Today we are going to look at some of the teachings of Gangaji, primarily from her book Hidden Treasure – Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story. Hidden treasure: Uncovering the truth in your own life story. (2011). New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher.
Gangaji takes a slightly different approach to our stories than Byron Katie does. Gangaji teaches that we:
- Must discover what our story is
- We must extract what serves us in the story
- And, ultimately, we must set ourselves free from the story
We must recognize that we all have stories. Consider these words:
“What is your story? You discover your story by noticing what you are telling yourself over and over. Notice what you tell yourself about your past, your present, and your future. In order to have any lasting impact, our stories have to be told and retold. All stories have a narrative. Your narrative is what you tell yourself through thoughts and images with accompanying emotions. What is your narrative? You can check right now. It is bound to be familiar. It is natural as human animals with developed cognitive abilities to generate and follow the narrative of our stories. It certainly is not wrong to do so. But it is limiting. It limits attention to events that are forever changing. To discover how your attention is being spent, discover what you habitually say to yourself. Listen to your narrative while suspending belief in it.”
Understanding that we live in our stories, we must analyze them and decide to discard what is false and learn to live by only what is Truthful. Gangaji teaches:
“We mature when we realize that some of the stories cherished as the foundation of our culture are flimsy and insubstantial in truth and are sometimes outrightly false.”
Part of this recognition process is noticing where we carry our stories in our bodies. Here is what Gangaji says about this:
We recognize the location of the story in our flesh and emotions. From this recognition choice is born. We have most often either chosen to continue the given story or to rebel against that story. Naturally we have been thrilled to realize that we can choose to live a different story, one we feel more in alignment with. There is yet another choice. We have the capacity to take a moment and release all stories. We can experience what it means to be nobody, uncovered even by our primary identity.”
The Truth is that what is real, our actual Beingness, is free of all story. consider this thought:
“In the core of our beingness we are free of definitions.”
Once we are able to get in touch with the Truth of our Being, we can set ourselves free of the prison that our story has been:
“Unencumbered by our definitions we experience ourselves as conscious intelligence aware of itself as open, endless space. This instant of being storyless is an instant of freedom. For even if our story is filled with light and beauty, to the degree that we define ourselves through that story, we are less free.”
Upon recognizing that we have, in fact, been limited by our stories, we are free to choose life, in what Gangaji terms a “naked” manner:
“After such a moment, choice is present where before we were blindly choiceless. When we are not blinded by the stories that have been created for us, or the stories we create, we can appreciate the mysterious vastness that is holographically present in each moment of any story. We can discover what is and has always been here, throughout whatever rendition of story was being lived or believed. Each of us can take any story from our past, and we can discover the treasure that was hidden only through unquestioning belief in narrowly focused assumptions of the time. Stories can then be profoundly appreciated as displays of multidimensional life expressing itself in all forms.”
Both Gangaji and Byron Katie teach that blindly living from our stories can be destructive. Where Katie teaches we need to drop our stories, altogether, Gangaji finds that there is greater value in recognizing what is True in our stories and keeping that, while discarding everything which we have accepted as truth but no longer serves us.
Both find the awareness that we have been ruled by our stories to be of paramount importance. Here is Gangaji’s thoughts on the matter:
“Just becoming more aware of the stories we live, along with their infinite plotlines and subplots, begins to wake us up. In lucid dreaming, we become aware of ourselves as both in the dream story and outside it. In lucid living, as in lucid dreaming, we are no longer tyrannized by the stories circulating around and inside us. The demon in the nightmare can be faced directly; the flying dream can be enjoyed in its ecstatic moment. As we face ourselves in our stories, we have space for perspective. We can stand back and see our personal story as part of a bigger whole.”
To Gangaji, our story is just one more piece of the overall puzzle which can lead us to the Truth of our being. Understanding which parts of our stories have value can help us discover who and what we are and why we are here.
Consider one more idea from Gangaji which highlights how she feels about the value of our stories:
“You can ask yourself how your inner sense of self is expressed, or has gone unexpressed, in the structure and message of your life story.”
It is vitally important, from both teachers’ perspectives, that we stop blindly telling our stories. It is essential that we recognize which aspects of our lives have been lived, unconsciously, in compliance with these identities which, more often than not, were created for us by our families and other authority figures throughout our early development.
Whether one chooses to discard all stories as being the chains which they are or if one decides to pick and choose to keep the parts of the stories which are useful while discarding the ones which are destructive, awareness and conscious decision are the keys to freedom. In either case, blindly telling ones story, to ourselves and to others, serves no useful purpose, and in actuality such practice can lead us deeper into the bowels of imprisonment.
Telling our stories, as the truth of our lives, is habitual. We often do it without thinking. All habitual behaviors keep us from being fully present. For this reason, if the others have not been compelling enough, it is important to stop this tendency, right here and right now. Stopping can be done with no judgment, just an awareness, recognition, and cessation. Ultimately, we are all seeking freedom. Choosing to halt the mindless repetition of our stories moves us one step closer to this goal.