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Naked to yourself

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.

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 your 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.

Teacher and author Gangaji lives with her husband Eli Jaxon-Bear in Ashland. See www.gangaji.org for information about Gangaji and her upcoming events, including the monthly webcast/conference series, "With Gangaji," which will begin an in depth study of Hidden Treasure in November. The above is adapted from Gangaji's new book, "Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story," available from Bloomsbury Books in Ashland or Amazon.com.

Send 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of Inner Peace to Sally McKirgan innerpeace@q.com .