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

  1. Mandy says:

    I'm always amazed by the fact when I start thinking about a new concept, in this case – brokenness, the Universe somehow presents me with more and more good information to help things mesh more. This is a great article to stumble across. It makes brokenness seem less frightening and more inviting. Thank you for your words.

  2. [...] 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 [...]

  3. Lola says:

    awesome!!!! LOVE IT!

  4. Alejandro says:

    Great article. Though in stating that the crococdile uses, "the power of spin, rather than brute force to feed themselves", I don't find entirely accurate. I don't think it's an either/or thing, it's really a combination of both. Or break it down further and it's a combination of many factors, one of which you mentioned which is the factor of surprise, based in part on its unbelievable speed and its ability to surprise. Next is its bite. A Nile crocodile's bite for example, has over 5000 lbs per square inch, compare that to the great white shark at 400 lbs per square inch. Next is the tools with which it bites which aside from the jaw muscles are their amazing teeth, of which each one at any one time has another 3 or 4 coming in behind it, shedding over 200 teeth per year like used up bullet shells. And then there's that deadly spin. Spinning as you mentioned is not just for disorienting. It primarily breaks or tears off whatever limb happens to be in its jaws with just a few turns. The disorienting is just an added perk. My points may seem petty, and they certainly don't take away from the validity of the article, I just believe in using analogies more accurately, and understanding, in this case, that the crocodile's power is not either/or, but rather both/and, that is, a combination of many factors, evolved over millions of years of infinite evolutionary (fractal) feedback.

  5. Vivek says:

    great posting. i’d say more, but it would pale in comparison to the actual article.

  6. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Beautiful, Julie–and very encouraging. "My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

  7. I loved the concept that each piece is a prism that can reflect so much more light. This is indeed true. Out of chaos comes order. The Universal Law of Cycles claims that This Too Shall Pass. Something for all of us to keep in mind when we are in this place.

  8. jevcat says:

    Thank you for this. It is powerful, beautiful, and its message much-needed — by me, at least.

  9. Wendy says:

    This article link was gifted to me by a friend, and what a WONDERFUL gift it was! I, in turn, have passed this along to many people, all of whom have been similarly delighted.
    My one disappointment is that there does not seem to be a way to format the page for easy and efficient printing. Unless I've missed an existing such option, my recommendation would be a button which lays out the page for optimum printing. As a bonus, perhaps the option could be given, when printing, to include comments with the article or not. (Sometimes they are just as valuable, and sometimes they just take up too much paper.)
    THANK YOU and Namaste!

  10. [...] has blown us out of the water with her last few articles here on elephant journal. So I finally followed her on twitter and [...]

  11. [...] friend recently send me a link to a post about Akhilandeshvari, the Hindi goddess of “brokenness”. Rather she is the goddess of “never not [...]

  12. [...] I am not defeated. I now know how to lie on the floor and cry/fight like a warrior (thank you Akhilanda – Indian Goddess). I know that I am supported by friends and family from all four [...]

  13. Amanda says:

    I love this. I love this idea and that you found a perfect way of explaining it. There is so much power in a moment where everything has broken down and you are forced to come up with new ways of living. Beautiful.

  14. Struggling says:

    I just lost my brother less than 6 weeks ago and have honestly being hanging on by a thread every moment of every day. The pain I am in over this loss is indescribable. I find my self in constant panic over how I will ever get through this and become the wife, daughter and sister ( to my two remaining brothers) that I use to be. I don't feel like I am in a pile on the bedroom floor, most days I feel like I am under the carpet gasping for air. I understand what this article is trying to say about being able to chose how to put your self back together and about that being almost like a gift but, when we feel like so many vital pieces are missing (like I do) how can we find strength and power in such a horrifying crises? How do I live without my heart, how do I breath without oxygen. My brother Gordie like everyone in my family meant the world to me and trying to recover from such an enormous loss is something that even Doctors and Ministers say will never happen entirely. You never get over something like this, you don't want to get over it. Trying to put myself together again in a positive way right now feels like I am trying to build a house without nails.

