Chanting is a powerful way to still the mind and open our inner space for wisdom to be revealed. Like many people throughout the world, I find profound benefit from this meditative practice. After a recent session of chanting the mantra “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha” which calls upon the energy of Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, I started to reflect on the nature of obstacles and to question what obstacles actually are.
Obstacles are normally seen as blockages in the way of what one is wanting to accomplish. They can show up in many forms, such as a physical detour, an illness, or not having the resources needed to carry out a goal. As I began to question the concept of obstacles, I noticed that something that shows up and keeps us from fulfilling our goal may only be appearing as an obstacle. Could it be possible that the obstacle in the way may be beneficial? Are we able to shift the perspective to seeing the blockage as a way to align us perfectly with where life wants to lead us?
This brings up the question whether we are we in control of our lives or not. If we think we are in control, than yes, there may appear to be obstacles in the way of us creating the life we want. Yet if we are being lived by life itself, this could change the perspective of what obstacles really are. Obstacles in this sense would be just right, asking us to be open to a possibility that we are not yet conscious of. They may be leading us to something bigger than our imagination can perceive. Or they may be keeping us from doing something that will lead us in a different direction than what is supposed to be.
In this context, an obstacle would be more like a signpost for a new direction, telling us to wait for a new opportunity. Obstacles are often seen as negative, but what if we let that idea go? What if life is perfectly aligned and orchestrated, leading us in each moment to the exact result intended? If we are able to listen and trust that, we may be led to the most harmonic outcome. Thinking back on my own life, I can see several “obstacles” that brought me to the perfect place at the perfect time. I would not consider them obstacles now as I reflect upon them, yet at the time they seemed to be, and it felt like the universe was against me. But what if I had been more open to them as a supportive part of the life transition that was occurring, bringing me right to where I needed to be? Perhaps my internal and external experience of the transition would’ve been less stressful and less painful – and perhaps the circumstances would’ve shifted with more ease.
One very inconvenient obstacle – an unexpected car repair during my move from Maine to Colorado – resulted in me meeting my husband at a campground in Colorado, by delaying my arrival to just the right moment. At other times, the job that I didn’t receive allowed for a better one to come along, and the trouble of finding a house rental brought us to a new town that opened up opportunities for inner growth. Sometimes even having an illness can bring new friendships and deeper understandings. The experience may reveal a sense of beauty in an uncertain and less pleasant aspect of life.
Photo of Ganesha by Martin Wolff, taken in India at a small temple near Arunachala