The Nature Of Obstacles

The Hindu god Ganesha, the god with the elephant’s head, is beloved by millions as the remover of obstacles.  His name is often invoked at the beginning of a new venture; he is thought to bring his followers good luck and fortune.

He bears the head of an elephant because one day his mother, the goddess Parvati, asked him to guard the door while she bathed.  He did so faithfully, denying even his father, Shiva, entrance.  Shiva was not pleased that Ganesha was standing between him and Shiva’s wife, and so he cut off Ganesha’s head.  Feeling contrite almost immediately, Shiva ordered his servants to find a replacement head for Ganesha–they returned with the head of an elephant, and Ganesha has been known as the Elephant God ever since.

Elephants represent wisdom, and not just any wisdom, but that of your higher self, the self that exists before and beyond what you think of as your life.  This wisdom is what counsels us to choose love, to create beauty, to forgive, to seek, to trust.  This wisdom is what teaches us that all of our obstacles exist only in our minds.

Ganesha is the Remover of Obstacles, but in this well-known story, he is himself the obstacle, standing between mother and father.  It is his head that is removed, and then transformed into a symbol of higher truth.  This is the greatest teaching of the story:  we are our obstacles.  What stands between us and the love and light we seek are our thoughts, our fears, our resentments.  To be free, we must replace the thoughts that stand between us and joy with the thoughts of our higher selves, our true wisdom.  Only then may we be transformed into all we are capable of becoming.

Only you can remove your obstacles.  Only you are the chosen hero of your story.  You have the power to transform darkness into light, because darkness is nothing but the shadows of empty thoughts.  Trust in your own wisdom, and allow your obstacles to be transformed.

News: Her Future & Website Updates

Two quick news items:

First, HerFuture.com selected my Wabi Sabi post for this week’s Blogs We Dig!  Check out all the featured blogs here.  Thanks, Her Future!

Second, I added a new menu, For A Windy Day, to my website.  You will now be able to go directly to some of my past posts on Myths & Stories, Love & Relationships, Meditation and Ways of Peace.  I hope this will make it easier for you to navigate the website and find just what you’re looking for.

Thank you all for your support–it means so very much to me.

With love,

Jennifer

How To Make Your Life One Long Vacation

Sunrise over Lake Tahoe

The secrets to a good vacation and a happy life are one and the same.  After all, we are born explorers.  We tend to forget this when we aren’t in new places.  But there are always new things to discover, even in our own backyards.

1.  Live as an explorer.  Be open and ready for adventures.  Realize, as you look around your surroundings, that you may never see them quite the same way again.  Learn what you can.  Take notes.  Take pictures.

2.  Expect the unexpected.  Appreciate and savor where you are and what you are doing.  Learn all you can about others and their ways of life.  Adapt to your surroundings.

3.  Take the time to study your maps, but also be willing to get lost.  Plan your day, but don’t be afraid to abandon your itinerary and linger in a sidewalk café.

4.  Suspend judgment.  Recognize that you can’t know everything (good tourists know how to listen and ask questions).  Ask for help when you need it.  Help others when they need it.

5.  Focus on what matters most–exploring, learning, relaxing, having fun, spending time with loved ones.  And always, decide to enjoy yourself!

Playing The Game

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.  ~George Bernard Shaw

The older we get, the more consumed we are by work.  We want to do more, have more, accomplish more.  We think that all these things will make us happy.  Someday.  We think that by doing things that don’t make us happy, by suffering for our duties and obligations, we will earn our happiness.  But, intuitively, we know better.  We know that happiness follows joy, not suffering.

Why this preoccupation with how diligent we are, how focused, how much we suffer for duty?  Why not, instead, pride yourself on how much fun you are having?  Or, better still, on how much fun you can make your work?

When I worked in the corporate world, the days that flowed the best were the ones in which I embraced my job and treated it like a game, rather than resenting and struggling against it.  Dressed in my suit, briefcase in one hand and a coffee in the other, on my way to another oh-so-important meeting…  I was playing at being a lawyer.  Some might say that this isn’t a serious way to approach a career, yet those were the days that I was at my brightest, quickest, most capable and most hard-working.  I was not succumbing to stress and fear.  I embraced the game, and I played it well.  The most successful lawyers I know are the ones who enjoy practicing law, who see the fun in it.  Is that so surprising?  Those who enjoy what they do always do it best.

Is it so different from what we learned as children?  We dressed up and pretended to be teachers, soldiers, hairdressers.  Even the most ordinary and mundane professions seemed glamorous and exciting.  We couldn’t wait for the day when it was real.  Yet when that day came, we started to take our lives seriously, and lost the fun of the game.

