Hanuman; The Ancient Monkey-Superman
The monkey god Hanuman, was given the birth name Anjaneya (powerful, fiery). He earned this name Hanuman when he was quite young. Playing in some green, grassy fields, Hanuman looked up and saw a big, orange, juicy sun and mistook it for a giant mango. Monkeys love mangoes!
He decided to leap into the sky and steal the mango for his afternoon snack. Indra Devi, the Sky God, saw what was happening on his home turf and became quite angry at Hanuman’s imposition, so he began throwing lightning bolts every which way. One of the lightning bolts hit Hanuman in the jaw (‘Hanu’ means jaw) and propelled him to the earth where he landed with a dramatic thump, killing him.
All the deities panicked in seeing his lifeless little body. They knew Hanuman’s dad would be furious, and he was. Vayu, the God of the Wind, saw his little son lying on the ground, lifeless. He went into grief and rage and started sucking the air out of the universe. Everything started to wither, shrivel up, and die; just like young Hanuman.
The deities came out from where they were hiding and begged Vayu to restore balance to the universe, to give it back its ability to live, breathe, and exist. Vayu claimed he would only do so if they brought his son back to life. Everyone readily agreed, as each deity walked over to Hanuman’s lifeless body and touched him. Each god who touched him infused a little life back into him, and unbeknownst to Hanuman, a little bit of their power.
When Hanuman opened his eyes, he had no recollection of what just happened. He yawned, stretched, and felt the fresh green grass underneath him. When he realized his father was watching him, he sat up and gave Vayu a hug. Even while chastising him for craving the mango-like sun for his afternoon snack, his father put his arm around Hanuman and walked him home.
As Hanuman grew up, he had no inkling of all the superpowers that had been infused into his body. So he continued on his path of schooling and working out. He was known as a very humble yet strong and fit monkey-person. He finished high school and decided on a local college where he studied business and went to grad school.
But once he started working the corporate life, he realized he was unhappy. He wanted to do something else besides sitting in front of a computer. He wanted to do something more fulfilling, purposeful, and helpful. But he didn’t know what that would be. YET.
Luckily for Hanuman, Lord Ram had been watching him because he knew Hanuman was a culmination of all the deities and their superpowers. Lord Ram, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, was known for his tendencies towards chivalry, virtue, and love. Ram appreciated Hanuman’s humble way of being, as well as his strength and fitness. And Ram loved that Hanuman was a Bhakti Yogi who liked to sing and chant, so he offered Hanuman a job as head of his palace troops. Hanuman became a devoted servant.
Hanuman was delighted by the opportunity to work for the prestigious Lord Ram and his beautiful wife Sita. He worked out and studied for his new position and became a very good, yet humble friend of the royal couple as his muscles grew bigger.
What didn’t grow with his muscles though, was his ability to believe in himself and in his own strengths and capabilities. Sometimes we confuse humility with insecurity, but soon realize humility couples best with confidence, and Hanuman’s questionable belief system was about to be tested.
One day, Lord Ram came running over to Hanuman beseeching his assistance in a very serious and grave matter. Lord Ram mentioned Sita had been kidnapped by some evil demons (which represent negativity to us, or our debilitating self-belief systems) and was being held captive in Lanka. Lanka was an inaccessible location as it was located across a massive ocean, that was almost uncrossable to most. Lord Ram was building a bridge to cross over and rescue her, but it would take time and effort. He needed Hanuman to take the great leap across the ocean to deliver her a ring as a promise of her impending rescue.
Hanuman started shaking in his Uggs. His first thoughts were ‘why me?’ ‘I can’t do it.’ ‘My hamstrings are too tight from working out.’ ‘I’m not flexible or capable enough to do this.’ As the sweat started to pool in his armpits, he vehemently shook his head ‘no’ over and over again and started to walk away. Lord Ram said he would give Hanuman a little time to think it over before he commanded him to help with this massive endeavor.
Hanuman went to confide in his best friend The Bear King, Jambavan. Jambavan told Hanuman he needed to complete the task as Lord Ram’s humble warrior. ‘Perhaps you are capable of more than you know!’ Jambavan helped Hanuman realize that beneath all his levels of fears and doubts, Hanuman’s deepest fear was letting down Ram, the person he loved most in the world. Hanuman realized he needed to attempt the journey to fully serve Ram and worry less about his perceived limitations.
The moment Hanuman decided to challenge his limiting belief system something changed. He knelt at the shore in half hero position, chanting to Ram (the breath of the universe or Source) for ability and strength. What Hanuman didn’t realize was once he stepped out of self-deprecation and into service for Self and others (Ram) was the moment his superpowers kicked in.
They propelled him in the splits position across the ocean to the other side. People looked up at the flying bundle of Hanuman, representing the balance of both strength and flexibility, and named him Superman. Hanuman was successful in delivering the ring to Sita, who was later rescued.
We are all both strong and flexible of mind and body. Hanuman teaches us we can transcend our own limiting belief system in order to shine and share our gifts and talents with the world. He teaches us to be in service of ourselves and others. But we must first believe in ourselves and combine confidence with humility… and sing to Ram for a little extra boost of strength.
The Power of Lakshmi: Confronting Negativity in Your Life
My first encounter with the goddess Lakshmi was, as a child, watching my mother dress in her finest silks and taffeta dresses for parties and going to the symphony, as well as her financial contribution to the arts and education. While my mother modeled Lakshmi, at sixteen I dressed in oversized khakis and my father’s flannel shirts. I wore just about anything that would cover up my piston thighs and my discomfort as my body was changing.
While I was an avid athlete and modern dancer, it wasn’t until I started formal yoga practice in my twenties that I began to confront my negative body image and to have reverence for myself. Each inhale asked me to fill up with gratitude for breath, for life, for this body. Every exhale invited me to let go of my negative self-talk.
Each posture evokes positive attributes such as the strength and elegance of a mountain, the uprightness of a regal tree, and the wisdom of a sage. Through yoga practices, we begin to recalibrate our inner map and rewrite the story we wish to live, one of vibrant creativity, joy, and reverence for life. As one of my teachers Douglas Brooks teaches, “Turn your Klesha’s (pain) into Lakshmis ( jewels).” Take your negativity and pain and get creative with life. Make more beauty out of our pain.
It’s said that anytime Lakshmi is disrespected she leaves her human form and takes refuge and protection in nature. The way in which humans disconnect from the life force in themselves and consequently in everything else has caused us to be in a deep, heavy sleep and living in denial.
Environmental devastation, indecent treatment of animals, and catastrophe will persist until humans wake up to the feminine essence in themselves and in everything. This is what the word yoga insists upon, the integration of the masculine and feminine within every human being. We need the masculine to hold a boundary, to help us act in the world, but without the feminine, we lack the ability to reflect upon our actions and speech, and the ability to nurture and sustain. Without the feminine human beings very well could perish.