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Your Life Story Is a Teaching Story

 

Papaji told many teaching stories. Sometimes he told about a lion raised as a donkey who, through the good grace of another lion pointing his inherent lion-ness out to him, woke up to his true nature and roared. Another time it would be the story of the exquisite hiding place in a thief’s own pocket where a rich merchant makes sure his brilliant diamond is secure. He often told the teaching story “Hidden Treasure,” in which a grieving and humbled widow and her children discover that there had been a treasure under their feet the whole time while they were living in poverty.

 

All of these stories teach us that we aren’t who we think we are. How we have defined ourselves is not the truth of ourselves. What we think we must have is already present, and when we think we have lost the value of our lives, it is still here if we know where to look.

 

Our individual stories can point to what is under our noses, even if we experience that as absent. We each have the capacity to discover the truth of who we really are, whatever our particular story may be.

 

We can find the treasure in our own being that we may think we have to look for somewhere else. And we can discover that no matter how the events of our lives are arranged and rearranged, true and lasting value is here, precisely where we stand.

 

The truth is simple but the ways of obscuring the truth are complex. If we can simplify the complexities of our individual suffering, we are already closer to truth. We think we suffer uniquely, and our particulars may be somewhat unique, but the patterns are the same. In particular ways we are under the spell of ignorance. Ignorance can be described, and through this description it can be dispelled.

 

I invite you to tell your story within the context of recognizing the peace and fulfillment that are always present in the core of your being. What gets in the way of that recognition? What “clothing” do you have put on to cover the naked core of yourself? This covering is fabricated from the memory of past events—both your individual past and our collective, human past.

 

If you are like most humans, you are weaving fabric for this clothing in the present as you prepare story lines for the future. If you are willing to stop weaving for a period of deep and truthful inquiry, you can discover what the stories cloak. I am not asking you to transcend your story. We can recognize the power and beauty and horror of particular stories, while also recognizing the necessity to see through these stories to discover what lives at the core.

 

In our long human history of storytelling, there have been great beings with awe-inspiring stories that reveal the victory of self-discovery. What inspires us about these great ones is that somehow their lives turned toward and then reflected the sublime discovery of everlasting truth. I invite you to let your story be a contribution to the universal revelation of self-discovery, expressed uniquely as you.

 

This invitation is not as outrageous as it may initially appear. Even the greatest saints and realized beings had much that was ordinary in their life stories. They had pain and failure. Like us, they knew self-doubt and setbacks. When we are willing to recognize what was ordinary about those people, we can more fully embrace the possibility of our own lives turning toward and then reflecting direct and endless discovery of oneself.

 

It is possible to see underneath and inside the story. We have learned how to present ourselves, carefully covered both for protection and deception. To the degree that we are unaware of what is free inside us—regardless of our presentations—we suffer. As you either peel the layers off your story, or see through these layers, you stand naked to yourself, in silent awareness.

 

The thought of being naked to oneself can generate fear. Most of us are aware that we have a multitude of flaws, and to be fully naked brings with it the possibility of discovering yet more. We have both skillfully and unconsciously learned to cover our perceived flaws with layer upon layer of storytelling. Our internal images and narratives are only made of pictures and thoughts, but they wield mighty power. We may know them to be at least in part untrue, but most likely we fear that what is covered needs to be covered.

 

We have become practiced at maintaining the threads of our overlapping story lines, and we work to cover the unraveling holes that life persistently reveals. This is steady work, requiring our attention day and night. In an instant, if only for an instant, we can stop. When we are exhausted with our labor of covering what we fear we are, we can stop covering. When we are curious about what is unchanging in the midst of constant change, we can stop giving all our attention to what changes. When we are called to a life beyond our imagination, beyond our ability to construct, we can stop constructing our life. It is at this point that we discover that any thought of ourselves is only a thread that contributes to the weaving of a story, and that thread can be released. In this release we find the strength to view ourselves without covering. Our attention can return to the silent, aware core.

 

Silent, conscious awareness is naturally naked of phenomena and is nakedly present in the core of all phenomena. It is only our distraction with phenomena—“clothing” made of thoughts, images, sense impressions, and memory—that keeps our core cloaked from recognition.

 

By inquiring into your life story, you can recognize the layers of ephemeral distraction that keep your attention busy with entanglements. When you recognize this, you can reclaim your attention. You can allow the distractions to fall away, or you can see through the distractions all the way home, to the silent core.

 

This is adapted from an excerpt from Gangaji’s book, Hidden Treasure, Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, 2011

 

 

Join Gangaji for a live online meeting on Sunday October 14 at 11 AM PST. Freedom Inside: A Course In Self-Inqiury is an online course that was first developed by Gangaji's  for prisoners. This month we will be considering, Is Your Story Real? Call in to speak with Gangaji and watch the livestream.  Learn More