St. Anthony and Ganesha... Together at Last

Ganesh, in Hindu mythology, Ganesha is a jovial, round-bellied, elephant-headed diety, depicted with a large snake around his belly to represent the Kundalini energy or divine life force that runs through each of us. He is shown with one tusk because he broke the other off to use as a writing utensil to transcribe ancient scriptures, and there is a mouse at his feet to represent the relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Ganesha is easy to love, and is commonly seen in yoga studios across the globe. His boon, when called upon is to be the "remover of obstacles and path clearer". In this way, he is called to help provide us with an open and clear path.

When I was a little girl, my Grandma Bridget told me that if I prayed diligently on my rosary to St. Anthony that a favorite necklace I had lost might be returned to me. She made me a very special rosary for this occassion, a garland of sterling silver beads, each in the shape of a rosebud, with a crucifix at one point. I prayed and prayed, passing the beads through my fingers.

Years later, I was introduced to meditation beads while studying Buddhist meditation, and then again to japa mala beads (mala means "garland") while studying mantra yoga. On both of these garlands of prayer ropes, there are 108 beads. I found that interesting enough to dig out my old Catholic rosary to count the beads. No surprise, there were 108 beads on my rosary strand as well.

So, let's talk briefly about this number: 108. 108 is considered to be an auspicious number. There are dozens, if not more, reasons for this. There are said to be a total of 108 energy lines converging to form the heart chakra, and some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity. Bottom line is that in three very distinct spiritual paths: Yoga, Catholicism, and Buddhism, there is an important and fundamental golden thread of commonality. I so enjoy discovering these synchronicities. These "revelations" that we are all the same... we who walk the spiritual path.

So now, let's talk about why we ask for guidance outside of ourselves... Why do people pray? Or chant? Why do some call upon a higher guidance, whatever that may be? We do so to direct our energies upward, to a place beyond ourselves, "bigger than ourselves" somehow. And we tend to do this especially when times are difficult and we find that we are being pulled, or sometimes dragged, downward.

Since I arrived in Bali, I have focused my prayers and meditations on finding clarity and direction so that these years of my life are fruitful and so that I provide the highest good to the planet. As my practice has evolved, I have found myself settling into a nice little daily practice of chanting, praying, practicing hatha, and meditating. And more recently, invoking the spirit of Ganesh. I use my mala beads to quiet my mind and relax my body. To create calming rivers of rhythm in my body and to nourish my breath. It is from this place that I realize that everything in life is beautiful. That all is well. That I am safe, and that the same divine force that has so clothed the lilies of the fields will also care for me.

Here in Bali, there are statues of Ganesh on every street corner and in most shops between. He is stone, wooden, metal and even soap. He is a guardian of this place, literally and because the Balinese believe it is so. He is called upon here to bless entrances and focus one's eyes on the path that is available to each of us. The path of peace. Even if you have a dirt floor in your kitchen (and there are many, many who fall into that category here). No matter what our circumstances, we can be peace.

Whatever your "divine fancy", taking a few moments each day to offer up your breath to slow and deliberate breath, and your hands to forces beyond yourself to help guide your way and clear your path, well, let's just say, during these times, is not such a bad idea and it's simple. Just take your favorite seat, focus on your breath and commit to 108 long, deep breaths. On the inhale you can chant, or you can simply say to yourself, "I inhale peace", and as you exhale, you can chant, or you can say, "I exhale, I let go." 108 times. Dig out your beads, your rosary, or buy or make some to help you keep track. I promise you this will shift your perspective greatly.

Here is a basic chant to Ganesh:

Om Gum Ganapatayeh Namaha

Om is the ever-pervading sound of the universe, the all-that-is created by the divine, and because we cannot worship a sound, we instead channel this energy through Ganesh. Gum is the "seed sound" of Ganesh. Namaha loosely means "the name" and refers to the divine. When we add Namaha to the end we add depth and meaning to our intensity of prayer and we lay down before God all of offensive and defensive posturing so that we can purely, and without obstruction, receive grace.

And if Ganesh is not your fancy, the mythology and historical value is quite rich.

Here is one version of the ancient story:

The Hindu God of destruction and renovation, Shiva, was away at war when his wife and Goddess, Parvati sough to take a bath. While bathing, she created a boy out of the dirt of her body and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When Shiva, her husband returned, he was surprised to find a stranger denying him access, and struck off the boy's head in rage. Parvati broke down in utter grief and to soothe her, Shiva sent out his soldiers to fetch the head of any sleeping being who was facing the north. The company found a sleeping elephant and brought back its severed head, which was then attached to the body of the boy. Shiva restored its life and made him the leader (pati) of his troops. Hence his name 'Ganapati'. Shiva also bestowed a boon that people would worship him and invoke his name before undertaking any venture.

Enjoy the journey, and may we each find time each day to step outside of ourselves to call forth our highest selves, our highest good and to call forth a clear and open path, free from obstacles and open in heart.