Dear Ganesha, Patron Saint of Writers. ~ Elaine Mansfield

Via Elaine Mansfieldon Sep 25, 2013

Ganesha altar [Elaine Mansfield]

In 1994, my husband Vic received another rejection for his book, Synchronicity, Science, and Soulmaking.

Disheartened, he added the latest to a small stack of rejection letters sitting under the feet of a bronze statue on his altar to the elephant-headed and elephant-bellied Hindu God Ganesha—Remover of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings and Patron Saint of Writers.

That night, Vic dreamed of a cheerful and fat-bellied young male elephant. The smiling elephant sat next to Vic in a director’s chair with a tree trunk arm thrown protectively over Vic’s shoulders. “I’ve been reminded that I’m not in charge,” he said after telling me the dream the next morning. “Ganesha is in the director’s chair. I’m not calling the shots.”

That week, Vic submitted his manuscript to Open Court Publishing and soon there was an acceptance.

Now, I write at the desk where Vic worked until his death in 2008. To my right, on a high book shelf above my reach, Vic’s elephant statues watch me. The altar is dusty and unkempt. For years, I have averted my eyes and neglected this altar in favor of my personal altar, near my meditation cushions in another room. But today I look up and remember.

In Hindu mythology, Ganesha is the scribe of the Mahabharata, an epic of ancient India that includes the Bhagavad Gita. I know the Bhagavad Gita’s message well. We are to do the work given to us without expecting worldly reward or success. The action itself—and the quiet mind that comes from serving something higher than ourselves—is the fruit of our labor. My job is to write, submit my work, and let the Gods (and Goddesses) take care of what happens next.

These are challenging goals for a woman full of attachment and expectation.

I pull a chair under Vic’s elephant altar and climb up to inspect it. There are a dozen images, from a one-inch seated statue to a regal seven-inch standing figure. Ganesha often 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 the images are stone or cast bronze, but a few areVic and temple elephant 1993 [Elaine Mansfield] painted in bright primary colors. Most were gifts, received after Vic and I fell in love with temple elephants and Ganesha during three trips we took to South India in the early 1990s. In a favorite image, a painted Ganesha holds a pen and sits in front of a thick book—the Mahabharata, I assume.

I believe my book will help others accompany someone they love through the descent into illness and death. It will comfort them during the grief-filled dismantling of the ego and the life they must leave behind and help them emerge to create a wiser, more compassionate new life. Writing about loss and new life is my passion, along with working in bereavement at Hospice, but the book is finished and it’s time to help it find its way into the world.

So, I follow Vic’s wise example and turn toward the Patron Saint of Writers.

First, I carefully remove each Ganesha, elephant statue, card and painting and clean the shelf with a damp cloth. Then I inspect each image, dust and blow away the dirt that has accumulated in the crevasses and rearrange the altar. I place flowers in the front and a handwritten prayer under one statue:

 

Dear Ganesha,

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 and help,

Elaine

 

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Edited by: Ben Neal

About Elaine Mansfield

Elaine Mansfield’s writing reflects her 40 years as a student of philosophy, psychology, mythology and meditation and life on 71 acres of woods, fields and sunset views. Since her husband’s death in 2008, Elaine’s blog focuses on end-of-life and bereavement issues, marriage and the challenges and joys of her emerging life. Elaine facilitates hospice support groups for women who have lost partners or spouses and writes for the Hospicare and Palliative Care Services of Tompkins County.

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76 Responses to “Dear Ganesha, Patron Saint of Writers. ~ Elaine Mansfield”

  1. Carolyn Riker Carolyn Riker says:

    Beautiful. Thank you. I just asked the universe for a little sign, why do I write? And then popped up your lovely article….because it’s what I do.

  2. Jillian Locke Jillian says:

    I'm going to echo Carolyn here – I've been asking the universe for signs all morning as to whether or not I should accept a PT job doing something I loathe over freeing up those days for writing.

    Thank you for this beautiful synchronicity!!!

    • elainemansfield says:

      I love synchronicity, Jillian, and how great that you saw this article at the right moment. Ganesha brings good fortune. My husband's book on synchronicity and his elephant dream cemented his devotion to Ganesha. I admire your courageous decision and wish you well.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Jillian, I'm sure I responded to you, but I must not have hit the submit comment button. I love synchronicity and the connection here of Ganesha and my husband's dream (while trying to publish his book on synchronicity) conspired to give you the message you needed today. Sounds like you are making a courageous decision. May it bring meaning and joy to your life.

