 million people per episode because of the timeless universality of its underlying themes. The series explores psycho-spiritual questions which are ever more urgent for us now.
Can we use the most challenging circumstances life has to offer to evolve into our best selves, rather than of retreating into our prejudices, outworn certainties and fears? Can we grow past the stories that have shaped us and the loyalties we have previously held to face realities we desperately wish didn’t exist?
These are questions for all of us. How do we bring forward our best in service to what truly matters in the face of all the challenges – both inner and outer?
What I love about the epigrammatic question and response to the God of Death is that it points to a spiritual practice we all need: pithy reminders of our capacity to go deeper – to access our own fierce courage when we need it most, even – especially- when that seems least possible.
The God of Death is a metaphor for whatever steals life from us. All of us have habituated coping patterns in the face of pain and stress which serve us, and others which steal life.
One of the most positive ones for me, as I wrote last week, is art making. One of the most damaging, for me, has always been comfort eating, especially diving into sugar. I’ve done this to the point of becoming prediabetic, which it was sobering to recently learn. I won’t beat that back by allowing this particular coping pattern to half-unconsciously steal my life.
The underlying, indispensable work for meeting whatever challenges life throws our way is to strengthen our capacity to respond.
A mantra is a form of short prayer can help refocus us. The next time I feel tempted to handle life’s stresses by indulging in patterns that may offer short-term relief, but that ultimately hurt me, I want to remember to say to that particular incarnation of the God of Death, “Not today.”
With You on the Path,