Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story
In this life-changing book, renowned spiritual
teacher 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." Mirabai Starr shares, "Hidden Treasure not only speaks to the
transformation of consciousness, it is a tool for directly transforming
Three Questions with Gangaji
1. Why did you write
GANGAJI: I wrote this book to point to
universal truths that are directly and concretely relevant to the individual
reader. There have been countless beautiful stories of great beings' lives that
have inspired others throughout time. Yet even when we are profoundly affected
by reading the story of a great person's life, we too often see his or her story
as disconnected from the life--the story--that each one of us lives.
We can wonder at the beauty and be inspired to follow in
the footsteps of a hero, but we often miss that our own life is offering us
portals to deep discovery. My wish is that the reader see that although the
details of our lives may be different from each other, and different from the
great beings we emulate, within every life story there are unique opportunities
for realizing peace and fulfillment.
We know the principles of peace, and love, and freedom,
but how are these principles revealed in each of our lives? What is our life
story offering us at this very moment? How can we discover the offering? The
investigation of these questions generated this book.
2. The central message in
HIDDEN TREASURE seems to be that we should stop telling the same
old stories about ourselves. How?
GANGAJI: It is essential to first
recognize that some story is being told. We are often so identified with
whatever thoughts we may be having that we don't realize that the thoughts are a
commentary on reality, rather than reality itself. We are thinking creatures,
and thinking is a beautiful power, but the capacity to overhear our own thoughts
as thoughts--rather than reality--reveals the choice to either continue that
same story, or amend the story in some positive or negative way, or to stop
telling the story all together.
Continuing the story is the usual choice. A choice that
is so habitual it appears to be choiceless. Amending the choice is a way to
"create your reality." At least your inner reality. The inner feelings of
following the thought "I am a worthless person" are obviously different from
following the thought "I am worthy and deserve to be happy." The choice to stop
telling any story is a choice as well. This choice reveals that inner reality
needs no story, needs no thought for conscious recognition of itself.
3. What do you want people to take away from reading your
GANGAJI: It is my aim for the readers to
recognize that however the events of a life are arranged, the opportunity to
realize lasting peace and fulfillment is present. I want the readers to see
clearly that all the necessary ingredients for realization of happiness are
already present in their lives.
I want them to directly experience the wonder and
simplicity of peace in their day-to-day lives.
We are conditioned to believe that only certain kinds of
events generate happiness. This belief naturally keeps our attention turned
toward accumulating more of those kinds of events. When our attention is tied up
seeking more and more pleasure or comfort, we overlook the peace that needs
nothing for its existence.
Stories: An Excerpt*
At this time in our present history we have the ability to be conscious of
the stories we have been taught and how they define us, as well as the
stories we unquestionably have believed about who another is. We can be
willing to be naked to ourselves, and we can take responsibility for the
result. We can marvel when we discover that the stories of previously
demonized others (enemies) are as beautiful and multilayered as our own. 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. One generation's true and defining story can be proved to
be a lie in the next generation. Stories that celebrate freedom and
revolution against tyranny can turn on themselves and become stories of
reigns of terror.
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.
Underneath all the stories, we can experience that deep core of ourselves
that is historyless, genderless, and parentless. Naked. That presence is
unencumbered by relationships and has no past and no future. In the core of
our beingness we are free of definitions. 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.
After such a moment, stories are never the same. They can be present, as
they most likely will be, but they no longer have the inherent power to
define our reality. The inner wealth that is available to us is no longer
limited or augmented by particular inner or outer events. While the
personality or the "creatureness" of each individual continues just as
stories continue, the underlying awareness, the true "I" has come home to
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
What is the frame or context of your life? You don't know how your story
will end, but at this point you can discover what your story is about. 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.
How does a particular success or failure fit into the whole of your life
story? We tend to focus on and magnify particular events, but if we see them
as part of a continuum, we can see the trajectory of the arc of our life
story. Seeing in this way does not mean attempting to take control of the
story. Instead, this is an invitation to tell the truth about what your
story has been teaching so far. It is an invitation to recognize how your
story fits into the larger context of what is important now to you as a
human being. It is an invitation to discover how awareness and inquiry
naturally broaden, deepen, and expand your own story so that it demonstrates
precisely what needs to be learned. Since stories both archetypical and
banal ultimately teach us something, investigate what your story teaches.
