Here’s a journal entry from 2001, written in the thick of my worst depression (one that came perilously close to suicide), when I had to pack up my life in Vermont and move back to Florida. In many ways this was something of a turning point for me.
Last night, in the shower, I communed with Ganesha, the beloved elephant-headed Hindu god. I have for many years felt a kinship with him; I have a nice statue of him reclining, and a little incense burner or candleholder kind of altar.
But recently I’d been reading more about him, and learned that while he is the god who removes obstructions, he’s also the god who placed obstructions in the way of his mother’s hotheaded consort; he was her protector. And in many ways, he is mine.
I have been, for most of my life, a monotheist, a Christian. If I have had anything to do with different gods, it’s been to contemplate their symbolic power, their meaning—not to cultivate a relationship with them.
But last night I said a prayer of thanksgiving.
I thanked Ganesha for putting all these obstructions in my life: my weight, my brain with its ADD and its depressive chemical imbalance, my feeling of being blocked, my backlog of work and my mire of finances and my filthy apartment that needs to be cleaned, sorted and packed. I said thank you for all of these.
I have said thanks and given praise to God before, but somehow there was a difference last night. I saw Ganesha as representative of a loving universe that has placed these obstructions in my life for a purpose—so that I would not proceed on the path that I was on, but would choose a different path, one that was better for me and would make me happier.
All I have done is see the obstructions. I feel like Balaam’s ass, sitting down in the middle of the road because the way is barred by Yahweh’s angel. I can’t turn right, I can’t turn left, I can’t turn around, so I sit down.
I am sad. My brain is sad. I feel so overwhelmed, so unable to do anything.
Ganesha, will you now help me, please? Will you please show me what path is open to me, what way is better for me to go?
I keep hearing, “Craig, what do you want ?” What is it that I really, really want? —as if having that clear in my mind will help matters.
I want so many things. I want wealth and freedom and beauty and fun and delicious food and friends and joy. I want purpose and meaning and success in my work. I want spiritual depth and wisdom and “access”; I want to be a teacher and a guide. I want to not be lonely and cluttered and wasteful and irresponsible and disorganized. I want to be happy. I want to be happy. I want to smile for no reason at all, just because it bubbles up inside me. I want to enter the perpetual Sabbath, dwell in the Shekinah, live in the Grail Castle, and have all unfold effortlessly and without work. I want to live in the wu wei.
Those are the things I want, Ganesha. Those are the things I want, O God, O allies, O powers, O spirits. Since you ask, that is what I want.
Now what? Is the answer yes, automatically?
Ganesha, thank you for the obstacles. Thank you for blocking my path. Now show me the way you want me to go instead. Give life to my legs and strength to my heart and determination to my head, and show me the way to go.
The big question, dear Ganesha: can you move the obstacle that is ME?
Join the conversation!
Some people believe that obstacles in our lives are generally one of two sorts: either they’re challenges that we need overcome, or they’re “Bridge Out Ahead” warning signs that protect us from foolish, perhaps even dire, mistakes. Do you agree, or disagree? Share some insights from your own life where you’ve met a major obstacle. What did you do? Looking back on it, was there a purpose to it?
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