  3. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    Yay! I am a writer whose patron saint has been Ganesh, not because of writing, but because he is the symbol of the studio where I trained to teach Yoga. I always knew he was the perfect fit for me. (I love Lakshmi too!) Thank you!

  4. Erica Leibrandt Erica says:

    Also, I am sorry for your loss, and inspired that your are writing about it. I Lost my 16 year old son to suicide in 2004 and have written about it, but have a great deal more work and healing to do.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Erica, I'm glad to hear about your relationship with Ganesha/Ganesh. Somehow that last syllable adds a soft sound to the name, so I've used that in recent years. In South India, we found tiny little Ganesha altars on street corner filled with flowers and blackened with ghee. I'm so sorry about your son. I can't imagine losing a young child and suicide adds whole layers of complication that I don't understand. I only know it's harder than anything I've ever known. For me and a close friend whose husband committed suicide writing broke the difficult experiences into bite-sized pieces and helped us chew the indigestible and learn what we could from it. I write about my way of moving through grief as well as other things at my blog, so look around. I've written two pieces about my writing class with Ellen Schmidt called "Writing Through the Rough Spots" so you might be interested.

  5. Elaine, I have had the privilege of reading many of your writings. This piece is a moving stand out among many stand outs. The inspiration comes from deep within your Ganesha belly, lifts any tethered reader's spirit to freely float up, up, and away. Brava!
    Ellen

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you, Ellen. I've gained so much through writing with you and just spoke about "Writing through the Rough Spots" in a previous comment. Ah, deep within my Ganesha belly. I hope this belly is big on the inside, but not as big on the outside as his lovable paunch. Grateful to you.

  6. Marisa Crabb says:

    You always give just the inspiration I'm looking for in my work day (and really, at home too!). Elaine, you have such a gift with words. I can only hope to have the same ability one day soon. Wonderful piece.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Marisa, I first used writing as a therapeutic tool after Vic died, to help me digest and live with grief. It took some of the pressure off and helped me through the grieving process. I know you have wonderful and sad tales to tell.

  7. rufus dia says:

    A warm good mornin to you Elaine. Best of luck finding that elusive publisher, and don't forget there's always self publishing these days. Vic looks like he's having a great time on Ganesha's back!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Vic had a wonderful time riding on the temple elephants backs (only a few times) and photographing them with their Mahuts or trainers. The relationship between Mahut and elephant was intimate and trusting. Each morning the temple elephants were scrubbed down with hoses and brushes as they rolled and lifted their legs. Then the Mahut's applied their make-up. There were no restraints and they were huge beings, but they seemed happy in their work as prepared for the work of trumpeting and bowing in the temple rituals.

  8. Jeff Cox says:

    A perfect theme song for Elephant Journal!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thanks, Jeff. I thought so, too. I like so much of what elephant journal puts out and short pieces suit my temperament.

    • elainemansfield says:

      I thought so, too, Jeff. And I also thought I already replied to your response, but I must not have hit the submit button. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. Gregory McBean says:

    I like the rhythm and intent with this piece Elaine, it touches me.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you, Gregory. Ganesha is important to me and also one of my sons. For his wedding this summer, he had a huge elephant mural painted on a one of his outside buildings. It's beautiful and reminded him of his dad and his own love of elephants.

  10. Harriet says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for reminding us to ask, and how that opens us to life's unexpected flow.

  11. robert carlson says:

    A gentle, lovely reminder … yes, we are not in charge …. remember, be humble, and do not forget to laugh …Thank you Elaine …

    • elainemansfield says:

      Ah, the laughing part. Good deep Ganesha belly laughs. I could use more of those. Thanks for your comment and your reminder of what is needed. The comments concretize the lessons of the piece for me.

  12. Lisa Romm White says:

    Your piece has filled my heart with more LOVE for my friends, my family and my own life…..You are a Goddess and a powerful messenger for Good. An ongoing Thank you for all your offerings, Elaine.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Wow, Lisa. I'm more comfortable in the role of Handmaiden to the Goddess, so please demote me. ;) Thanks so much for reading this piece and for your generous response.

