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

  1. [...] “Why being broken on your bathroom floor is a good idea” – from elephant journal [...]

  2. [...] together. Sometimes we come to yoga because we need to fall apart. When we are willing to be broken in a pile, we have a choice in how we are going to put our pieces pack together again. We can become [...]

  3. [...] an online friend posted a link to an article by Julie JC Peters, in Elephant Journal, “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.” Posted last June, it is one of the most popular articles on the [...]

  4. [...] a yoga teacherand a writer. What I do all day involves other people: I want to teach, I want to share, I want to learn. This [...]

  5. [...] If you asked me “How can I pick myself up off of the floor?” [...]

  6. Disappointed Hindu says:

    Hi, I stumbled upon your article and felt to compelled to reply. I think this article is wonderfully written and obviously (based on the number of positive comments) it is helping many people deal with difficult situations. That is wonderful.

    What is not so wonderful is that your article gets many facets of the Goddess and Hinduism wrong – as a devout Hindu this bothers me greatly. First, "feminine power" is defined by the word Shakti in sanskirt and has come to be associated with the various forms of the divine Goddess, and the earthly manifestations of the Goddess. Second, the root word "akhil" does not mean "never not broken" it means "complete with boundaries" or "entirety." Third, and most importantly it is abhorrent to me as a Hindu for you to co-opt my religious figures, twist the teachings around, get the meanings wrong, and use them to reach some higher form of understanding.

    Please understand that I am not saying that you shouldn't reach some high form or understanding; nor am I saying that you shouldn't read, understand, internalize, and appreciate Hindu spirituality and mythology – what I am saying is that you shouldn't get all those things wrong, and then publish those wrong understandings on a website – particularly when you are getting a religion wrong.

    If you think lying on the floor is going to help you, then by all means go ahead – far be it for to prescribe the proper course of action to get over a difficult, but please do not do it because you've misunderstood Hinduism.

  7. Keith Hollender says:

    It’s the second time when i’ve seen your site. I can see lots of hard work has gone in to it. It’s actually wonderful.

  8. [...] Akhilandeshvari who gains power from being that broken, sobbing heap on the floor. Read the article here, it’s pretty incredible. I read that article and my jaw dropped to the floor. It was [...]

  9. technopatra says:

    Wonderful article. Though I do wish your editors had chosen a photo that looked less like a murder victim.

  10. [...] first. Take a look inside and get that sorted out. We’re all broken—that’s a given. That isn’t the problem at all! And giving love…giving is easy. It’s easy to love. I think one reason we fall for [...]

  11. guest says:

    Lol. Talk to me when being "never not broken" can pay the rent or make me well enough not to lose my job and health insurance! None of this crap can help with any real problems, it seems. Just the shallow ones.

  12. [...] goddess Akhilanda, The Always Broken Goddess of Hindu mythology, teaches that we are never stronger than when we are [...]

  13. [...] want to be broken. I want to be the strong, shiny happy me. And that’s there, of course. But the broken part is just as important. The places where we’re ripped up are the places where compassion grows. Do I wish some asshole [...]

  14. [...] Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea … Jun 1, 2011 … Akhilandeshvari: “Ishvari” in Sanskrit means “goddess” [...]

  15. nhparry2288 says:

    Boy, did I need to hear that. I just had a cancer diagnosis, surgery, and now I face a future never knowing if I'll ever feel safe again (health-wise). Reading this made me cry. Thanks.

  16. Tracy says:

    Outstanding! This brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!

  17. [...] a particularly tough time dealing with many different life issues. My roommate then came to me with an article that she reads when she is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Upon reading this article, I began to [...]

  18. [...] what feels most real (whatever that looks like for you, for me, and it may look very different) are Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea by Julie Peters at Elephant Journal (June 2011) and How To Drop Out by Ran [...]

  19. Lawrence says:

    I’m sick with back problems and aching joints for 3 years, thanks God recently I have discovered a proven systematic set of techniques that will allow us to enjoy the richest whole body benefits of yoga… from the top of our head to the bottom of our toes.

  20. Chris says:

    Thank you for your honest and beautiful sharing. It is a pity that the name Akhilandeśvarī does not having the mean that Eric Stoneberg attributes to it, having learnt this incorrect translation from his own teacher. "akhila" means "whole, unbroken" and "anda" means "universe" (literally, the "cosmic egg") so Akhilandeśvarī simply means "goddess of the whole universe" or "goddess of the unbroken egg (of reality)". It's a name of Pārvatī. It would be nice if Eric's teacher could convey these nice concepts without distortions of the tradition, and the Sanskrit language.

