Shielagh Shusta Hochberg, Ph.D. - Personal Growth Throughout the Life Cycle
Meditations and Reflections

Reaching for Our Best

So much
of our energies can be consumed with concern over how we are living our lives. Are we doing the right things? Are we with the right people? Are we on the right path? These are existential questions not easily answered.
While we ponder these things, let us consider our friend Ganesh or Ganesha, whom we see here, and whose image dwells in my office in New York in a well-lit spot on my desk where I can see him as I work. Seeing him never fails to make me respond with good feeling. I spot him in various places I frequent. One restaurant I love has a life-sized statue of Ganesh in a special dining room with low tables for dining on floor cushions.
According to, Ganesh, or Lord Ganesha, is the "Lord of Success:
The son of Shiva and Parvati, Ganesha has an elephantine countenance with a curved trunk and big ears, and a huge pot-bellied body of a human being. He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. In fact, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga being the other four) whose idolatry is glorified as the panchayatana puja.
How wonderful to elevate education, knowledge, wisdom and even wealth to the spiritual level. If we use these for our best good and that of others to the best of our ability, what more can we ask for? I am happily uninterested in the more dogmatic details about the evolution of this cheerful being, but I love the idea that he also stands for destroying obstacles. The site quoted above elaborates the explanation with this:
Ganesha is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness and pride. He is the personification of material universe in all its various magnificent manifestations. "All Hindus worship Ganesha regardless of their sectarian belief," says D N Singh in A Study of Hinduism. "He is both the beginning of the religion and the meeting ground for all Hindus. [link is mine]
I am totally in favor of our striving to overcome the obstacles of vanity, unhealthy selfishness (which I call pathological self-focus or painful narcissism), and pride. Having a healthier relationship with the material universe is a worthy goal, challenging though it surely is. Some forms of emotional imbalance and mental confusion have physical components and require medical treatment (often including medication) before one's outlook can improve. In other cases we are simply looking at the wrong things and need to lift our focus higher and away from the self and its propensity for painful self-scrutiny and negative thinking about the world in which we live, not only about ourselves. If we do suffer from excessive self-esteem at the detriment of our ability to appreciate others and the goodness around us, bringing ourselves down to earth in a realistic way can be very uplifting.
That's intriguing, isn't it?

4 Comments to Reaching for Our Best:

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Joan Rothchild Hardin, PhD on Sunday, August 19, 2012 2:42 PM
Very nice, Shielagh. As a therapist, life coach, and person, I know you are well suited to help others find their way. How nice for the people enlisting your aid to see a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles, in a prominent place in your office. He is useful to us ... and always brings to my mind the various gods in the Buddhist pantheon who are available to assist humans with our problems - jealousy, envy, and other strong, uncomfortable feelings.
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Shielagh Shusta-Hochberg on Sunday, August 19, 2012 7:21 PM
Thank you so much, Joan. It's nice to know I'm in good company incorporating spiritual ideas into my work and personal quest. We surely can use the extra help!

Theresa Varela on Monday, August 20, 2012 10:44 AM
Thanks for writing about Ganesh. My first experience with him was at the end of a rather introductory yoga session. With eyes closed, I suddenly saw his image. My instructor described what that meant when I shared it with her. It's a good reminder. Namaste.
Reply to comment
Shielagh on Monday, August 20, 2012 12:40 PM
Theresa, I really do appreciate your words. Seeing the image of Ganesh in yoga is so cool! I am grateful for your insights, as always, and appreciate you stopping by this blog today.

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