The primary concern for all life forms is survival. In the case of humans, the basis of everything we think is somehow about our survival. Everything we feel is related to our survival. Even everything we understand is about our survival. What we understand is what we can categorize. A category presents us with a version of reality we can live with. If we can live with it we can survive.
Thinking is our human blessing and our curse. We are blessed when our thinking is fresh and creative. We are cursed when thinking only feeds our habit of categorizing. It is not that thinking and categorizing are wrong. Thinking thoughts is not the problem. But the reliance on some thought that we can grasp, or keep, or keep away in the name of survival can keep our attention bound to categories.
At any point we are weaving multiple thoughts into stories. Our stories can be complicated. These stories often have multiple themes dealing with profound personal and even cosmic issues. We also have thoughts and stories that come from what we read in the newspaper, or from advertisements, or from our power to create fantasy. All our stories are part of the sometimes beautiful, sometimes horrific and always awesome mandala of life.
At some point in a person’s life of storytelling, the curiosity to discover the source of thoughts or stories can be more compelling than following the particular thoughts and stories. Feeding innate, free curiosity with inquiry nurtures direct discovery. In the spirit of discovery, we can pull the thread that begins the unraveling of all stories of identity. Pulling the thread reveals the capacity as a conscious human being to recognize that the beingness in human being is conscious and free.
The revered 20th century sage, Ramana Maharshi, said the last obstacle to this discovery of oneself as free is self-doubt. Self-doubt is a form of knowing; and knowing is about survival. We believe that if we forget to doubt ourselves, we could die, or the world could crash. Self-doubt gives rise to “Yes, but,” or “It couldn’t be that simple,” or “Not me” — all thoughts that can habitually follow the most sublime moments of discovering oneself as free consciousness.
My teacher, H.W.L Poonja (Papaji) said, “The last obstacle to freedom is the belief that there is an obstacle.” Whatever you may tell yourself about any obstacle to the immediate fulfillment of yourself, is a thought that you can recognize and penetrate. You can discover what is underneath any thought or story, but to discover what is underneath the thought, you must be willing to recognize the thought, or story, that engages your attention. The story of any obstacle to lasting fulfillment is finally just another story that can be unraveled in the willingness to pull the thread.
This willingness is permission to be curious and to not know the “answer.” It is the willingness to experience what needs to be experienced without knowing beforehand what that may be. It is the willingness to not know what the outcome of inquiry will be. Then your natural curiosity is available to you, unencumbered by what you think you should learn, or what you think you should know, or what you think you should think or feel to survive.
Free unencumbered curiosity is possible for you now in your life. All that is required is willingness. That willingness is a servant to truth. That is what brought you here.
This blog is adapted from a talk given by Gangaji at Kripalu Center, Stockbridge, MA, September 2011. Gangaji’s new book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, was published by Tarcher/Penguin in 2011. 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.” Visit www.gangaji.org for more information about Gangaji and her upcoming events, including the monthly Webcast / Conference Series, With Gangaji, which is currently undergoing an in-depth study of Hidden Treasure.
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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. In Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story (Tarcher Penguin, 2011) I invite you to let your story be a contribution to the universal revelation of self-discovery, expressed uniquely as you.
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