Ride Your Elephant!
By Keith Varnum
One sultry summer day my parents pulled off a remote country road in Upstate New York. In that unpresuming place, I had a rendezvous with my true nature. I experienced my first up-close encounter with an elephant! I was seven years old.
In a scruffy dirt field, a bronze-skinned man was offering elephant rides for a small charge. He looked as if he had just stepped out of a noisy Middle Eastern bazaar.
I begged my parents to let me ride the elephant. They were very skeptical of the situation—for good reason from their point of view. The man was suspect. The elephant dusty and mammoth!
Yet my father always seemed to understand that I needed to face head on the life challenges that presented themselves to me. His instincts told him that I was destined to go out on a limb over and over again to test my limits (or lack thereof). It is a basic part of my nature.
So my dad let me mount the huge, lumbering giant. My mother protested very strongly. She screamed unrelentingly throughout the whole ride!
Picture the scene. It was actually very humorous. To me, not my folks.
As her little boy swayed from side to side on top of this gigantic mammal, my mother wailed for my father to get me off the elephant! My father stood by calmly as if it was all out of his control—which on a soul level, it was! As conservative a rural Republican as he was, he seemed to understand that we humans can only control so much. And that there are some times, and some events, that are totally out of our human control.
I rode directly on the back of the beast, without the security of a rider’s box. Now, whenever I choose, I can still feel what it felt like to have my bare legs pressed against the rough skin of the elephant’s shoulders. I can tap into to the reassuring feeling of the elephant’s rocking gate slowly trudging in a tight circle around and around that barren lot in the middle of nowhere.
To me now, it’s obvious that my soul chose the elephant as a powerful encounter and life symbol for me.
The Universal Symbol of the Elephant
Cultures throughout the world view the elephant in a very positive light. Combining grandeur and social wisdom with a peaceful attitude, the elephant is a symbol of strength, power and good judgment across the planet. The elephant is venerated as a symbol of luck and gracefulness.
In Asia and Africa the noble elephant is honored as a majestic figure of great size capable of living in harmony with very disparate neighbors. Even lions retire from the water hole when the elephants appear. The resourceful beast is admired for its memory and brain power. The intelligence level of elephants is considered equal to that of dolphins and primates. Aristotle once said the elephant was “the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind.”
Native Americans call North America “Turtle Island.” They feel that we are all simply riding on the back of an enormous turtle ambling through the cosmos. We could just as easily say that humanity is riding on the back of a colossal elephant plodding through the chaotic jungle of life.
My Soul Connection
Because I so enjoyed riding on the back of the massive elephant, I resonate with this metaphor. I trust the elephant. I relaxed and enjoyed the ride. I have faith that wherever we all are going is fine.
In a very real sense, we are all riding on the back of something very vast. We’re riding on the back of Universal Soul. The Collective Spirit is an immense being as grand and expansive as an elephant (and a continent)—and a trustworthy carrier of our life destinations.
Find Your “Elephant”
When I was seven, did I realize the symbolism of the elephant? Did I know the qualities the elephant represents to so many cultures? Not consciously of course. Yet the child in me knew what the elephant represented energetically. My intuition knew. My soul knew.
And your Inner Kid also knows the life experiences that represent the qualities you hold dear as a soul.
Take a Soul Ride
Let your soul discover a guiding metaphor for you! Take a moment to take a long, deep breath. Allow your intuition to guide you, your heart to remind you, of an experience you’ve had in which you encountered and trusted something greater than yourself.
It might have been a parent, grandparent, friend, another person or an animal. It might have been a physical place that felt safe, embracing and supportive. It might have been a group or organization. It might have been an image, symbol or color. It might have occurred in a dream, awake vision, or meditative process.
Whatever experience arises in your consciousness, can you allow yourself to relax into feeling of the reassurance of the event? Can you allow yourself to feel the support underneath your body and being?
Can you allow that experience to be your elephant, your turtle? Can you allow yourself to ride on the back of that supportive event to help you ride out life’s challenges, enjoying and trusting each moment of the adventure?
Can you allow that direct experience to “have your back?” Can you allow that experience to “back you up?”
Can you allow yourself to ride that feeling? Can you allow yourself to ride the energy of that memory?
Trust Your Symbols
We can learn much about ourselves—and our path in life—from the symbols and metaphors that we resonate with along our life journey.
In my case, a classic Asian artistic and folk motif shows a young boy riding on the back of an elephant. This pairing announces the arrival of good fortune. In Chinese, the picture glyph of “elephant rider” also means “auspicious” or “fortunate.” And in India the revered Ganesha—an elephant-headed God—is valued as “The Remover of Obstacles.” At the start of a new enterprise, the Hindu calls to Ganesha that he may remove the obstacles beforehand.
I can see now that my youthful elephant encounter was an early encouraging sign for me to embrace and expand on the noble qualities of this ancient symbol.
So far in your life, what supportive encounters have you had with a soulful symbol or metaphor? Can you allow yourself to look and feel deeper into the powerful encounters of your soul journey?