Let the Elephant Pass By


To live a life completely and well – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – it is essential to learn how to “let the elephant pass by.”

Elephants came thundering into my life in a way I never could have imagined.  I was a college freshman at a private university in Indiana.  One of the optional P.E. courses I chose to take was modern dance.   I had never heard of this kind of dance as I came from a small farming community where such things were unheard of, let alone taught.  I was excited and anticipatory as I entered the gymnasium for the first class.  The instructor began by asking each of us, one by one, to go to the front of the class and “act out” an object or thing.  When it was my turn, I bent down, putting my hands together and gradually raising my arms above my head as a way of acting out how a seed grows and becomes a flowering plant. As the flower with my arms skyward, I welcomed the warmth of the sun.  I was delighted that I had chosen to express the growth of such a delicate, living object.

Immediately, my fellow classmates shouted with certainty… “She’s an elephant!”  My remaining days in the class are a blurred memory and I carried forth from that day the belief that I was not capable of ever dancing beautifully and elegantly.  I’ve never forgotten the day I was told I was an “elephant.”

Years passed and it was not until I went to India to stay at an ashram that elephants re-entered my life, be it in a very unusual way.  I noticed there were numerous marble statues of Gods and Goddesses on the ashram grounds.  I was particularly drawn to statues of a being with a human body and an elephant head.  I’m rather embarrassed to write this, but I immediately fell in love with this Being, whose name I learned was Ganesha, the esteemed Hindu God who helps us remove obstacles and overcome sadness.  Ganesha soon became my beloved helper and friend. The Elephant-God became a symbol of healing for me, even more so after learning that elephants symbolize the strength of our True Self.

Move forward thirty-some years.  I am lying on a table receiving an acupuncture treatment.  I am there because I have a health issue with severe pain that has stubbornly lingered for months.  While on the table, I move into a place of silence where no pain exists.  Suddenly I see myself pushing the rear of an elephant to get him out of my way as I believe he is blocking my path.  I push relentlessly to no avail.  And then – a pleasant, booming voice says to me, “Let the elephant pass by.”  Instantly I stop pushing and recognize that this request was not just a demand to stop pushing the elephant but an important personal message of wisdom: let the pain pass in its own healing time.

How many times in our lives have we used our will to force things to happen because we wanted something now rather than in its own natural timing?  We push ideas, we push our work, we try to push other people to do things our way and in our timing.  Most of all, we push ourselves as we seek instant results and instant gratification.  We push ourselves and our families and spouses to change, to do our bidding because we are uncomfortable.  We push ourselves to deaden the pain, thrashing about in all forms of addictions.  We hang on to our beliefs and desires and react with anger and fear when others do not fulfill our life and we fail to live our lives fully and completely.  We don’t accept or love ourselves, believing we are not worthy, confident, and competent. On and on go the examples of a stressful life that results from hanging on to such beliefs and behaviors.  The end result is often some breakdown of our body, mind, or spirit.  We are not made to live such a stressful, defeating life.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, young and old, with whom I have shared my elephant message has understood the depth of its meaning INSTANTLY.  Each recognized that to live a life completely and well – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually – it is essential to learn how to “let the elephant pass by.”   Ah – this story does have a happy ending after all!

In what ways and/or situations do you not “let the elephant pass by” in your own life?

After your self-inquiry, practice saying “let the elephant pass by” as a mantra every time you are tempted to react instead of respond, force instead of letting be, and reject your life experiences instead of learning from them.


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Let the Elephant Pass By