Taking my deity quiz, Lee honed in on Ganesha, resonating with the phrase “the remover of obstacles” and seeing that he symbolized wisdom. What happened next opened Lee’s inner world. Lee Palmer, my PhD student and an Executive Coach for Marquis Leadership, was on a path of self-actualization for herself and those whom she coached. When she found Ganesha, it soon became apparent that she had lived in front of this archetype for a long time and he was integral to her journey.
Carl Jung the psychologist who gave us the moniker for the collective unconscious, said all people live in front of an archetype. Little humans seek an energy pattern to organize their personalities, and it happens in an unconscious way. Once, I got a fortune cookie that said, “if you don’t run your unconscious it will run you.” Finding the archetype that you live in front of, that has organized your way of being, opens a channel to the spiritual self in the unconscious. Consciously finding your archetype is like opening up a window.
Synchronicity started happening for Lee. Synchronicity remember is an event seemingly happening by chance, but turning out to have deep meaning. Finding Ganesha and learning about him triggered Lee to be aware that he was all around her, hiding in plain sight. Her shower curtains had elephants on them. She had a Tibetan tapestry in her house with an elephant which she had bought in Tulum, Mexico. Her brother had a series of elephants tattooed on his arm.
As she read Ganesha’s story, and bought more images of him, she developed a more accurate picture and resonated with the quality of removing obstacles. Lee said, “Little traces of my identity aligned with him, the remover of obstacles. It became a grounding energy, his essence in the picture. It was comforting.”
Lee continues, “In my coaching practice, I like to talk about beginning, middles and endings, for people to be aware and find some balance with those three. Personally, I like beginnings which fits with Ganesha. He prompts me to remove obstacles as I think through the middle and end. I extend this to help people find their own way of removing obstacles.”
Lee says, “I love that archetypes have different meanings for different people. You find what you need. I am a curious person, striving for wisdom. I want to help people get to their wisest self. One of my strongest influence was my father. He died two years ago. If he were an animal, he’d be my elephant too.”
Grounding is what Ganesha is all about for Lee. She ends by telling me the screen savers on her phone and computer are elephants.
Lee’s business http://www.marquisleadership.com/our-team/
Lee and Annabelle’s grad school http://www.fielding.edu/
I often need a little help in my life, and the deity archetype, Ganesha, has come to my aid many times. As an archetype Ganesha represents beneficence, new beginnings and the removal of obstacles. I love the two images above, one shows Ganesha, as a Hindu god, the son of Shiva, the destroyer, and one shows the beautiful animal, our fellow mammal. I think life is like this, both spiritual and visceral, spirit in matter. When I went to India for my Fulbright in 1993, I read many traveler guides and a cultural competence book from the Department of State. These books contained great clues, like suggesting one learn to drink tea with sugar, or being careful of cars during Ramadan, when the rickshaw drivers are fasting. And a very important clue was to watch for pickpockets. Following that advice, I put a postcard of Ganesha in my wallet to help me get through the throngs of people at the rail road stations. Ganesha became increasingly important to my trip as I saw visions of Ganesha floating in my bedroom, and when my family didn’t have food, I’d ask Ganesha for help, and immediately our neighbors would invite us to dinner.
When visualizing archetypes for help with day to day life, it is good to find out their stories. Ganesha was the son of Parvati and Shiva. Shiva being one of the Hindu triumvirate which includes Brahma, the unknowable, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. In Hindu thought, the destroyer is not negative, although he can be a bit scary. It is rather one of the major forces in the cosmos that sustains life. Think about how rich the earth becomes from volcanic flow. But back to the story, Parvati was taking a bath, and asked Ganesha to guard the entry, since she was not in the mood for Shiva’s amorous advances. Shiva, angry at the impediment, took off Ganesha’s head. Screaming, as she came from her bath , Parvati implored Shiva to get their son a new head. A servant was dispatched to get the nearest head, which turned out to be an elephant’s. Hence, the beloved Ganesha was created. By losing his head, Ganesha became the symbol of giving.
Next time, your thoughts are spinning, spinning. Or your stomach is cramped in anxiety or your heart is racing from worry or pain, visualize Ganesha and see what help he might have for you.
Check out my new workshop, concentrating on the five Deity Archetypes from my book. It will be at Fielding Graduate University’s School of Leadership Studies National Session in Tucson, July, 2017. But let me know if you want me to bring one to your group! Powerful Transformation!
Mindfulness comes from contemplative traditions, such as meditation and prayer, and focusing the mind on the inner world with a focus and without a specific outcome in mind is contemplation too. Particularly when no words are used, such as in visualization or imagery. When imaging an archetype, magic happens, the unconscious is opened, extraneous emotional material and maladaptive story lines are released, and a channel is created so that the spirit self can talk. The spirit self is connected to the energy field of creation, and is a source of healing, joy, and insight to help ourselves, others and the planet. Watch my 3 minute video that talks about the wise-mind-body wisdom model where visualizing an archetype transforms the inner world. Here new chapter is in
Contemplative Psychology and Imagery” in Bentz. V.& Giorgino, V.M.B., Comtemplative Social Research: Caring for Self Being and Lifeworld
Kuan Yin, the archetype of compassion is the salve for helplessness! We can call on her when we are overwhelmed, frozen with despair, or when we go down a rabbit hole of self- doubt, self-pity and hopelessness.
