In 1994, my husband Vic received another rejection letter for his book Synchronicity, Science, and Soulmaking. He added the latest rebuff to a small stack of rejections sitting under the feet of a jade elephant statue on his altar. The elephant-headed and elephant-bellied Hindu God Ganesha or Ganesh is Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings, and Patron Saint of Writers.
Deeply discouraged, Vic dreamed of a cheerful and fat young male elephant. The smiling elephant sat in a director’s chair with a tree trunk arm thrown protectively over Vic’s shoulders.
“I need to remember that I’m not in charge,” Vic told me the next morning. “Ganesh is in the director’s chair, not me.”
Vic submitted his manuscript to more publishers and soon there was an acceptance.
In 2013, I write at the desk where Vic worked until his death. To my right, on a high shelf beyond my reach, Vic’s Ganesh altar watches over me. The altar is dusty and neglected. For years, I have averted my eyes.
In Hindu mythology, Ganesh is the scribe of the Mahabharata, one of two epics of ancient India that includes the Bhagavad Gita. I remember the Bhagavad Gita’s message well. Do the work assigned to you without expecting worldly reward or success. The action itself and the quiet mind that comes from serving something bigger than ourselves is the fruit of our labor. Do the work and let the Gods (and Goddesses) take care of the rest. These are challenging goals for a woman full of attachment and expectation.
I pull a chair beneath Vic’s elephant altar and climb up to inspect it closely. There are a dozen images from a ¾ inch tall 4-armed seated statue to a regal 7” standing figure. Ganesh usually has four arms. Sometimes he dances with his consorts Siddhi (success) and Riddhi (prosperity). He often sits on a throne of skulls, reminding us of time and mortality. Most of Vic’s images are stone or bronze, but a few are painted in bright primary colors. Most were gifts, given to Vic after he fell in love with the temple elephants in South India. In a favorite image, Ganesh holds a pen and sits in front of a thick book–the Mahabharata, I presume.
Ganesh was Vic’s favorite, but now I need help finishing my book and preparing it for submission. Try this, try that. The solutions must be within me somewhere. It’s time to borrow Vic’s benefactor and sit at the feet of the Patron Saint of Writers.
I carefully remove the elephant statues and images and wipe down the shelf with a damp cloth. I inspect each image, dusting and blowing away the dirt that has accumulated in the crevasses and rearrange the images with a handwritten prayer.
Thank you for watching over me even when I ignored Your Presence. Allow me to write with a joyful heart and positive purpose. Let me remember that it is my job to do the work and leave the outcome to You.
With gratitude for Your guidance, Elaine
Where do you ask for help when you need it? You might enjoy another piece about writing called My Creative Dilemma: Push Ahead or Yield? or other blogs under Spirituality.
Beautiful, Elaine. I love the message from the BG, and the picture of Vic on elephant. And I love your writing.
Thank you, Tony. Yes, the message from the Bhagavad Gita is important for willful achievers like me. It’s hard to see Vic’s expression in the photo, but he was ecstatic sitting on that elephant. Our son David is imagining an elephant painted on his barn door in North Carlina and he has been talking with a painter. David loved buying elephant figures for his dad.
What a wonderful meditation for every writer, including me. So interesting to learn about the elephant-headed, elephant-bellied Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, lord of beginnings and patron saint of writer.
Thank you, Jill. I often think of Ganesha as I get ready to submit my book. He reminds me of Bodai or the Chinese Laughing Buddha I saw in temples and everywhere else in Taiwan. I’ve moved a few of Vic’s elephant statues to different sites in the house. When I see the image, I’mm reminded of the teachings in the Bhagavad Gita. Do the work. Stop worrying about the outcome.
Neat blog. I’ve explored Asian/Bhudist meditatition, but you prompt me to delve into Indian/Asian mythology/culture even more, a sphere I’ve long overlooked. The weaknesses in our western culture/ethic/religion are becoming tragically apparent. Thanks for your ponderings.
How nice to get your comment, David. I think of these Eastern deities as C.G. Jung’s archetypes–universal forces at play in the world that are imagined in animal or human form in many mythologies and world religions. Ganesha usually has a human body with an elephant head. As I wrote in another comment, Ganesha reminds me of the Chinese Laughing Buddha. When you and Ann visit my home someday, I’ll show you the photographs Vic took of temple elephants in southern India. David and Liz have some of these photos, too. Thanks for your interest in what I’m pondering.
I too have used images of Ganesha to remind me to trust the process and leave the rest to the Gods and Goddesses. I bought my favorite Ganesha statue in Bangkok. He’s made of silver, is about 10 inches long, and reclines on his right elbow. He sits on a high shelf in my bedroom looking so relaxed and contented, as if he’s saying that doing what one loves is all that’s necessary. Your wonderful post has inspired me to write a post about my own writing process.
I’m reminded of Goethe’s quote: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
Now that you’ve set your intention and asked for Ganesha’s blessing, I have no doubt of your ultimate success!
Your message sends chills up my spine. And it’s comforting to hear of your connection with Ganesha. I am encouraged by your words–and I am close to submission. The manuscript will be done by tomorrow night. I’m finishing a once over without tracking changes, checking references, and always finding tiny ways to make things better. I made a plan with my wonderful book development editor Jill Swenson on Monday and we will send a query letter on Feb. 1–so that tells you the book proposal is nearly finished, too. I’ve put so much aside to focus on this, and now I’m scared (not surprising) because I know that my introverted writer’s life will be turned upside down by either an acceptance or a rejection. I’m sticking my toe out into the light and that asks for dramatic change in the status quo. I look forward to a break in February. Reading is what I imagine doing, plus writing a long overdo book review.
