Greetings, everyone! Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope it will contribute in some way to true happiness and freedom for all beings.
Ganesha is here to get us off to an auspicious start. He blesses beginnings and is often said to be the remover of obstacles. Our material on this blog will address many issues that tend to be seen as hindrances: sickness, physical limitations, modern worldly commitments, relationship complexities, change and loss, character flaws, habits or addictions that appear to get in the way of our practice or ability to live fully… They say the trick is to regard the “problem” as Ganesh himself, giving us the chance to behold it with greater respect and allowing for the possibility of learning and growing from it with humility and gratitude.
In this photo Ganesh is looking quite studious, and in fact he is said to be Intelligence itself. We could all use more of that! Or perhaps I should just speak for myself… Well, even in his case, this lesson was hard-won as is illustrated by the following story, a version of which is often told by my teacher:
Shiva (Ganesha’s father) was needing to go out to perform some godly duties and didn’t want to leave his wife, Parvati (Ganesha’s mother) unattended. He asked Ganesh to guard the door and be sure not to let anybody in. As a test, he came disguised a few different ways and was very pleased to find Ganesh unrelenting in this task. Shiva then felt reassured that everything was taken care of and was gone for quite a while. Upon arriving back home excited to see his wife, he found that Ganesh refused to let him in! No matter what he tried (entreaties, subterfuge, force…), he could not gain entry. In a fit of frustrated fury, he sliced the boy’s (human) head off. Needless to say, this did not go over well with Parvati and the homecoming festivities were further delayed. Eventually they found an elephant, and Ganesh was outfitted with a new head. After that he learned to get to the heart of the matter and not take things so literally (or seriously).
It’s astonishing to see how easy it is to develop fundamentalist attitudes and adhere to them even when they don’t apply. We see this happening in the yoga world all the time when we hear a certain instruction meant for a particular person in a specific situation and we turn it into a universal rule and try to impose it on everybody. Without understanding that the external posture is there to serve internal processes that can lead to open awareness and end all suffering, we try to cram our bodies into forms fabricated from fantasy and inflict more suffering on ourselves and others. We then waffle to the opposite extreme, telling our entire social media network that this style of asana is injurious, nonsensical and definitely not meant for me… We are forgetting its (and our) ultimate purpose (and potential). Even the best technique will fall short unless we take it in, digest and assimilate it in a way that is appropriate for us. It is far more challenging to look at our individual circumstances critically and use our own capacities to respond creatively and adaptively to them…
This brings me to Ganesha’s ears, which are quite large for divine listening. Listening (with any of our senses) brings us into the present moment and our unique reality. Rehashing the past, dreading or hankering after imagined scenarios in the future, and tugging at our experience right now wishing for it to be other than it is (or as other people tell us it ought to be) are all recipes for distraction and dissatisfaction. When we listen (be it to our bodies, other beings or our environment), we can act in skillful or even enlightened ways that ultimately benefit us all.
We all want to be happy and discover the real cause of happiness. The more I study various long-standing and apparently legitimate practice/wisdom traditions and interact with those who have truly immersed themselves in them, the more convinced I become that this goal is realizable and not some New Age magical thinking. When we inquire deeply and sincerely, guidance comes, whether we see it as such or not. May we explore together and find our own ways. May we perceive bumps in the road as little jabs from the tusk of Ganesh and continue on the path with a more open heart and better sense of humor!