The goal of all humanity is to free ourselves from the self-created prison of the mind.
~ Albert Einstein
Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, is the most widely known and worshipped deity in the pantheon of deities of India. Ganesha has the head of an elephant, the body of a boy, and rides around on a mouse. He represents the lord of auspicious beginnings and is the great remover of obstacles. With belly-breaking humor, he reminds us not to take life so seriously. Ganesha's name is chanted at the beginning of new ventures to invoke blessings of grace and remove the obstacles to bring forth the most benevolent outcome.
The mouse is Ganesha's vahana (vehicle). It's what he rides around on. All of the Hindu deities have a vehicle, which serves as a metaphor specific to that deity. Ganesha's vahana is particularly important with respect to obstacles because have you ever tried to catch a mouse? If you have, you know it's impossible. Mice can squeeze through very narrow openings. They seem to disappear into thin air. Their skeletons are extremely elastic, which allows them to slip through cracks in the wall or floor without you ever noticing.
Ganesha rides around on a mouse for several reasons. The first of which is humor. I find it ridiculous and humorous that one of the largest animals on the planet rides on one of the smallest animals. Ganesha just wants to make sure you are laughing. Life is too short to be serious all the time. As a teacher of mine used to say, "Seriousness is the highest crime in the court of God." A great way to find your way back to your heart is through humor.
On a recent family visit, my sister and I were with my mom, my dad, and his wife. My mom just had back surgery and is recovering nicely. My dad is hard of hearing. It's always a stretch to be in a room with him and several people sitting around a dinner table. He has hearing aids, but he still can't hear that well. After yelling a communication to my dad three times, my sister broke out into hysterical laughter. Maybe it was frustration or perhaps exhaustion from trying to get through to my dad. Then she whipped out her iPhone and told us all about a “Saturday Night Live” skit about Alexa, the digital device that responds to your questions, similar to Siri on iPhone. Except this Alexa is programmed for "the Greatest Generation"—seniors. Alexa includes special features including the ability to respond to any name remotely close to Alexa, like Amanda, Odessa, and Anita. It also has an "ah ha" feature for rambling conversations. If you want to laugh, please watch this skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvT_gqs5ETk
Ganesha's choice to ride on the mouse also represents humility. A mouse is considered one of the most lowly creatures. So why would such a great being as Ganesh ride on a mouse? Humility is a virtue of the heart. With humility, all egoism and the need to prove yourself or the need to be right is released. Your burden is much lighter. Also, Ganesha tells us that when you're humble, you'll always have friends.
The reason I like the most about why Ganesha rides on a mouse is because mice can always get out of tight places. Whenever you feel trapped by life or out of options, you remember that, through grace, there's always another way. Because Ganesha rides around on a mouse, he is never in his own way. The biggest obstacle most of us have is between our ears. You need to release self-limiting beliefs such as fear, anxiety, and doubt. This is what gets in our way most often.
What Ganesha is telling us is that no matter how big you think your obstacle is, you can always rely on the still small voice inside, the voice of your heart, to get you out of tight places.
Come join me in listening to your heart in this workshop and discover that the power to remove obstacles is already within you.
Todd Norian is the founder of Ashaya Yoga. Learn more at ashayayoga.com.