  13. Mariann Loveland says:

    Elaine, your beautifully writter piece reminds me about a lesson I often forget: The importance of release. Rather than thinking I am in control and can "make" it happen, often when I let go, what is intended happens. Thank you.

    • elainemansfield says:

      This is my experience, too, Mariann, but I'm so bad at it. I will and push and try and beat my head against the wall before finally surrendering. Then I wake up in the middle of the night with the right idea, the right title, or a solution. I'll keep practicing.

  14. Fred Weiner says:

    The message about surrendering to the higher, the greater, the deeper, whether to Christ, the Higher Self, Overself, or whatever we wish to name the unnameable, is upon us full force in this age. Elaine’s delightful piece reminds us that whimsy, humor, affection–all attributes of Ganesh–are hardly absent from this. Odd paradox: surrendering into Divine Power is empowerment.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you for your response, Fred. Yes, I love it that Ganesha has a sense of humor, another attribute I need in this hard world. Writing this piece, editing, and now responding to others who read it reminds me of the importance of this inner surrender. Do the work and then let it go. Practicing.

  15. Marie Holmes says:

    I am glad to see Elaine sharing her experience and, so lovingly, expressing the transition from a healthy and happy relationship with her husband, to the pain of accepting and adjusting to that loss and the strength needed to rebuild another fulfilling life. I think Ganesha will help set in motion the universal flow to get this very beneficial message out to others.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Your response feels like a blessing on the new life I'm creating without Vic. It takes a long time and the support of many Goddesses and Gods to rebuild after losing a relationship that once felt "permanent." But, of course, nothing is permanent. The ego constantly forgets, but out of grief and forced surrender for what can't be changed comes a new life and a new path. Thank you, Marie.

  16. 1writeplace says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your openness and knowledge add so much to your story. The fact that you pay attention to your own thoughts and feelings, then follow through with action, makes me admire you more. I can guess that Vic is proud of you and so happy that you finally dusted off his treasures! :>)

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you for your kind and encouraging response. I've had a lifetime of Jungian and spiritual training, so I've learned to pay attention to myself and more (most of the time). I'm not sure what Vic is doing or where he is, but the "Vic in me," my inner positive masculine, is very glad that I cleaned the altar and remember to offer flowers and prayers there.

  17. Christi says:

    A wonderful piece–and excellent reminder for all of us, whatever our endeavors!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thanks for reading and responding, Christi. I have to remind myself every waking hour of every day. Writing this piece deepened the importance of the message for my life.

  18. jeanraffa says:

    I loved this piece about Ganesha, a favorite of mine too. Since the universe is obviously listening to writers today, I shall write a prayer for you and put it beside a foot-long silver statue of him that I bought in Cambodia a few years ago. He's lounging on a shelf in my bedroom, leaning on his right elbow and holding the end of his trunk in his right hand. The prayer will rest just there beside his hand, where he can see it. You are a wonderful writer, Elaine, and I can't wait for your book to come out!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Your description of your Cambodian Ganesha is thrilling and amusing at the same time–just like Ganesha–and I'm honored that you'll offer a prayer for my work. I believe all the Ganesha images in my house are from India. There is a story to tell in your comment about a trip to Cambodia, one of the places in the world I haven't been but long to visit. Thank you for the prayer and your kind words.

  19. Sally Klein says:

    Beautiful story, Elaine. It's always good to be reminded to let go of any outcome!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you, Sally. This seems to be the take away point for everyone. Do the work and don't be attached to the outcome. How many lifetimes would it take to learn that lesson well?

  20. Kathryn Ashworth Kathryn says:

    Thank you for this. It is lovely. <3

  21. jillybooks says:

    'Let go and let Ganesha' is my mantra for today. And thank you for introducing me to elephant journal and the musings here.

    • elainemansfield says:

      Great mantra, Jill. Mine, too. The elephant journal has great articles on my favorite subjects. I'm grateful to have this piece here.

  22. Elaine, thank you so much for this reminder that it is the work that counts, not the outcome. I also get too attached to outcomes at times. But with your beautiful writing, I'm sure your book will be successful.

