At the dawning of spiritual maturity, as in biological maturity, a push or even a shock is often necessary to provide the catalyst for essential growth. The birth of true knowing follows the death of the previously known. What was previously known may have been true in its time, but when finished becomes false knowing or ignorance. We can meet what we falsely know about ourselves when we are ready to be free.
Before spiritual readiness we will hide from the worst or dramatize the worst with tragic melancholy. Or we may deny it altogether. The thinking process of our brain is filled with powers that allow us to decorate reality or dodge and cover whatever may threaten our version of reality. Finally we recognize that aspect of inner bondage that we most fear is who or what we really are. If we have been secretly frightened by our hidden inner self, and if we have been taught that our true nature must be tamed into submission because of its potential for selfish evil, we will keep our conscious attention separate from and be afraid of that naked core of ourselves.
Even if our upbringing has been more enlightened, and we are taught that we are essentially pure and good, the wild untamed parts of our personality are likely to frighten us enough that we keep them hidden in shamed secrecy. They show themselves in nightmares and in images of hell.
To be willing to turn toward the aspects of ourselves that we knowingly separate from our outward self-image is the mark of maturity. This maturity is inseparable from the readiness to be free. Not free of what we know to lurk in the core, but free to discover directly and unflinchingly what is there. When we are free of our conceptual definitions of ourselves, we are free to be fully whole. We then directly know ourselves as indefinable consciousness, freely being itself. When we are willing and ready, whatever we think is the worst of us turns into one of the most important teachers of freedom.
It is not always so easy to meet the beast we think lives inside us. We don’t often choose to leave a protected place, even if it is a prison. Although some ideas we have about ourselves are easily put aside or easily fall away on their own, transformational leaps take us, or throw us, into unknown territory with no reference points.
We may feel an internal pull toward what is calling us in this unknown realm and be terrified of it at the same time. We may find ourselves losing what we never considered could be lost: our perceived protection from our innermost selves. Desperately struggling with and fearing who we think we are, we finally find the courage to take a moment and directly inquire into this “thing” that has us by the throat.
When we can recognize that the soul matures naturally and sometimes with pain, we can be more willing to open to whatever we are feeling. We can stop our process of self-protection and instead self inquire. If we don’t resist whatever is being experienced, then the underlying sweetness of life is found even in the bitterest parts.
—We can’t know beforehand that even in the worst the best can be discovered. But we can discover the truth of that. We can try to remember our discovery for whenever the next change occurs, and that memory may be somewhat useful. But to directly know what is here in this moment, all memory — even the most supportive — must be put aside. When your attention is fully present here, in this moment, regardless of what is appearing here, there is a great discovery. Every definition of yourself comes from references to the past and hopes or fears for the future. When your mind is freed from definitions of any kind, you can easily and directly discover what is really here rather than clinging to any definition of what is here. Falling into the core reveals the radiant spaciousness at the core.
This blog is adapted from Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, published by Penguin Tarcher in 2011 and now available in paperback for the first time on Sept. 13, 2012. Gangaji was awarded the 2012 best in print award from COVR for Autobiographical writing for Hidden Treasure.
In this life-changing book, Gangaji uses the telling of her own life story to help readers uncover the truth in their own. Publisher’s Weekly said, “This gently flowing but often disarming volume invites readers to examine the narratives that shape them, and is a call to pass beyond personal stories to find a deeper, more universal self.”
Gangaji will be a keynote speaker is hosting a seven-week online series with the Shift Network, Living a Fulfilled Life Now, beginning September 18. Visit www.gangaji.org for more information about Gangaji’s upcoming events this fall, including her monthly webcast / conference Series, With Gangaji, which is currently undergoing an in-depth study of Hidden Treasure.
Gangaji shares a simple message – “This is an invitation to shift your allegiance from the activities of your mind to the eternal presence of your being.” Born in Texas in 1942, Gangaji grew up in Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1964, she married and had a daughter. In 1972, she moved to San Francisco where she began exploring deeper levels of her being. She took Bodhisattva vows, practiced Zen and Vipassana meditation, helped run a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center, and had a career as an acupuncturist in the San Francisco Bay area. Despite her successes, Gangaji continued to experience a deep and persistent longing for fulfillment. She pursued many paths to change her life including relationship, motherhood, political activism, career, and spiritual practice, but even the greatest of her successes ultimately came up short. In the wake of her disillusionment, she made a final prayer for true help. In 1990, the answer to her prayer came unexpectedly, taking her to India and to the meeting that would change everything. There on the banks of the river Ganga, she met Sri H.W.L. Poonja, also known as Papaji, who opened the floodgates of self-recognition. In this meeting, Gangaji’s personal story of suffering ended and the promise of a true life began to flower and unfold. Today, Gangaji travels the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life. A teacher and author, she shares her direct experience of the essential message she received from Papaji and offers it to all who want to discover a true and lasting fulfillment. Through her life and words, she powerfully articulates how it is really possible to discover the truth of who you are and to be true to that discovery. Gangaji’s website www.gangaji.org