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

Via Julie JC Peters
on Jun 1, 2011
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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.


“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.


Bonus: 10 Basic Salves for Burn-Out & Everyday Depression. 


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.


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

  1. Cheekie says:

    Wow, funny that this posted just after my piece, in which I describe exactly this moment in my life: "And that moment, when I had lost any inkling of an identity and sat in a heap on my living room floor, turned out to be the most important moment of my life." So thanks for this, Julie. It totally confirms what I learned from my own experience. From the lowest point, we find the deepest strength. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/there-are-

  2. Amazing article, Julie. Well done.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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  3. Pamela says:

    Wow, stunning.

  4. thanks for this…it was amazing

  5. Laura Miller says:

    You are courageous in admitting that there is a grace to being broken, and that being broken and feeling weak and shattered and bereft and unable to imagine how to get out of it is even a possibility. Jai Akhilandeshvari!

  6. Thaddeus1 says:

    Truly a refreshing read…well written, insightful, informative and inspiring…thank you

  7. Vanita says:

    Thank you!!! This was amazing! I can't wait to share this with my class.

  8. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  9. Brandi says:

    thank you! this is just what i needed to hear. i feel so newly inspired!

  10. Pearls and Poets says:

    Great article!

  11. jcp says:

    Thanks Lauren, this is a beautiful article! So true–merging never truly happens, and can never really save you–you can. Or being in a heap on your floor can, maybe! <3

  12. Love the image of the broken goddess riding a crocodile, the two of them bent on spinning their prey into confusion. What a wonderful tale. And you told it well. I had not heard that one and thank you for sharing it. It makes perfect sense to me. One who is constantly broken knows what it takes to shake things up and knows what a good thing that is. Hilary

  13. Ursula says:

    Julie, your article came to me in the perfect moment… and the sign did appear on my facebook feed!
    I was feeling broken and you made me realize I am because there's a kaleidoscope in me!
    Thank you! 🙂

  14. DaveTelf says:

    thank you, this article is right on time for me.
    i do the collapse thing at least twice weekly
    (although my bed is a yoga mat on a wood floor, so that makes it pretty easy).
    feeling better already since i started singing Akhilandeshvari

  15. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  16. Tia says:

    In my dreams last night I had 3 Alligators captive in my closet.

  17. VerticalDrop says:

    O.M.G. Thank you for this post!! I had a tape (yes…a tape) called J'ai Ma Kirtan with a song on it called "Akhilandeshvari". The mantra was "amba parameshwari akhilandshvari…adi parashakti pala ya man…sri buhvaneshwari raja mahesh shwrari…sachi da nanda mahi ma pala ya man" (I know I butchered it, but that's my phonetic interpretation). My son was 3 at the time (now 10) and I was having a very hard time with him and my life in general. I played this mantra and he LOVED it. I would catch him chanting it while playing with his legos. It was "his" mantra. He would flip out and instead of reacting, I would chant this mantra. I've lost the tape and have since tried to find a recording of the mantra. I had no idea how to spell "Akhilandeshvari" and I had no idea what it meant. Thank You for your post!!! It makes SO MUCH sense! He broke me! I had no idea what to do in those moments, but chant! and it worked!!! It makes total sense now, knowing what Akhilandeshvari represents.

  18. jcp says:

    wow, I've had a really similar dream–let them out, let the fears out! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNHoB3yZMoQ

  19. Ben Ralston says:

    Beautiful JC.

  20. Valerie Soraci says:

    I'm there right now feeling this, nice to read about it too. Thank you for sharing!

  21. gabriellasadventures says:

    Great post 🙂

  22. bernieb says:

    I love Eric Stoneberg; I love Akhilandeshvari, and I love this article. Well done.

  23. tracy betts says:

    WOW, I find this totally amazing. Good for you to trust your instinct and being so wonderfully rewarded.

  24. tracy betts says:

    This article has helped me so much, I am thrilled. I have been avoiding the obvious steps to take for a longtime, instead giving in and going back, and refusing to GO THRU the pain in order to grow and learn from my past unhealthy circumstances. But there has been a difference this time in not being AFRAID of the outcome, and just letting go. Its truly a bitter sweet opportunity . A million thanks for this most delightful Goddess

  25. itssimple says:

    Ok, let me throw in this question for a moment, hope you can relate to it. Does the 'pretense' of 'acceptance' such as 'breaking down on the floor' actually a ruse to ultimately control our destiny? Because this is exactly what we (as in our ego) want right? We are hoping that by doing so, we can actually escape some of the challenges of pain and suffering … so that we can live long enough to enjoy the real fruits that our ego crave. Is this is just a higher order emotional manipulation except that its target is not another person but oneself? Don't get me wrong, if we are really about truth … why so much mental contortions … what is wrong with just accepting? why accepting IN ORDER to? Why not just chanting/celebrating truth? but chanting and celebrating truth … in order to …. The bhakti movement is good only in a purely devotional mode, when it starts to be use as a tool for a specific purpose then perhaps that's not bhakti anymore, it's like praying to some fire breathing dragon so that it protects us (our darn little ego who cannot accept anything other than what it wants …)

  26. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for this. So amazing. This not only spoke right to my heart and my soul – it reached in and grabbed them and squeezed them in such a tight hug, that it broke them! Thank you!!!!

