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

  1. "GUIDANCE IN THE BUILDING UP OF THE PERSONALITY. SUCCESS GUARANTEED…
    We demonstrate to anyone whose soul has fallen to pieces that he can
    rearrange these pieces of a previous self in what order he pleases, and so
    attain to an endless multiplicity of moves in the game of life. As the
    playwrite shapes a drama from a handful of charaters, so do we from the
    pieces of the disintegrated self build up ever new groups, with ever new
    interplay and suspense, and new situations that are enternally
    inexhaustible. . . . This is the art of life, you may yourself as an
    artist devolop the game of your life and lend it animation. You may
    complicate and enrich it as you please. It lies in your hands."
    –from "Steppenwolf," by Hermann Hesse

  2. [...] I just read about her here. [...]

  3. Daphne Olu-Williams says:

    You know I just out of curiosity took a chance to browse through, but i found this article inspiring. i have translated the brokenness to mean the same thing as total surrender for a believer- it is that point where you feel that, “God I have handed over everything to you. You take me where you want me and besudes you I can do nothing.”
    I have found myself in tha same posture in my room befoer, and guess what ? tha is when God takes charge and he actually speaks to you. He tell you that now you have gone your own way and faiil,. turn to me and Go my way- the God way. Ask a lot of believers, true believers it is after such an experience that they come up with fantastic testimonies!

  4. [...] gift your vision, voice, wisdom, and hashtags. You’ve shared your infidelities, pity parties, broken bits, and gratuitous porn. We love you like the family members we want to sit next to at Thanksgiving [...]

  5. [...] gift your vision, voice, wisdom, and hashtags. You’ve shared your infidelities, pity parties, broken bits, and gratuitous porn. We love you like the family members we want to sit next to at Thanksgiving [...]

  6. Malaya says:

    Julie is an angel sent from heaven. An angel of healing.

    All love back to her for all the love she gives to us.

  7. [...] So, my dad’s dear friend Willow posted this article about Akhilandeshvari, and being broken. [...]

  8. You may want to know that your article has been pirated and reposted without attribution here: http://bileratha.blogspot.com/2011/07/akhilandesh

  9. It's all impermanent, even us. And we keep thinking it isn't, how silly we are……

  10. sarah says:

    thanks! this seems to always repost right when i need it.

  11. bruce says:

    I felt very down today. I’m now sitting back in bed (it’s 10.20pm GMT) and while reading a few articles on my phone, I closed one of the pages and what did I see in the background of my screen? This article, I’d opened to read a few days ago but didn’t have time. So I took the time while sitting here in bed. I’m glad I did. Thanks for writing/posting it, I felt some weight ease from me :)

  12. [...] saw this article on The Elephant Journal and just had to reprint it [...]

  13. Julie, thank you for this amazing article. It touched me deeply. Wishing you much success with all GOOD.

  14. [...] Julie (JC) Peters (via Elephant Journal) GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  15. [...] few years later, I moved across the country, went through the epic breakup of my life and I lost my raw milk connection. I was dealing with more change than I had bargained [...]

  16. [...] Don’t wait until everything is perfect. [...]

  17. Hello there, I found your blog by means of Google at the same time as looking for a similar subject, your site came up, it appears to be like great. I have bookmarked to favourites|added to bookmarks.

  18. Annika says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Before I read from you about Akhilanda, I had already felt connected to the power of another godess, Kali, who embodies destruction and the beginning of new life. Though Kali crystalizes all the fears of people before their death, Akhilanda seems to be more focused on the light side (–> idea of the prism, etc), which seems to make her a good companion for the future. In times when everything seems to fall apart, we sometimes stumble over writings that cheer us up and help us overcome inner obsticles as everything happens around us is closely connect with the within. Thank you or Tashakkor as we’d say here. Regards from Kabul.

  19. [...] “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.” (Source) [...]

  20. [...] “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.” (Source) [...]

  21. perla says:

    Crocodile has been on my mind since a 2009 waking vision I had during meditation and this blogpost about Akhiladenshwari is important to me! In my meditations, a white mother crocodile told me to step on her and ride her! And i know that the vision meant to conquer my fears and ride forth with purpose. So thank you, Julie, for posting your insights on this goddess, brokenness, fear and courage. here is my blogpost on crocodile symbolism: http://baybayinalive.blogspot.com/2011/11/buwaya-

  22. alittlestarlette says:

    Thanks for this, recently I have lost a job and a boyfriend within two weeks and still am rather "broken" I am going to do more research on this subject and if you have anything other tips on how to help me that would be amazing. Thanks!

  23. sharon says:

    WOW, do not even know how I got here…….at "the perfect time|…when I felt like I was losing everything important to me…thank you for this….