Regardless of where you are in your story--still at the beginning, the
hopefully long middle, or near the end--what bigger story does your life
story contribute to?
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.
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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.
There is great and mysterious power in knowing the potential gift of your
life as a teaching story. This book is not written to teach you skills to
create your version of reality. You are already doing that with your
internal narrative. It is an invitation to be quiet and unidentified in the
events that are appearing in and around your consciousness. In this quiet,
there is a revelation impossible to discern if your attention is caught by
the noise of identification. The revelation does not bestow greater power to
create a better story. It is bigger than that. Revelatory power can take the
events of your life as they are and show them as essential to your own
awakening as well as your contribution to the awakening of all humanity.
It is a power that shifts the story line from one limited to
"about me" to
one about all. With that shift there is both a profound surrender and a
closer attention to how all is unfolding. There is paradoxically a
disidentification from any character and a truer welcoming of all aspects of
In profound, redemptive stories there is a moment of surrender to a deep
command of being. This is not esoteric. It is concretely grounded in all who
live fulfilled lives, however their fulfillment may be described. Whether it
be religious, artistic, scientific, or ordinarily personal, there is
recognition of something unarticulated by intellect. Surrender to this is
surrender to the consciousness of being rather than to the conditioned
structure of thought. With this deep and true surrender, stories shift in
their perspective. With this shift you are no longer veiled from yourself.
You are no longer bound by whatever inner or outer definitions may appear in
your life story. All definitions and stories arise from the silent core, and
in surrender all are then pointers to where they come from and where they
return at their end. In surrender all is transparent from the luminosity of
your naked self.
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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.
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 is one of the smartest, clearest, and most
poetic spiritual leaders of our time. Her writing in Hidden Treasure is
compassionate, transparent, generous, and ruthless. The mere reading of only a
few of her words brings me home to the truth of who I am in seconds." --Alanis
Morissette, Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter
"To liberate oneself from the story of the ego is a
momentous leap utterly necessary in order to wake up to your true nature. It is
the transmission and tools for this great liberation from the story of ego which
Gangaji gifts her students and all of her readers. What a joy to feel the power
of this liberation in both Gangaji's words and even more, in the space of
silence between the words. It is only from this place of liberation that
resplendent glory of the unique perspective of your enlightenment can emerge in
its full radiance. It is an honor and delight to recommend this book to any
sincere seeker."-- Marc Gafni, Rabbi PhD, author of Soul Prints and The Mystery
"Gangaji's luminous words reflect her luminous Heart,
which shines through in the naked telling of her story and her realization.
There's a simplicity, beauty, and grace in both her presence and prose which
comes from the real freedom underneath. Listen, absorb, relax, and know that
you are already Home."
--Stephen Dinan, CEO, The Shift Network and author of
"We each have our own story of the life we think that
we are living. But underneath this story lies the deeper truth of who we
are--our real nature--and a life that is fully present. With simplicity, clarity
and the deep wisdom gained from her own lived experience, in this book Gangaji
gives us the tools we need to make this step into our real self. Hidden Treasure
is an invitation to wake up into the truth and freedom that are always here."
--Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Ph.D. Sufi teacher and author, The Return of the
Feminine and World Soul
"Hidden Treasure not only speaks to the transformation
of consciousness, it is a tool for directly transforming consciousness. I
turned the last page and felt cleansed, renewed. Ordinary things were more
vividly imbued with the sacred, loved ones more lovable, the path home to my
true being ample and gracious. The perennial truths Gangaji shares in this
sublime book penetrate to the heart of our deepest longings, and reveal the
treasures hidden in the places we have been conditioned to turn away from: the
open fields of silence behind our stories." -- Mirabai Starr, adjunct professor
of Philosophy and World Religions at University of New Mexico-Taos
* Excerpt copyright C 2011 Gangaji. Reprinted by
Permission of the Publisher, All Rights Reserved.
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