Ever since I became aware of the Hindu deities, I’ve had a bit of an elephant-god crush on Ganesh. I like that he is the remover of obstacles—he’s the go-to guy when you’re stuck in a situation that you don’t think you can move out of.
About five years ago, I was in Tallahassee for 10 days after my Dad’s stroke, which sadly ended with his funeral. As a break from the hospital and hospice during that time, I visited a yoga studio almost daily. The visits became a respite for me emotionally and spiritually—and physically as well, since I finally hopped up into handstand one day—something I had been trying to do for years.
During final resting pose that day, the teacher played a song I had never heard before, by a guy I later learned was MC Yogi. He’s a hip-hop musician who is also a yogi, and the themes of his music revolve around Hindu philosophy with a rich dose of humor thrown in. The song I heard that day was “Ganesh is Fresh,” a perfect salute to overcoming my mental obstacle of being upside down, in more ways than one.
Ganesh is everywhere in Bali. He welcomed us to the ARMA hotel in Ubud and oversaw my daily yoga teaching by the pool—and I played “Ganesh is Fresh” on my iPhone at the close of practice. There was a Ganesh sculpture at the entrance to Omunity and one at the head of my bed in Taman Sari.
I always knew Ganesh was in the business of new beginnings—when you cut through obstacles, mental or physical, transformation becomes possible. But I didn’t know that he was also the patron saint of the arts and sciences and intellect and wisdom. So his frequent appearance was appropriate on this trip, as I was preparing for a new chapter in my work with Wake Forest on my return (stayed tuned for more on that).
My favorite Ganesh moment was one I couldn’t have made up. On our only full day in Taman Sari, a small group of us went snorkeling off Menjangan, a nearby island inhabited only by a handful of monks. As we motored out, we all noticed a huge white Ganesh erected at the tip of the island. After snorkeling, the guides motored to the three-story sculpture so we could see it up close.
And then I remembered MC Yogi’s song’s on my iPhone. We were all still giddy from the awe of the dives and the beautiful Balinese day, and we were singing in no time. As we floated under the giant white elephant god, five Balinese guides and seven American tourists laughed and danced and sang along. When we beached sometime later, one guide was still singing it.
Of course, I had to bring home a Ganesh by a master wood carver. I’m looking forward to the new beginnings coming my way.