As a species, we are born with highly developed powers of mind. We use those powers — memory, imagination. projection, dissociation, interpretation — to create the stories that define our daily realities. But how we have defined ourselves is not the truth of ourselves. It is an illusion. In our daily lives, we use these powers of mind to create needless suffering.
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 illusion, or ignorance. But if you tell your story within the context of recognizing the peace and fulfillment that is always present in the core of your being, ignorance can be dispelled, and illusions can be broken.
What gets in the way of that recognition of peace and fulfillment? What “clothing” do you have put on to cover the naked core of yourself? This covering, or cloaking, is fabricated from the memories 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 present time 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.
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. 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 memories—that keeps our core cloaked from recognition.
By inquiring into your life story, you can recognize the layers of 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.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.