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.




Annabelle talks Contemplative Imagery

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 answer to helplessness


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.



A Circle Ripple


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.”

Ganesha, Archetype of Joy

figure 7.9m

“Surely joy is the condition of life.” Henry David Thoreau


I was teaching in India in 1992. It seems like a life time ago, but at the same time the memories are very vivid, as if they can play like a movie in my mind. I with my two children, 13 and 15 at that time, landed in New Delhi and were whisked away to the YWCA for the night, seeing camels along the highway as we went. With Lonely Planet, in hand, we found a veggie burger, took tours to the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal. On the third day, I was pulled into the Fulbright office and given a five- inch stack of rupees, and we were put on a plane to Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Reeling from the lack of orientation, a wonderful woman and future colleague, Ranganayaki, picked us up and dropped us at an apartment in a Rural Education campus. It was several miles from the grad school where I taught, and about a mile from where we could buy food from vendors. It was a struggle, getting to work, getting food, amidst the heat and humidity and culture shock with only rickshaws for transportation. One night I saw a vision of Ganesha in my bedroom, he was golden and floating in the corner. I loved looking at him.

Ganesha’s story

I had done yoga for about 20 years before teaching to India, and of course had been introduced to Ganesha, the elephant headed Hindu deity. A thumbnail of his story, is that his dad Shiva, the god of destruction, was very amorous with his paramour, Parvati. She didn’t want to be disturbed while she was bathing, and stationed her son, Ganesha outside the bath to fend off possible advances. Shiva came and demanded entry, but standing in his way was Ganesha. Infuriated, Shiva took his head. Distraught, Parvati, demanded he get a new head, and a servant was dispatched to get the closest head which turned out to be an elephant. Thus was birthed Ganesha, the elephant god. He represents removing obstacles and beneficence. See elephants moving logs in the picture. He is also invoked at the beginning of new endeavors. Ganesha is a happy guy, just looking at him brings joy to my heart. The feeling is, don’t worry, be happy, good things will come your way. I had brought a postcard of Ganesha to India with me in my passport wallet. I wanted to make sure I had his beneficence on my trip. So when I saw in the golden archetype in my room, I was thrilled.


Ganesha coming to me in a vision gave me a joy and hope that I could make things work in India. One day, I was too tired to hike the humid mile to the vendor, I asked Ganesha for food, and our neighbor invited us over for dinner. Plus, the neighbor started giving me the batter to make dosa. I didn’t have a mixi to grind rice and lentils to ferment, as a result I couldn’t make it on my own. The batter was a great gift.

Visualize Ganesha

I encourage you to call on Ganesha the next time you need a little joy in your heart, buy a little statute or download a picture of him from the net or get a postcard and visualize him. Bring Ganesha’s joy in your heart.

Emotions can become new! The Fool Archetype for March



Spring is New Life
March 21 is Spring Equinox, and the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is a time of new beginnings. Colored eggs symbolize new life, and fertile rabbits procreate, and there are many other symbols of new life in March. In my research on archetypes, I traveled to Turkey to visit the Hagia Sophia, since I was studying the Sophia archetype. While there, my daughter and I took the bus over the Bosporus to the Asian side of Turkey to experience the venerable ruins of Ephesus. There I learned about the goddess Diana, also known as Cybele. She’s a funny goddess with rows and rows of breasts, representing fertility like the bunnies of Easter, giving possibilities of new life. She also stands for the ancient celebration of the New Year in the Middle East which is in March! All signs point to the same direction. March is a time for the new.

The Fool, Starting Over with Zero!

I’ve chosen the Fool as the archetype for March. It is designated by the number zero, in the tarot, an appropriate designation for beginning again. The Fool is also about spontaneity, innocence and playfulness. All ways that come in handy for making a change. Embodying this archetype can give readiness to start anew, like shifting from an emotion that isn’t working anymore.

Emotions can change

Let’s say you have an emotion that comes up frequently. You don’t like it, plus it gets in the way of how you want to be. Perhaps there is someone at work, who during meetings puts some shade on anything you might say. There’s this irritation that starts right below your heart, and nags at you and spirals up to your brain, niggling, niggling. Thoughts circle endlessly like the water in a hole in the rapids on the Colorado River. “Why does that person always do that? Why does that person put me down? What have I done to this person?”

Be the Fool, spontaneous, playful, and innocent

On some level, you know it doesn’t matter. You are effective, and usually you ignore the digs. But you don’t like the feeling in the pit of your stomach and the circle of thoughts in the mind. What not bring in the Fool archetype to help you reset and change the emotion, by starting a new reaction to the negative colleague? Be playful, when the thoughts start, go outside and sit in the sun, or better yet, cue some happy music on your smart phone. Be spontaneous, when the feeling returns, do something different, call a friend you have talked to for a bit. Buy a new drink at the coffee shop. Foster innocence, remind yourself that your colleague’s reaction is probably not about you. Tap your heart with self-love and reset your responses in the meeting. Be how you want to be, instead of reacting. Pat yourself on the back when you can do that. Start new!