Snuggling Up to Our Obstacles
“We need to understand our fears and vulnerabilities, not so we can blast through what stands in our way, but so we can figure out how to support ourselves to manage whatever it is we fear.”
In Hindu mythology, the elephant-headed god Ganesh is known as the Remover of Obstacles. He is the person you might pray to if you feel like there is something blocking your way forward. Ganesh’s trick, however, is that he’s usually the guy who put the obstacles there in the first place.
These mythological stories about the gods are always metaphorically about us. We have all the capacities of the gods within us, and we certainly have this mischievous Ganesh quality: Most of the time when we hit a wall, we were the ones who painstakingly, lovingly built that wall.
Of course, sometimes obstacles are external. Sometimes we are fighting against an oppressive system, an obstinate person, or bureaucratic red tape, but a lot of the time our obstacles come from within us. They are almost always some manifestation of fear.
Simply knowing that, however, isn’t usually enough to blow up the boulders sitting in our path. If we are blocking our own way forward, there is usually a reason. We don’t let people get too close because we’ve been hurt before. We fear success because it feels so vulnerable to actually have what we want. We don’t try because we don’t truly believe we can.
So when we are facing one of these obstacles, smashing through them isn’t going to be a strategy that works. Sometimes we need to snuggle up to our obstacles, get to know them, ask ourselves why we might be stopped dead in our own path. We need to understand our fears and vulnerabilities, not so we can blast through what stands in our way, but so we can figure out how to support ourselves to manage whatever it is we fear. We need to find a way to go forward knowing we’ll be okay even if all our best plans and intentions go pear-shaped.
Often what we need to move past these roadblocks is support. We want to switch careers but we’re worried about money. Do we muscle forward and pretend money doesn’t matter? No, we find a way to back ourselves up financially so we don’t have to panic if things don’t go our way. We want a relationship but we fear losing our independence. Do we pretend that concern doesn’t matter? No, we practice our skills of communicating and set boundaries to ensure whoever we’re dating respects our space. Our internal Ganesh isn’t playing with us for no reason. He wants us to understand ourselves enough so that we can be clear about what we want and honest about what’s in our way. Our internal Ganesh can help us learn how to support and protect ourselves, not to ignore our reasonable fear and hesitation.
Fear is an incredibly useful emotion. It’s there to protect us. We can’t let fear control our lives, of course, and sometimes we need to push through a little bit of anxiety in order to stretch and grow, but when there are major worries going on, let’s snuggle up to those worries. Let’s get to know what our obstacles are trying to tell us we need.
Our obstacles matter. If we put them there, we put them there for a reason. Thinking positively isn’t enough: We need to get intimate with our fear so we can understand it and work with it so that it doesn’t paralyze us. Anytime there is change, even good change, there will be fear. We need to know we can protect ourselves enough that growth feels possible. We must ask our internal Ganesh not simply to remove our obstacles, but to help us snuggle up to them with courage, respect, and mindfulness.
by Julie Peters – May 06, 2019