Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea. ~ Julie (JC) Peters

Via on Jun 1, 2011
Photo: Kaysse

The Goddess of never not broken.

You know that feeling when you have just gone through a breakup, or lost your job, and everything is terrible and terrifying and you don’t know what to do, and you find yourself crying in a pile on your bedroom floor, barely able to remember how to use the phone, desperately looking for some sign of God in old letters, or your Facebook newsfeed or on Glee, finding nothing there to comfort you?

Come on, yes you do. We all do.

And there is a goddess from Hindu mythology that teaches us that, in this moment, in this pile on the floor, you are more powerful than you’ve ever been.

This past week, I have been deeply inspired by a talk I heard on the Yoga Teacher Telesummit by Eric Stoneberg on this relatively unknown Goddess from Hindu mythology: Akhilandeshvari.

This figure has snuck up inside me and settled into my bones. She keeps coming out of my mouth every time I teach, and she’s given me so much strength and possibility during a time of change and uncertainty in my own life. I wanted to unpack a little bit about who she is for those that might be, like me, struggling a little bit in that pile on the floor and wondering how the hell to get up again.

The answer, it turns out, is this: in pieces, warrior-style, on the back of a crocodile. Yee ha.

Akhilandeshvari:

“Ishvari” in Sanskrit means “goddess” or “female power,” and the “Akhilanda” means essentially “never not broken.” In other words, The Always Broken Goddess. Sanskrit is a tricky and amazing language, and I love that the double negative here means that she is broken right down to her name.

But this isn’t the kind of broken that indicates weakness and terror.

It’s the kind of broken that tears apart all the stuff that gets us stuck in toxic routines, repeating the same relationships and habits over and over, rather than diving into the scary process of trying something new and unfathomable.

Akhilanda derives her power from being broken: in flux, pulling herself apart, living in different, constant selves at the same time, from never becoming a whole that has limitations.

The thing about going through sudden or scary or sad transitions (like a breakup) is that one of the things you lose is your future: your expectations of what the story of your life so far was going to become. When you lose that partner or that job or that person, your future dissolves in front of you.

And of course, this is terrifying.

But look, Akhilanda says, now you get to make a choice. In pieces, in a pile on the floor, with no idea how to go forward, your expectations of the future are meaningless. Your stories about the past do not apply. You are in flux, you are changing, you are flowing in a new way, and this is an incredibly powerful opportunity to become new again: to choose how you want to put yourself back together. Confusion can be an incredible teacher—how could you ever learn if you already had it all figured out?

This goddess has another interesting attribute, which is, of course, her ride: a crocodile.

Crocodiles are interesting in two ways: Firstly, Stoneberg explains that the crocodile represents our reptilian brain, which is where we feel fear. Secondly, the predatory power of a crocodile is not located in their huge jaws, but rather that they pluck their prey from the banks of the river, take it into the water, and spin it until it is disoriented. They whirl that prey like a dervish seeking God, they use the power of spin rather than brute force to feed themselves.

By riding on this spinning, predatory, fearsome creature, Akhilanda refuses to reject her fear, nor does she let it control her. She rides on it. She gets on this animal that lives inside the river, inside the flow. She takes her fear down to the river and uses its power to navigate the waves, and spins in the never not broken water. Akhilanda shows us that this is beautiful. Stoneberg writes:

Akhilanda is also sometimes described in our lineage like a spinning, multi-faceted prism. Imagine the Hope Diamond twirling in a bright, clear light. The light pouring through the beveled cuts of the diamond would create a whirling rainbow of color. The diamond is whole and complete and BECAUSE it’s fractured, it creates more diverse beauty. Its form is a spectrum of whirling color.

Photo: Justin Graham

That means that this feeling of confusion and brokenness that every human has felt at some time or another in our lives is a source of beauty and colour and new reflections and possibilities.

If everything remained the same, if we walked along the same path down to the river every day until there was a groove there (as we do; in Sanskrit this is called Samskara, habits or even “some scars”), this routine would become so limited, so toxic to us that, well, the crocs would catch on, and we’d get plucked from the banks, spun and eaten.