  21. Julie says:

    So perfect! Thank you…from a happily shattered diamond

  22. [...] “Alright. I’m game.” <After breaking down the night before, sobbing for two hours on the couch in the fetal position writhing over some [...]

  23. [...] Walking away from everything I had known about love and relating made me Feel like a total failure, a selfish, sick little girl with no stable ground to stand on. Even though through it all, I knew I was making the right choice, I was shaking with fear behind [...]

  24. Nicole Wayne says:

    Wonderful article to read on such a poignant day of the Venus full moon! I have often wondered why my own life seems to be segmented realities, each left shattered and then the next a recreation of self, of reality, and of an older and wiser woman. To know that there is a mythic warrior Goddess inside of my journey riding the waves of time makes the experience much more bearable and almost exciting!!

  25. [...] memories and feelings that are still raw. However, in the past week, what I did revisit often is this essay that struck a chord with me months ago. At the time, it helped me through new-found unemployment [...]

  26. @emilyalp says:

    Amazing article. I am a bit spooked because I just went through a hellish/rapid-fire breakup (got dumped) and envisioned even starting a family within this year. The other morning, having not eaten or slept in days (beyond exhausted passout sessions and bits of banana and water) I went into the studio to work on second series (I am relatively new at it so it's not a small task to go in and give the whole thing a try). I didn't know if I could even drive there, i was so exhausted. But something inside of me felt, well unbreakable (or perhaps so broken that nothing mattered?). In the end, it was one of the best practices I'd ever known. As I laid down on my back at the end, I felt a depth in my being so I went into it and found the hope diamond at the floor of the ocean … as visualized in my mind's eye. I realized this was inside of me, this hope diamond. And it wasn't just any diamond I thought, it was the hope diamond. So reading your story, days later, is especially poignant for me. Thank you SOOOO much for this. I feel connected to the flow, so connected. Loads of Love.

  27. [...] diagnosed with an aggressive, advanced breast cancer last September. She arrived in the form of a story posted on my Facebook page. A most ancient animal, crocodiles have thrived on Earth since the [...]

  28. mortgagemummi says:

    gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!! I love the bit about riding your fear…. not letting it overtake you but take you where you need to go. Thank you for this. Namaste.

  29. [...] to my dear KK for opening my eyes to Akhilandeshvari, The Always Broken Goddess, who represents the strength and possibility available in times of change and uncertainty. Riding [...]

  30. [...] morning, I read this article in Elephant Journal about the power of being emotionally broken open. When we experience loss, we [...]

  31. Tevna says:

    This is one of my favorite blogs of all time :-) So, so helpful

  32. [...] Our most cherished glass is already broken. It’s inevitable. [...]

  33. [...] Peters, author of Why Lying Broken in a Pile on your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea, is a yoga teacher, studio owner, writer and spoken word [...]

  34. [...] gardenya. Demek ölümden kaçmaya gerek yokmuş, nasılsa yeşerirmiş toprak. Unutmuşum, adı Akilandeshvari. Bütün bu düşüp kalkmaların, binlerce parçaya ayrıştıktan sonra yeniden yeni olmaların [...]

  35. stablebrenda says:

    Julie, you are amazing at expressing feelings and sharing such an amazing story that gives us permission to be human, hurt, flawed, amazing, limitless, and ever renewing. Thank you for this piece.

  36. [...] we all. Poet and yogi, Julie Peters, describes this human melt down in her terrific article, “Why Lying Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea.” If you’re going through some shish and sorting through some bad in your life, read it and know [...]

  37. [...] foundation cracks, it won’t be long before the walls tumble down. When life is in ruins and you’re at the very bottom of the rubble…anything becomes [...]

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  39. [...] 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 [...]

  40. Mark Patallo says:

    It is for precisely the purpose of sitting and lying on the floor that I hired some hardwood floor contractors. After all, wooden floors are often much more comfortable than stone or metal ones.

  41. Phyllis S says:

    Julie – This just posted to my facebook feed (via elephant journal). The timing is so perfect it gives me chills: it is exactly what I needed to hear this morning. Thank you so much.

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