  27. Mary says:

    I am speechless and inspired.

    Thank you.

    http://[email protected]blogspot.com

  28. Irishblue says:

    Delightful read!!!

  29. Nice one Julie – thanks!

  30. Patricia says:

    Thanks for sharing about this little known Indian Goddess. I like that she acknowledges that sometimes we are just too broken to be fixed and that we can still let go and go into the flow of the Universe where you just let go of all of it and find strength instead of weakness, healing instead of disaster.

  31. Miranda says:

    First off, thank you Mandy!! This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear/read today. It came at the perfect time and brought much needed tears.
    I am feeling very sick (physically), broken, and confused today especially as I am (have been) in the process of breaking old outmoded patterns that do nothing but bring me pain. This is far more difficult than I could have ever imagined. The mind has a very strong grip on the old and is VERY stubborn to let go at all. I keep asking "what am I doing here? what am I supposed to be doing?" and I had a dream last night that I was acting very mean and angry to several friends of mine. they were getting tired of my attitude. finally, i broke down and started crying uncontrollably… it felt so real, I told them " I have a broken heart… I am broken." This article is amazingly timely, as I needed to hear exactly what it is saying… you might want to read it too. XO, Mir

  32. Kiiran says:

    mmmmm. Yeah. This is the stuff – indeed. Thanks for the post. It served as a deep reminder and a place to relate – no matter what.

  33. Eden says:

    That's a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that. As for the song… Hmm, have you checked sites like Pandora?

  34. Kim says:

    Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful! Thanks for introducing me to this amazing Goddess.

  35. JinpaG says:

    I have read and heard that when our hearts break open, it is through such opening that "light" gets in. The world penetrates through the fissures of broken heartedness, and as we experience pain directly, without judgement, without needing anything to change (just as "itssimple" wrote in a post above), compassion naturally arises, for ourselves and for the pain of "others". This has been my experience … especially when I don't try to change anything, when I genuinely approach experiences with non-aggression. Most definitely an aspiration practice, not to be perfected, but to keep open this possibility again and again. Woof.

    JC, thank you for your personable, direct, eloquent writing, and for sharing this image and story of Akhilanda, a goddess figure willing to face her confusion and fears directly, and to ride them … perhaps just to do it, not because it leads anywhere in particular. There is certainly brilliance and strength in directly experiencing pain — and joy — without trying to get ahold of it so that it will stay, or chase it off so we don't have to feel it any longer. And, this "never not-broken" aspect: stunning.

  36. David Dahya says:

    It dissolves your future..this is good because if you know your future then this forges your present and your thinking &
    thus you will never become 'new' again but remain the same old self that caused you to break in the first place.

    This forces a change for a newer better self.

  37. Steven Collins says:

    Thanks for this. This is exactly how I felt early last year, after the 1-2 punch of a devastating breakup and checking in to rehab less than a month later. Ultimately, best thing that ever happened to me. Pema Chödrön has similar ideas in some of her writings. A favorite quote of mine: "Sometimes, however, we are cornered; everything falls apart, and we run out of options for escape. At times like that, the most profound spiritual truths seem pretty straightforward and ordinary."

  38. Can I re-post this to my blog?

  39. Julie says:

    Thank you so much. I feel so validated upon reading this. Blessings.

  40. jcp says:

    Please do repost! <3

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

  42. Angelique says:

    Now this feels TRUE! Thank you for shattering the stories we tell ourselves!! xoxo

  43. dso says:

    yea, just stop pretending to be a victim and make better choices.

  44. Rebecca says:

    Wow, thank you for sharing this beautiful insight. I have never heard of her, and this is a powerful explanation of something we could all learn. Thank you. Namaste!

  45. […] Not Broken" Goddess Just came across this article, Why Being Broken in a Pile on Your Bedroom Floor is a Good Idea – referring to a Hindu goddess whose name translates as "never not broken". […]

  46. Lynn says:

    This article is a blessing and a blessed reminder… There is irony in the always broken state and the union of Self we seek through yoga… Somehow even in the most honest state of brokenness we find the highest level of integration…union…yoga

  47. cindi says:

    This concept is revolutionary. We must never under-estimate our capacity to not only overcome, but to create new ways of being. We are by nature creative beings. It makes perfect sense we should embrace this creation process, even if it twists and turns most unexpectedly or painfully, and even if we are gasping for breath. We must not only embrace it, but as you beautifully illustrated – get up and boldly STAND on it. That kind of flexible balance and gutsy aplomb is what dreams come true are made of. It is life-altering.

    Thank you very, very much from one who has been likewise shattered. I am not finished becoming. I am definitely not finished just because HE says I am.

  48. elephantjournal says:

    We prefer excerpts, with links back…not just xeroxing…but love working together. ~ Way