So now is the time, this time of confusion and brokenness and fear and sadness, to get up on that fear, ride it down to the river, dip into the waves, and let yourself break. Become a prism.

All the places where you’ve shattered can now reflect light and colour where there was none. Now is the time to become something new, to choose a new whole.

But remember Akhilanda’s lesson: even that new whole, that new, colourful, amazing groove that we create is an illusion. It means nothing unless we can keep on breaking apart and putting ourselves together again as many times as we need to.

We are already “never not broken.” We were never a consistent, limited whole. In our brokenness, we are unlimited.

And that means we are amazing.

About Julie JC Peters

Julie (JC) Peters has been practicing yoga on and off from the tender age of 12, and it has gotten her through everything from the horrors of teenagedom to a Master’s degree in Canadian Poetry. She is a yoga teacher, spoken word poet, and writer, and teaches workshops on yoga and writing called Creative Flow. Julie also owns East Side Yoga in Vancouver with her mom, Jane.

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308 Responses to “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea. ~ Julie (JC) Peters”

  1. [...] This pain is a part of you, a part of the whole you. [...]

  2. [...] best way to manage the low points in your life (the times you feel really down, guilty that you haven’t picked up your phone in days or upset that you decided to get hammered [...]

  3. Dani says:

    I am so grateful for synchronistic everything, bringing me to this beautiful article. So completely related. Love this. Thank you.

  4. [...] needed anyone to guide my way. I am working with the concept of never being not broken (thank you Elephant Journal.) I try to remain open to the flow of change and growth from my experiences without remaining [...]

  5. [...] rather sad. And in this pity party for one, self-confidence is the killjoy. I just finished reading why being broken is a good thing and while the concept is novel enough to almost inspire tears, it’s painfully brutal to [...]

  6. Elizabeth says:

    This article is so amazingly moving. A few months back, I saw a great graffiti sign saying 'Broken.' I told my friend that I wanted this image as a tattoo. She critically asked, 'why?' Reading this article is exactly why. The beauty in the construction, destruction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the Self is such an amazing experience. Devastating, at times, yes. But in the moments of devastation, the glimmer of hope in the change that might be created through the rebuilding, beauty shines unexpectedly. Thank you for sharing this goddess and your thoughts.

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  12. Julie Ancis says:

    Great reminder of the inevitability of transitions, challenges, and disappointments, as well as the possibility of new and wonderful beginnings sometimes created from chaos.

  13. Jah says:

    I can confirm. Americans do not know HOW to be depressed. BE depressed when you are. You'll come out of it faster than you can image.

  14. [...] When lying broken in a pile on your bedroom floor [...]

  15. [...] I know I said in earlier posts that I’m not a religious person, but there is one deity out there that resonates with me: Akhilandeshvari. [...]

  16. alansmith15 says:

    lovely insights on things… really love the fresh perspective on this blog post. hope to follow more beautiful reads in here.

  17. Nikel King says:

    That isnt a picture of Akhilandeshwari Maa. That is a picture of the Gujarati goddess, Khodiyar Maa

  18. Linda says:

    Just amazing.

  19. Donna D says:

    Absolutly inspiring read! Thanks

  20. Megan says:

    Thank you, I really needed this.

  21. Dagney says:

    This is absolutely beautiful!

  22. Suzanne Alvin says:

    Loved the broken crocodile goddess very much……….

  23. Webtuu says:

    This is more than inspiring content Julie. I believe that there are a point in our life, when we go through this situation. It is important that we should be strong in those times and take such a move like this only.

  24. Felicia says:

    I have just been introduced to her and she is already my new mascot. Amazing article. Thanks for making her so easy to understand.

  25. Nikki says:

    Brilliant, insightful, eloquent, profound, beautiful, inspiring and couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time in my life. A reminder that there are limitless possibilities in even our seemingly darkest moments. Thank you. Namaste. <3

  26. Amber says:

    this story couldn't have appeared on my facebook feed at a more opportune time.
    i'm in my second year of college, and every decision i make seems so heavy, especially with how much school costs. it feels like if i make the wrong decision, i'll be stuck unhappy and in debt. it's so stressful.
    this was a good read. it makes me feel better, haha
    thanks for the article.