Grateful for your blessings and sending gratitude and warm wishes for a terrific 2013.
“Do the work. Stop worrying about the outcome.” Great advice for a fundraiser too! xoxo
Hi Liz. Great advice for nearly anything we do. For me, it’s about staying with the present task, but I’m a lousy student of Ganesha. I was awake in the middle of the night making lists. Sending love with sunshine on the snow.
Elaine, your words resonated deeply with me. Focusing on the work, not the outcome, is what I tell myself to do in both my art and writing. As you said, for those of us attached and expectant, it is not easy.
Thank you for this beautifully written reminder.
Thank you, Lynne. I’ve been trying to follow the advice of the Bhagavad Gita all day. Not easy, but the only way I know to stay calm and sane. I know you understand this because of all the creative work you do.
As you know, my precious friend, I’ve been in touch with Ganesh for a while; Vic and I used to talk about Him and I think one of the altar beings in your place comes from Dotto’s and my India trip (or maybe we got it in Woodstock; who can remember any more?).
Early on when I’d moved to Tucson we’d see many Ganesh at the Gem Show; I’ve got four or five of them in my apartment now. A very powerful bronze is over at Dotto’s and when it first came to her, I sat in front of it and this poem captures my amazement (spoiler alert: it’s pretty abstract, sorry).
Spreading in the chest a gold medallion an open channel an empty vessel—
I offer a gift— there’s more to come. I hear you and I see the depth behind your eyes.
I’ll teach you how to live. I’ll ornament your names. I sprung-up from the lotus to your condition.
The one that’s wanted last implores you taste the fruit, worship life forces, god-soaked mother’s son.
Blade of sharpened metal, deathless fire pillar, make the sharpened mind. I speak: and you are silent.
It has been written:
By loveliness and snare you learn restraint. The me in you is I.
I AM A LIVING VORTEX
Thank you, Fred, for our long deep friendship and the shared love of Ganesha. The poem stirs me and I want to spend more time with it. My head is full at this moment with my own creations. I just “finished” by book–that is, I got it to the place where it can be submitted for publication (due date Feb. 1). I’m going down to Seneca Lake to watch the sunset and celebrate. I wish I could celebrate with Vic, but then there would be no book. We get what we get in this life, so I’m thankful for what is.
With love and gratitude,
“I wish I could celebrate with Vic, but then there would be no book.”
Ten thousand shades of feeling there for me, moved deeply. There it is! In the heart.
Mom and I enjoyed your thoughts about Ganesh very much…a wonderful reminder to honor and love the work…
I thought Prabha might enjoy this one. I’m glad you both did. I feel that the Bhagavad Gita is asking me to surrender an attitude that keeps me miserable. How I love to cling to my expectations!
Thanks for reading and commenting,
Interesting synchronicity, Elaine. I’ve been pondering — and am about to start writing — a piece on the Hindu Shiva and Jewish Shiva traditions.
I’m glad you’ve dusted off Ganesha, moved his latent energies around and brought him into your writing project in the new year. Surely he will look after you.
Love and peace-fullness,
It’s wonderful to hear from you, Nanci, and to know that we both are reconsidering Hindu traditions after our long focus on Buddhism. I look forward to reading the piece you’re beginning.
I feel Ganesha’s support already and support from many other places as well.
Wishing you peace and joy,
Sending a loud, bellowing elephant trumpet call in honor of your completion. The non attachment to outcome is a bitch.
I have some unwritten tasks hanging over me.
Better go find a Ganesh!
Thank you, Janet, for acknowledging the completion of the manuscript–even though I know that any editor who looks at it will want it changed in many ways. I’m lousy at non-attachment, but don’t know what to do other than keep trying. The alternatives are too painful. The lessons continue.
Inspired me. I like the idea of just doing the work and let what will be be… I feel a book of poems coming – topic – what else – Loss of a Soulmate. Thank you for your writings, Elaine
I think this attitude of doing the work without worrying about the results causes us the least personal suffering, but it’s not easy to stop grasping for a certain outcome. I look forward to your book of poems and of course I love the topic.
Thanks for your encouragement and for taking the time to respond,
I am delighted to have finally gotten to this blog. In reading it, so many emotions have been stirred. Genesha is a fantastic combination of human heart and elephant wisdom. He is all over my house as well.
The arresting quality of the sentence “For years I have averted my eyes,” is what makes this piece so powerful for me. Thank you for your honesty, and for sharing so generously of your journey.
By the way, I have a DVD with all six hours of the film Mahabharata. I will tell you a story about the film some time.
What a gloriously overcast and balmy day!
Much love, Gayle
Thanks for your note, Gayle. So nice to share this with you. Elephants are a big part of my family psyche and my son is having elephants painted on his barn before his wedding! We fell in love with the temple elephants in India and also the tiny Ganesha shrines with ghee dripping and blackening the image and jasmine flowers all around. I saw that film (the one by Peter Brooks?) many years ago, but would love to have you tell me the story again.
Yes a beautiful day, trudging through the mud and melting slop, while loving the rushing stream and green moss on stones that is revealed as the snow disappears.
Best to you,
Hey, that’s a pretty neat and cool post. The message directly goes 2 d heart. Ganesha, called phra phiganet in thailand symbolizes as 1 who removes obstacles. I myselfy am an impoter of statues. I liked d way u wrote. Love your writing. May lord ganesha remove all obstacles drom ur life.
And may your obstacles also be removed by Ganesha. Thanks for writing.