  15. Roxanne says:

    I appreciate the theory, it makes sense. Some of us stay on the floor at least figuratively for quite a while and for good reason. And finding out why and dealing with it is where the work comes in.

  16. [...] recently read a beautiful piece on ele by Julie (JC) Peters about never not being broken. Until several years ago, I’d thought I [...]

  17. Kya says:

    This spoke directly to me. (many tears) Thank ou for posting this. I really needed to read that. Namaste

  18. Tracey says:

    Love this blog post! Thank you! … Makes so much sense to me right now :-)

  19. Ursula Pflug says:

    Yes, very nice, especially in these crazy times!

  20. Isabelle says:

    fantastic! thank you!

  21. Sitara Bird says:

    <3

  22. Kelly says:

    Awesome!

  23. adriana says:

    Awsome…….I needed it …….

  24. [...] (The quotes come from an article which can be read in its entirety here.) [...]

  25. ElieDay says:

    Thank you from the depths of my own brokenness. This is exactly what I needed to see today. I come to understandings through metaphor and this article has helped me on my journey. So thank you!

  26. ARCreated says:

    just simply thank you.

  27. I had this experience. I had moved to a new town, just signed a lease on a new place, and thought I had met the man I would marry. But then, he suddenly broke up with me. Here I was, in a city I knew no one, carrying a huge expense, not even a bed in my place yet. I crumbled to the ground with fear, pain, and loss. Something I wanted so badly – to be in love and be happy. I hit the bottom, as this journey of love was so on-going. I was 31 at the time, and had been in and out of relationships for a long time, always trying to get closer to the one I would marry. I was devastated, as this man told me he loved me, and was everything I wanted in someone. In that devastation, I called on the Goddess of my core. I had already been on the path for the past 12 years, a practicing Dakini for 5 of those years. This was partly the issue – weaving the world of the free flowing Dakini and the committed relationship was difficult. I knew things needed to change – I needed to change.
    I scurryed into the mirror. On my floor, and just looked at myself. I cried deep, horrible sobs, that to this day make me want to cry for my own pain. I prayed. I held ritual. And I began to heal. I met someone soon after, but I knew he was another "grower" in th journey towards the one. I continued through this, still deeply desiring the man I had lost, but allowing myself to learn the lessons I thought I had already learned. Apparently, there was more. I went through almost a whole year of dating – In may of that year, I used the sun and the heat to begin the process of manifestation. I went to church everyday and prayed. Not because I am a church goer, but because I needed the energy of the the worship space, and the safety of a sacred space to pray, regardless of the religion. I lit candles, and called upon my ancestors, as well as the Magdeline, the Christ, and Mother Mary. I did mediation in and used crystal singing bowls to clear my energy. I visualized the words I wanted to hear from the man I love, and I repeated them every day in ritual. I designed him, but left certain details to the Creator. I focused more on what I wanted to feel when I was with him, and how I wanted to be loved by him.
    On August 26th, 2007 , I met him. At my front door, literally. He literally came to my door. I knew within 5 minutes of meeting him that he was the one. I married him on June 11, 2010. He is beyond my dreams. I am a Queen in his eyes, but most importantly, in my own.
    I transformed. I believe in the power of transformation. I AM the power. And I will never doubt this power. have faith. Do the Work. Fall to your knees if you most – but just know – the universe is ALWAYS on your side.

  28. Mid Walsh midwalsh says:

    Thank you Julie for this beautiful, beautiful post. As a kind of reciprocal gift, here's a poem I wrote several years ago, which I now see could have been written to Akhilandeshvari.

    Night flower
    —————-

    Past the stream,
    down where the woods grow dark
    a tree fallen long upon the earth
    has gone to humus.

    It offers up three solitary stems,
    whiter than communion bread
    tentative as flesh.
    They are Indian Pipe,
    living where things have died..

    They are too slender
    for a mushroom,
    and lack the flower’s color,
    too still to be a newborn,
    how do they belong
    in these green woods ?

    And I, who sleep
    in the cool hollow of memory,
    can I ever dream their truth ?