  27. Elizabeth says:

    This was beautifully written and helpful to me at a time when I am old and broken, figuratively and literally. I guess I will always be broken and breakable, and healing too, into something else and into a time when the pain, literally and figuratively, is gone just as the past joy and love is gone. It is so hard to accept either loss as reality, the loss of love and joy or the future loss of anguish.

  28. syreeta says:

    this is awesome:) For someone who seems to allways be 'breaking' in order to find new treasures, new gifts, new beauty,…someone like me, right now, in this moment infact,..this gives me affirmation that what i know in my heart is true,..to break can be a blessing, to break can be a creative awakening, ..and to rebuild again is allways possible.

    I have struggled with the fact that others see 'broken' as a negative, in my own life…that when i have been my most shattered many close to me became blind to the beauty and instead became distant,..missing the true deep gifts i found in myself to get through.
    and here i am, broken again, bathing in pink light , on the floor,..with the stars outside..thanks for this :)

  29. dawn says:

    Thank you. I needed to read this today. <3

  30. Bus Ride

    keep on paving your jeweled road
    make love to every brick
    dive into every pothole
    work best when streets are slick

    shelter not from every rain
    practice how to swim
    embrace the mud upon your shoes
    keep soul and body trim

    the shovel's made for digging
    it feeds when you desire
    plunge the blade into earth
    you have yourself to hire

    when the surface shines like gold
    find another way
    the sheen is just illusion
    that glistens for a day

    only one won't get you there
    the system is too vast
    to speed in one direction
    won't make the journey last

    ***
    Theo J. van Joolen©2012

  31. blackrabbit says:

    This will work better for you if you stop saying “mythology.”

  32. "Living in different, constant selves at the same time.." I love this, because I very often feel like only a part of me is showing and I wonder how people can see that part and not see the other parts that are also there. But all of those constant selves are always there, they just take turns showing up in various situations. And it's wonderful to know that I'm more whole when I embrace these different selves, it doesn't mean my self is broken.

  33. Linda says:

    Wow- I needed this for strength, and to remind myself that no one can empower me but me .Thank you Julie.

  34. Kamini says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I know Her so intimately and ridden Her crocodile so many times… Now I know her name. I am on the cusp of launching my work offering support to women facing challenging life changes and have been struggling somewhat to clarify my message and then this post arrives by divine intervention, She arrived to show me the way yet again. I use feminine archetypes in my work so this is a gift. Thank you, deep bow to you and Eric x Kamini

  35. the gypsy priestess says:

    Thank you so much for your beautifully written and inspiring Goddess post, darling Julie! I absolutely adore the wisdom you have shared. {{deep bow}} namaste

  36. Gracy Goldman says:

    Fascinating article, beautiful on a myriad of levels. A myriad like the Goddess herself. One thing I did observe: My perception & resonance with Never Not Goddess offered a completely different tone to Always Broken Goddess. Sometimes we just don’t have the capacity in the words of our own language to convey the true meaning of the original.

  37. Dreamer says:

    Seriously fighting the crocodile, I mean I understand that things can be interpreted how people want but First the short story of this goddess pictures above with her six sisters and one brother is a lovely one. In short though her name Is in Gujarathi Khodiyar Maa meaning (KHODI-injured foot) and MAA(mother) This name was given to her-real name Janbai. She went to the bottom of the sea to get an elixir to save her brother from a snake bite and she injured her foot whilst down there, she was escorted back to surface and land where she hobbled back with fierce determination to save her brother. So it was after this and her foot injury she was given the name KHODIYAR MAA!! Please check out her story…she never battled a crocodile or any other animal that’s why she is seen sitting on it surrounded by her siblings!!

  38. Caitlin says:

    My favorite article. I've shared this with countless friends. All have been deeply inspired. I have a question though…is her name spelled Akhilandeshvari or Akhilandeshwari??? This has been driving me bananas…anyone?!

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  42. Zina says:

    Hi…just wanted to share my own insight here on the subject of suffering in particular. The runes offer a perspective that states the original meaning of the word 'suffer' was to 'undergo'…and to make sure that you are not suffering over your suffering. To know and understand instead that you are 'undergoing' a passage.

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