What we really desire is to keep playing.  To make the difficult, challenging and boring moments of our lives interesting, exhilarating, an adventure.  And why not?  Why not change your point of view, and embrace the game rather than the fear?  Whatever you do with your day–work in an office, care for children, serve drinks, cook dinner–make it a game.  Use your creativity, your sense of wonder.  Life can be as much fun as you let it be.

Journey Into Stillness: Meditation & Wabi Sabi

I have practiced meditation for years, for many reasons.  Most often because I am tired, or anxious, or because it seems like the right thing to do after yoga.  Most of the time, it feels good.  Afterwards, I am calmer, more centered, more balanced.  And besides, all the wisdom traditions of the world counsel us to practice meditation–they must be on to something.

But because I have devoted these 40 days to a more intense meditation practice, I have begun to ask myself:  why meditate?  Because it feels good and makes me kinder and calmer are all good answers, sufficient on their own, and yet because it is the focus of so many different religions and spiritual practices, I want more than that.

So this morning, as I meditated over a hot cup of coffee, I asked the wind:  why meditate?  And heard this answer:  Because it is an opportunity to stop and see, feel and hear a moment that will never come again.  Because it allows you to embrace the wabi sabi nature of the world and your life.

Meditation is not another project for your to-do list.  It is not something else you need to do or obtain to prove yourself spiritual.  Many people meditate to be calmer, more patient, more enlightened–and this may be the result–but the real reason to meditate is simply to allow what is to be.  To allow yourself to be.  To rest in the now.  Not so that you can check “enlightenment” off your list.  Not so that you can achieve some standard of perfection you have set for yourself.  But rather, so that you can learn to embrace imperfection.

Wabi Sabi teaches us that everything is imperfect, impermanent, unfinished.  We spend most of our time ignoring or denying that fact.  We either cling to what is before us–our relationships, our possessions, those things we think we want–or we push it all away, hold it at arm’s length, because we know it cannot last.  Meditation is an opportunity to practice a different way, a way that neither clings to what is nor denies it.

When we meditate (which is to say, when we are firmly rooted in the present moment), we allow ourselves to experience what is before us.  We really hear the birds sing; we feel the wind through our hair.  We taste the blackberry melting on our tongues; we allow the colors of the grass and flowers to flood our eyes.  No moment will ever come again in quite the same way, but when you allow a moment to fill your senses, when you experience it fully, it becomes a part of you.  You may not remember it later, but you don’t need to.  It is you, and you are it, forever.

This is why it is not important how you meditate.  How long, where, with what tools–those are all just guides to lead you into the here and now.  What matters is that you open, and open again, and again.

We forget, in the rush of our lives, to be present.  We fall back into our old habits of clinging and pushing, clinging and pushing.  With meditation, we practice being, accepting, allowing.  We train ourselves to see the world differently, to experience our lives differently.  We learn to delight in the changes, rather than fear them.  We learn to love what is, even as it moves and transforms.  And finally, we allow ourselves to merge with time and space, forever entwined, a dance without beginning or end.

Out Of The Past

When we look at the world, we see our thoughts.  There is nothing we see that does not have a story attached to it.  The story may be a memory (a cup bought on vacation; a gift from a treasured friend), or it may be an opinion (I like this; I don’t like that).  But whether we are aware of it or not, we attach stories to everything we see, and those stories all arise from the past, because the past is all we know.

Our stories are not necessarily bad things.  But they are only stories.  To see something fresh, something new, as if for the first time, as if you had no idea what it was and no opinion about it–that is to see something truly.  When you stop seeing only the past, you are open to possibility, to the future.

This is why all the sages counsel us to be here now–to stop dwelling on our thoughts of the future and the past and to be in the present.  Because to be in the present, without limiting it to what you think it is or should be, is what allows you to make the best decisions, to express yourself fully, to enjoy the flow of life around you.

Enjoy your stories, but do not forget that is all they are.  Let them go if they aren’t serving you; create new ones.  Start with where you are, and with what is possible.

Everything begins here.

Embrace

Once you have truly seen something–seen into its heart and understood it–you can never not see it again.  It is always there, always whispering, always waiting.  It is the awakened Beloved.

Find the quiet beauty, the hidden perfection.  Let yourself be guided by truth.  How do you know when you are hearing the voice of truth?  It does not taste of fear.  It does not blame, reject, accuse.  It forgives.  It is kind.  It is the best in you, the best in others.  And it is always there, waiting for you to choose love over fear, hoping that you will listen.

So put all of your eggs in one basket.  Stop hedging your bets.  Act as though you trust the God you believe in.  Give your all to love, to light, to hope.  And remember:  your life is not yours to fix.  It is yours to embrace.

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