When I first visited India, I noticed that God was everywhere. The relaxed and, to my South African eyes, tolerant, culture of Southern India happily accepted all deities: Jesus stickers served as protection instead of seat belts in auto rickshaws. People named their businesses after Lakshmi, Hindu Goddess of beauty and abundance, or after Ganesh, the omnipresent elephant-headed God.
He’s known as the overcomer of obstacles, and for good reason. This is his legend.
Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of death and destruction was away at a war and his wife Pavarti wanted to take a bath. She didn’t have anyone to guard the door to her apartments, so she came up with the idea of giving birth to a son who could provide this service for her. And, since goddesses have the power to do things like that, she created Ganesh.
Pavarti gave Ganesh instructions that he was to stand guard at the entrance of her apartments and that he was to admit no-one until she gave word that it was OK to do so. Ganesh took up his post and undertook his assignment enthusiastically.
He was still standing guard when Lord Shiva got home, and tried to get in. Ganesh, according to his instructions, denied him entry. Shiva was enraged by Ganesh’s impudence and drew his sword and cut off Ganesh’s head.
Pavarti emerged to find Ganesh decapitated and flew into a rage. Even though he was immensely powerful Shiva was upset with Pavarti’s rage and promised to make amends by taking the head of the first living thing he found to replace Ganesh’s head. The first animal he came across? A baby elephant.
And that is why Ganesh is associated with overcoming obstacles. Having your head chopped off by your father (who isn’t quite your father) is a pretty big one to overcome. Because of his role as protector of Parvarti’s door he is also associated, in Hindu culture, with protecting entrances.
I suspect Ganesh has been at work in a private client’s life: last week she sent me the email below, and gave me permission to share it with you.
On Tuesday when I got up, (and strangely, it took about 2 hours for my body to feel awake) I just felt extremely sad. At first I tried to make it go away, so I distracted myself by looking at ideas for my break online at the end of this year. I was looking at volunteering at an elephant reserve In Chiang Mai, and while I was reading about the stories of the elephants there, I started to cry.
I realized then that looking at the abused, traumatized elephants was like looking into a mirror!
That just made me more sad, so I looked up yoga articles about yoga and sadness. My sadness at the time wasn’t because I felt sorry for myself, I knew there was something more. My intuitions was telling me that ‘my heart has finally broken.’
I found this article from Yoga Journal where it said that sadness comes up when your body is grieving a loss. That resonated with me, but then I was like, ‘What did I lose?’
It clicked. The old me has finally died.
I took a long nap and was woken up by the earthquake. As soon as I opened my eyes, I heard my I intuition tell me, ‘she’s dead now.’
Since then, I’ve just felt different. I look at the email I wrote to you, about my awful work situation and how I feel I can’t change it, and I’m like, ‘I’m so above all that!’ I feel like everything I’ve thought that was important in the past no longer matters. Money? The universe will always provide! Parents? If they reject me, I will be ok.
Since 2010 when I started this process, I’ve felt like I was slowly demolishing my insides so I can build a new house. Now I can see that the foundation has been built…with one little piece left. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
I’ve decided to spend the rest of the week taking it easy and discovering who this new me is. In a nice, gentle way, of course.
I knew something big happened after our last yoga session. Whatever it was that was in there, I think you finally broke it! And the incident on Sunday was the final straw. I feel rather refreshed and changed. You, Nadine, are a Yoga Shaman!
This is what I do. I help women get strong enough to move away from situations that are harming them. I use the tools of yoga: movement, breath, self-inquiry, story.
And when I get emails like this? I know I am on the right track. I am so, so grateful.