  24. Daniel Levin says:

    Thank you thats exactly what i needed to hear right now :)

  25. Pervez says:

    I am from India and though not a Hindu, I am quite familiar and fond of the Major, Well Known Indian Gods and Goddesses. I had never heard of Goddess Akhilandeshvari though I remember seeing this picture of her with her Vahana (vehicle), the crocodile. Reading this article, I have new respect and admiration for Her. There are 33 Crores (or 330 MILLION) Gods and Goddesses in Hindu Mythology and thus not are all well known. They are finally all forms of the Same Shiva and Shakti or Yang and Yin states. Thank you for this article. Jai Ma Akhilandeshvari (Victory to Mother Akhilandeshvari)

  26. rheabette says:

    This is perfect for where I am in my life right now, so it was incredibly inspiring. It reminds me of the Tarot card The Tower, where all your ideas of what the world is are revealed as illusions and shattered. I think people are most interesting and beautiful when they are allowing their brokenness to show, even while stitching themselves back together again, letting the scars show like silvery lines of truth on their bodies.

  27. [...] elephant journal: Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is A Good Idea ~ When this post was first published, I had been spending quite a bit of time lying broken in a pile and it really helped me put things in perspective. I think it’s also emblematic of the rise of EJ over the past year. While not without its problems (penchant for cheap controversy, overuse of sex and nudity, inconsistent editorial vision), elephant has stepped up and harnessed some talented writers, improving the whole experience. This is EJ at its best – there’s a reason why it’s one of the all-time most popular posts on the site. [...]

  28. Dr Jayesh Shah says:

    Picture is of GODDESS KHODIYAR — and not GODDESS Akhilandeshvari. Both are different as per Indian Mythology. This is for your knowledge. Don't give wrong information. Please….

    for more detail contact me : jayeshshah642000@yahoo.com

    Dr Jayesh Shah

  29. Joy Ribisi says:

    Amazing. Thank you for introducing this goddess to us!

  30. Lubna says:

    Thank you for this perspective on the "power being broken" – and I love the riding of one's fear – and spinning (apparently, one of the gifts of spinning – in the way of a Whirling Dervish is to get out of the mind and into being – with that speed, there is no thought). You may have heard of the Japanese / Buddhist concept of wabi sabi too – slightly related to this – celebration of imperfections. Thanks again.

  31. [...] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/saturated-fat-healthy/#axzz1jGy3fF6E Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed under Uncategorized | Leave a comment [...]

  32. [...] any rate, for those of you who have the time and the inclination, you can read the full article at http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/why-being-broken-in-a-pile-on-your-bedroom-floor-is-a-good-id…. (One day, I will figure out how to insert links into my blog posts in infinitely more attractive [...]

  33. Richard says:

    This is brilliant and perfectly timed to share with so many people I know, right now. Thank you for being unlimited and amazing in your brokeness!

  34. [...] is from a writer and yoga teacher called Julie Peters writing on Elephant Journal. The part about your future dissolving in front of you after a failure, or a breakup, or a [...]

  35. Jessica says:

    This article was beautiful and inspiring and all that is "yes". I came across it at just the right moment of comprehension — thank you.

  36. [...] reading Ensler’s book I also came across this provocative article. The author, Julie (JC) Peters, writes about a little-known Hindu goddess, Akhilandeshvari, whose [...]

  37. [...] If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s grief. Or loss, or heartbreak, or feeling broken, however you want to put it. Every human knows this feeling. Most humans don’t talk about it. [...]

  38. [...] was enlightened by an article a while back, basically saying that you are never more powerful than when you are crying and broken [...]

  39. Never Not Broken says:

    I am broken. I’m hurting. I’m scared. But I still have hope. Because the universe is answering me. More than once this week, something that my heart has called out for has fallen into my lap. Just a moment ago, on the verge of a emotional and physical breakdown, I log on to Facebook. Looking for some comfort. For someone to make me laugh. And I come across this article posted by Ele. Thank you for helping me.

  40. [...] Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea–Julie (JC) Peters [...]

  41. [...] is shaken again. A little shock this time, not the kind of devastation that is described in this beautiful piece on The Goddess of Never Not Broken, but the kind of unsettling that leaves you shaken for days and thoughtful for weeks, that rewrites [...]

  42. [...] Eric introduced me to Akhilandeshvari, the “never not broken” goddess who inspired this article about the hidden possibilities of lying broken in a pile on your bedroom floor, and became one of [...]

  43. Penelope says:

    Amazing and enlightening post! Thank you!

  44. [...] bitter and sweet in all art and living things. So it continues until the current must change and I don’t fear the sadness that I know will come when we must go our separate [...]

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