Even though, she is a Buddhist bodhisattva, I’m using her as a psychological archetype who we can visualize when we need her characteristic. Recall an archetype is an image that clearly represents a characteristic When we look at that image or hear a story about that character, we go, “Yea, I get that. That one represents…… love, heroism, beauty, courage, or in this case Kuan Yin, compassion.”
People are feeling helpless. In the current political state of the United States, people say, “I can’t make a difference. Nothing I do matters.” It’s like the feeling of a yoke of stone on the shoulders, or a weight on the top of the heart. Imagine for a minute, you felt these weights but simultaneously there was an overwhelming feeling of love in your heart. Does that lessen the heavy feeling? Does it create a bit of space, where the pressure is lessened? A space that releases the mind, to feel the joy of love, and time for insight. “Okay, there’s difficulty, but there is hope.”
Kuan Yin’s ancient story… The Bridge
There was a wide river in China, and a typhoon hit creating 30 feet waves. There was a small boat in the middle of the river. The passengers knew that they would be capsized to their deaths, and they called out for help All of a sudden, a woman with flowing robes appeared. It was Kuan Yin. The waves calmed. She looked down at a pregnant woman holding on to railing. With compassion, she said, “you will be saved, and your son will build a bridge over this river, to save others”. Time passed, and the son was born and grew into an engineer working far away from the river for the Emperor. His mother had told him about the prophecy, and it lingered in his mind as an unfulfilled goal, always there, always his destiny. One night, he found a vat of honey, and wrote with a brush in the emperor’s garden, “The engineer must return to his home.” The next morning, the emperor went on a walk, and saw the letters written out by ants bodies who had come to devour the honey. When the emperor saw it, he sent the engineer to his home town. The engineer began the arduous task of building the bridge, but the waters were so variable and high, the piers could not be built. The engineer who was frustrated had a dream, where he went to the Sea Dragon King, and asked for three days to lay the groundwork of the bridge. Miraculously the next week, the water withdrew to the sea, and the workers began laying the piers. Two days passed, and it didn’t seem like the work could be completed in the allotted three. The engineer was bereft, and called out for help. Kuan Yin appeared in a boat. She said, “Anyone who can throw a coin in my lap will be my husband. Many threw coins but none hit her lap. She gave the money to the engineer to hire enough workers to complete the bridge in the last day. And so it happened. The engineer had completed his lifelong goal.
Visualizing an archetype can open up the characteristics hidden in the unconscious. People are drawn to the character in the story that has characteristics that are hidden in their unconscious. The story gives clues of her characteristics that a person wants- appearing when help is needed, pure love for ourselves and others, resources, quick thinking to solve problems, and the availability of help around us.
Her characteristics are love, help, strategies to solve problems, ability to find resources. Which one would you like?
Visualization: Imagine a time recently when the feeling of helpless was vivid. Where were you, who was with you, where did you have a strong feeling in your body? Imagine for a minute that you are Kuan Yin, or that Kuan Yin would come see you, what would happen? You would feel compassion in your heart, and you would notice the help around you.
For those who like facts and history:
Kuan Yin is a Chinese Buddhist bodhisattva. In Buddhism, there are two main traditions, Theravada, the tradition of the elders and Mahayana, the great vehicle tradition. Bodhisattvas are part of Mahayana, in which even though a spiritual seeker has reached the possibility of the release from cycle from birth and rebirth, or nirvana,,he or she chooses to stay in human form to relieve the suffering of others. An ancient Buddhist text which was written in the first century BCE, called the Lotus Sutra, was translated into Chinese around 400 AD. In the Chinese translations the bodhisattva that hears “the cries of the world”, was named Kuan Yin, a feminine deity. In the original text this bodhisattva was name Avalokiteshvara, which the current Dalai Lama incarnates. Transformations of bodhisattva is always possible, sinxe the entity can. take on the form needed by a person.
Palmer, M, Ramsay, J. & Man-Ho Kwok. (1995). Kuan Yin: Myths and prophecies of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion. San Francisco, CA: Thorsons.
You drop a rock in the water, a lake, a river, an eddy in the ocean, and concentric circles are created. The rock hitting the water initiates a ripple effect. Each concentric circle propagates another one in a natural progression. What if a person could fell that ripple action in the heart, a natural circular wave pattern? It would feel gentle and calm, but joyful at the same time, emanating from the heart and extending outward.
I had that feeling recently when I was at my university’s national session in a comfortable, but generic Westin. The event was huge, meetings from dawn until way past dusk. Students needing help, research needing expertise, faculty wrangling in meetings, punctuated by beautiful moments when students’ eyes were alight with ideas. Amidst, this din there was a moment I had the feeling of a circle ripple.. It was a gentle feeling of waves, centered in my heart, extending outward. A calm bliss.
This feeling gave me a sense that all was okay. I was enough. I’d done what I needed to do, and I could just relax in myself. There was nothing to be done, nothing to accomplish, only a calmness with my existence. I liked it a lot. I thought, “Isn’t that what we want to feel that we are okay, and that we’ve done what we needed to do?” I wasn’t sure that this feeling would last. But I thought that maybe I could go back to it here and then. Of course, as a psychologist who works with archetypes, I thought about what kind of archetype this might be.
My definition of an archetype is an energy pattern that conveys a characteristic, a way of being. For me, the characteristic of the circle ripple in the water spawned by the impact of a pebble, was “generating”. One action creates the next as a natural extension of itself, and on and on. I thought, “Maybe if we can become ourselves, our hearts will generate these ripples of love.”