The Remover of Obstacles
Magic is afoot in everyday life. We move through the mundane tasks of life while there are unseen forces supporting us along the way.
One of those forces is named Ganesha and he is a best friend of mine.
Ganesh, or Ganapati, is the first on the Hindu pantheon of gods and also the first one I met along the way. His elephant head didn’t throw me off, as it reminded me of one of my stuffed animals that I snuggled with daily as a child.
And just as a child may have an imaginary friend, at the age of 30, Ganesh became my friend.
I was introduced to him just before I took my first solo vacation. A friend gave me a drawing of the deity and shared the invocation that calls upon him for me to use on the plane ride.
Ganesh and I became fast friends, like we had known one another for eons! And as a result of my devotion to him, I purchased my first set of mala beads to offer him my gratitude. Having been brought up Catholic, I remembered watching my mother use her rosary beads daily. She was praying to the Holy Mother and asking her blessing. She had developed a life-long relationship with Mary through her devotion. Similarly, I began to use my mala beads daily to connect with my new friend, Ganesh.
The mala traditionally contains 108 beads and one extra that is called a guru bead. You can recite your prayer 108 times, or half of that (54) or half of that (27). To do less than the 108, simply count from the guru bead the number you wish and then make your way back to guru bead so you know when you have completed. If you want to do more than 108, make your way around from one side of the guru bead to the other and flip the mala and move the other way so you never cross the bead.
Traditionally, it’s also suggested that you never touch the beads with your index finger. The index finger represents the ego and it’s better to keep the ego out of your prayers.
Years went by and I wore my mala beads every day around my neck. I practiced my mantra 108 times and, some days, more. I bought different statues of Ganesha: one depicted him dancing; another lounging on a couch;: on one he is playing his tabla drum; and another holding Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity) on his lap. My favorite became the one where he was riding a giant mouse.
In the Hindu mythology, all the gods have vehicles that they ride. Saraswati rides a swan, Shiva a bull, Krishna a peacock and Ganesha rides a mouse.
When I first opened my yoga studio, the chant artist Bhagavan Das came to visit three different times. He stayed in my house as an esteemed guest and taught me many things that I did not know about. One day, he spoke to me about Ganesha coming to visit me.
He said, “You’ll know he’s here when you see a mouse.”
I had a cat at the time, so I didn’t anticipate ever seeing a mouse. The day arrived, however, when I was walking through the dining room and saw my cat sitting quietly and looking into the corner of the room. The cat’s name was Halley (like the comet) and she had killed many a-mice during her 14-year lifespan.
But this day was unusual. I peered into the corner and saw something run along the wall to hide behind the leg of our sideboard. I unexpectedly found myself on top of a chair (how classic). I asked Halley if that was a mouse, but she didn’t answer me. Instead, she just remained sitting there calmly in observance. Why wasn’t she attacking the mouse?
In that moment I followed the length of the leg up to the top from where the mouse hid and there, right above the mouse was Ganesha, casually reclining on his couch.
Another great Ganesha story started when I found my precious mala beads broken on the dining room table. I could not understand what had happened. They weren’t broken when I had placed them down. Soon I learned that malas may sometimes break when they have done their work. But I was way too attached to let them go. I restrung them with some elastic thread so I could wear them upon my wrist as an alternative.
I didn’t know how to make the guru bead, so I only put on the 108 beads and started knotting the elastic thread at the end. It was rather fine elastic, so I had to make many knots, maybe 108 knots;, I did not count.
What I do remember is that I was talking on the phone while doing it. I just kept tying knot after knot after knot. Suddenly, I looked at the knots and became speechless.
Amazingly, I had created a little mouse body on the end of the malas!
Some knots were the head and some were the body and then an extra piece came out as a tail. I wish I had a picture to share. I showed some friends at the time and am still in complete awe of the experience.
I know Ganesha was with me then and he’s never left my side in all these years.
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