    Lynne

    • elainemansfield says:

      Lynne, I have to remind myself of this over and over and over again. The stubborn control-freak ego! But sometimes we get our will knocked out of us and are forced into surrender. I hope I can learn this lesson an easier way this time.

  23. Helen Schantz says:

    Thank you for this wonder-filled writing, Elaine. I am thankful that you have a wider audience to appreciate this now, too!

  24. {eggy Fry Keating says:

    You write with such humaness, love and inspiration, Elaine. Thanks so much for another wonderful piece!

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you, Peggy, for your kind words and your gift of taking the time to read what I write and respond. As I read comments, the take away point of the essay gets hammered into my mind. May I remember tomorrow.

  25. MarisaCrabb says:

    Well that's funny! I posted a comment earlier today and it vanished! Maybe I was supposed to come back for a reason…to read all of your thoughtful replies :) Anyway, I just said that you continue to inspire me with your writing. One of these days I may just have to try it myself. I really love your writing, Elaine!

    • elainemansfield says:

      It was there all along, Marisa, but posting is delayed because someone at elephant journal has to OK the comments. Maybe you needed the lesson of the comments as much as I do.

  26. Kathleen Morrow says:

    I just rubbed the belly of Ganesha in a shop this past weekend.

    “Re-alter-ing” brings the deep sense of closeness as we clean, tidy and bring new life to it.

    Very nice article.

  27. GRamam says:

    " We are to do the work given to us without expecting worldly reward or success. The action itself—and the quiet mind that comes from serving something higher than ourselves—is the fruit of our labor"

    Thank you for this important reminder – I forget too easily (and I was raised Hindu!) and thank you for your courage in marking the trail for the rest of us on how to renew life after deep loss….

    • elainemansfield says:

      I forget every five minutes, Gita. Maybe that's why I had to write this article, think about work and surrender all day, and read comments expressing the same idea from different angles. Takes lots of practice. Thanks for your encouragement.

  28. Wonderful, Elaine! Funny, poignant, and inspiring…. perhaps I need to get to know Ganesha, too! Thanks for sharing this great article! xo ~Ann

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you, Ann. Thanks for giving me your precious time. Most cultures have a beneficent god like Ganesha or Hotei (laughing Buddha). Besides who doesn't love an elephant?

  29. Lori says:

    Another lovely piece Elaine!. You writing constantly inspires and moves me. Yet again!

  30. Michael D. Cooper says:

    Never too late to reapproach Lord Ganesha with a devotional heart and damp cleaning cloth…

  31. Barbara Platek says:

    Beautiful piece Elaine! May Lord Ganesha, patron saint of writers, continue to inspire and inform your work as it flows out to the world.

  32. Dotty says:

    Thanks, Elaine, for the gorgeous, gentle reminder. Your writing is so heartfelt and honest. Beautiful. Thank you.

  33. Cindy says:

    Elaine, I can see how you are able to help many people. You not only can understand their pain you can feel their pain as well.
    Thank you for every article you write – each one is so beautiful and meaningful.
    Cindy Stillman

    • elainemansfield says:

      I hope just a little, Cindy. I seem to need these lessons repeated many times. Slow student. Thanks for your kind words about my articles.

  34. Cindy Stillman says:

    Elaine, I can see how you are helping so many people. You not only understand what they are experiencing – you can feel their pain as well. Each article you write is a gift to all of us. Thank you.
    Cindy Stillman

  35. Joshua Weiner says:

    Very moving reading. I loved it!

  36. Laurie says:

    I didn't know about the connection between Ganesha and writing. Time to find one for my study. Thanks Elaine for sharing images of your writing life, Laurie

    • elainemansfield says:

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Laurie. Writing this article and reading comments helped me appreciate my need for Ganesha's lessons.

  37. Your connection with your husband is ongoing. The loving kindness that you enjoyed comes through in the most gentle ways, in your writing. I enjoyed your insights on Sri Ganesha immensely. While Sage Vyasa dictated the Vedas, as outpouring from Cosmic Mind, Sri Ganesha was the stenographer… there is a precious story, full of insights for writers, about how Ganesha came to be the stenographer of the Vedas… I'd like to share it with you when it's not so late.

  38. I loved your prayer to Ganesha, and your husband's altar shows a most calming harmony and beauty–a beauty enhanced by your loving touch.

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