Moving through Obstacles

Gjananam Buta-ganadi-sevitam
Kapita-jambu-phala-sara-Bhaksitam
Uma-Sutam Soka-Vinasha Karanam
Namami Vighnesvara-pada-pamkajam

‘I bow to the lotus feet of Ganesh,¬†
the remover of obstacles, the elephant headed 
lord of all creatures, who drinks the juice of
the Kapitha and Jambu fruites, the son of
Uma who destroys all sorrows’
Sivananda Yoga Chant Sheets

Last night, during yoga class, I found myself chanting this mantra and contemplating the symbology of the Hindu god, Ganesh out loud to my students.

For me, the mantra holds a deep vibrational quality that extends beyond its literal English translation, and that can only be experienced by allowing the body/mind to become open and receptive.

But the meaning and symbology are interesting too, and the whole yoga class unfolded through this contemplation. What does it mean to remove obstacles? Are they really obstacles in the first place? Or is it just our perception that makes them obstacels?

So, Ganesh symbolises the capacity to remove obstacles, to embody peace and prosperity, physical and mental powers and success in initiating new ventures.

Leaving the external form of the ‘god’ aside, which is symbolic in itself, and exploring these ‘inner qualities’ that Ganesh represents made for a very reflective and interesting Yoga class.

So, what are Obstacles?

These are entirely personal and unique to each individual, but usually, when we look closely and honestly into what we see as an obstacle, we come to realise that they are most often internal; an aspect of our mind that has become stuck or expectant and creates or projects that into the world, onto an external object. Therefore, we are really dealing with this on the level of the mind.

My feeling is that the first step to recognising the obstacle is to remove all the blame for the external and take full responsibility for the quality of mind that has created it – BUT – without being overly hard on ourselves – let’s not go down the track of dwelling in self blame, guilt and shame!! Just honest self inquiry.

When we do this, the question arises – What is it within me that this external ‘obstacle’ is challenging? What part of me is being asked to grow through this experience?

As soon as we have accepted responsibility in this way, and these questions arise, the ‘obstacle’ itself has already much diminished. For we are no longer perceiving it as an obstacle, but as a tool. A tool, through which we can unlock that part of the mind that has become stuck, locked, expectant, stale. That no longer serves our growth.

Through our diligent awareness of the moments we are faced with this part of our mind, observing the moment that the ‘obstacle’ arises, and through our observation and determination not to blindly react with old habit patterns, the obstacle loosens its grip and our perception towards it changes.

Remember, this doesn’t happen overnight. Try to imagine all the years that the mind has been reacting in a certain way – and then understand that undoing those reactions will take time. This path requires patience, tolerance and absolute compassion and acceptance towards ourselves and others.

As these old habit patterns, obstacles, become tools and as we learn to use these tools for honest self inquiry, we begin to move through the obstacle. And as we become more and more attuned to this process, the obstacles, the tools, become our friends, our teachers, our allies, guiding us to open and evolve.

The external expression, or the mirror the initial obstacle held up for us may then disappear. It may not. But by this time, the perception will have changed and the obstacle will be a cherished ally on our path to self discovery, without which we could not have extended beyond our limited perceptions. 

And so, we transform our obstacles into our friends… but remember, once the lesson, the medicine, has been fully digested, we must also loosen our grip and continue our evolution – otherwise we run the risk of turning our ally back into an obstacle again!

I can not reiterate enough that this can be a very slow process. It is a process, not a quick fix or a repression of a thought or feeling. It requires patience, compassion and trust in order to move through it. Once the mind has grasped a concept on an intellectual level, there is a tendency to expect the body to be there with it. It’s easy to become impatient, and frustrated, and even give up, before the Nervous System and other bodies have had time to catch up and fully digest the medicine of the process. 

So, may we strive to inhabit this intellectual knowledge. To harness the patience, compassion, awareness and self acceptance required to repetitively bring our wandering mind back to our Source, our Center and keep growing, expanding and letting go. May we move through our obstacles and may they become our tools, our allies and our teachers!