    Thus: the desire
    of life to nourish,
    that causes strange tendrils
    to rise, luminous;

    beyond the sight of eyes
    deep in the blackness of soil,
    the womb of falling-apart
    conceives life.

    • jcp says:

      I love "tentative as flesh"….and i love nurse logs–that death can bring the most life. Thank you so much for posting this.

  29. Diana Reed says:

    Absolutely exactly what I needed to read. Thank you.

  30. Marilyn says:

    Just what I needed to hear..

  31. [...] Strangely, in the sadness and weight and tears, even in the complicated legacy that is the 60s and the Kennedy clan, I find solace and renewed hope in our political process. For out of all this pain came the Great Society, LBJ’s consumately skilled, successful push of what otherwise would likely have been JFK’s failed agenda that had stalled on the Hill. And Civil Rights, and the activist movement, and the feminist awakening: the 60s remind us that in breaking what is old and stagnant, we find renewed strength. [...]

  32. janine says:

    this is fucking brilliant. across the seas to the core rock my world brilliant. thank you for breaking it down….

  33. [...] 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 [...]

  34. [...] *Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea* [...]

  35. Brilliant. Resonates so much with what I recently wrote about here: http://theawakenedlife.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/a

    ..in relation to my reference to the Tower Card, the moment where everything in your life collapses down and falls apart, so that you can be purified down to your true Essence in order to build your life anew, from a clean slate.

    Your essay was powerfully familiar for me. Thank you so much for sharing.

  36. Tina Meadows says:

    Really beautifully written and inspiring.

  37. Karen says:

    Last Saturday was a beautiful day. We went to the beach, watched a sunset, ended the day in peace. Sunday morning they took my mother to University of Penn hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain and lung mass. It’s a week later and she has had the brain mass removed, is in the midst of severe steroid psychosis, and probably has less than a year to live. We’ve had a very rocky mom daughter relationship, I am very peaceful and free spirited, and she is not. Now she is herself times a thousand and I am finding myself feeling like the waves are crashing over me.I’ve lost my father, many friends, ended many a relationship and thought I had been tested enough. Nothing could have prepared me for this.
    I’ve been studying Eastern theology for years but it has been with more passion in the recent months. I am now a kirtan singer, and a Kundalini practioner. Now the journey makes sense. Even more now that I have read your article.
    I still feel as if I am drowning, but I also know that struggling against the current and waves will hasten my death for sure. I need to breathe and relax through the waves, let them carry me to shore gently, like the crocodile.
    Thank you for bringing me some much needed peace tonight. Om shanti.

  38. maura says:

    THIS IS JUST WHAT I NEEDED TODAY…and to think I cleaned the pile up off the floor this morning…

  39. Christianne says:

    My dear friend is definitely Akhilandeshvari. Please read about her here on elephant journal and thank you for your beautiful post. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/07/the-childr

  40. Sara says:

    Just can't stop reading this. Up to 5x I think. I just keep coming back. Thanks!

  41. [...] The Always-Broken Goddess [...]

  42. Crystal says:

    If ever there was such a thing as stumble upon fate, it is in this moment right here. I could not have read this article at a better time in my life. thank you.

  43. emb says:

    Everytime I read this, I am inspired all over again. I have shared it with my readers at my blog: My 52 Weeks of Worship: http://www.my52wow.com. Thank you for writing this.

  44. [...] When Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Floor is a Good Idea: 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. [...]

  45. [...] breakdown, all of us need it and go through it. And that’s what this article is about: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/why-being-broken-in-a-pile-on-your-bedroom-floor-is-a-good-id… Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Why It's a Bad Idea to [...]

  46. [...] spiritual quest was a bit of a show and called the poetry overly effusive. To others, he was one touched by God in a way few are. To his neighbors, he was an odd man with long dirty fingernails and no driver’s [...]

  47. ChrysAcuity says:

    I adore this thread. As I write this I have been studying the text The Gaslight Effect so I can practice its lessons and share them with my clients. I am highly recommending it. It too deals with these same lessons shared in this post. Thanks Julie.

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