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 are 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:
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,
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Edited by: Ben Neal
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