Born into a southern family, Antoinette Roberson Varner spent more than 20 years afraid of her own fulfillment. She prayed for a true teacher, but scoffed at the idea of a guru. Yet from the moment she met Sri H.W.L. Poonja – the teacher she calls Papaji and who eventually renamed her Gangaji – she knew his wise words to “be still” and discover the silent awareness within would be her path to fulfillment.
In her latest book, Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story, Gangaji challenges readers to ask themselves a crucial question: “Who am I?” As she reveals, it is often our own cynicism, denial and refusal to be open that makes us “too smart” to receive simple help.
How are your stories (we all have them) directing your path? Let’s take a look.
SG: Let’s start at the very beginning, what is “our story?”
G: Our story is whatever we are telling ourselves about this experience of being a human being. Our narrative has heroes and villains. At times it is thrilling and enriching, at other times it is horrifying. It delivers profound insights about what it means to be alive, or it delivers nonsensical drivel. It is unique to each of us and yet formed in part by the prevailing winds of biology and culture.
Each story is mysterious and wonderful. And, luckily for self recognition, stories can be deconstructed. As real as your story seems and feels, you can recognize it to have no inherent reality. When you look closely and soberly at your story, you see how ephemeral and unreliable it is. You can recognize that you are the solid, conscious presence that is free in any story. You can know yourself to be the continuity of life that all stories (yours and others’) appear and disappear in.
SG: How does “our story” express itself in our present life, relationships, experiences?
G: Our story is a point of view that functions as a magnet. It draws supporting evidence from the internal and external events to itself. Much of the substance of our particular points of view is inseparable from our sense of being a particular body. We can recognize the uniqueness in our children, our friends, our lovers, and in fact in all life forms. We can also recognize that particular habits, conditionings, food choices, or even weather patterns are filtered thorough our original uniqueness to form a sensed “Me.” This magnetizing, filtering process is experienced in our minds as the narrative, or commentary, that makes sense of it all. Definitely wondrous but if we are slaves to our narrative, our story becomes fixed and defended and we then suffer unnecessarily.
Rarely does any one moment get appreciated as it simply is. Rather we normally filter all the impressions of a moment through our internal mental “casting director” to quickly ignore what doesn’t fit our story, and magnify what does. We miss a lot of the mystery and beauty of life by being bound by our story making powers. We miss truly meeting each other when “other” is simply part of our story.
SG: What are the first 3 steps to unwrapping ourselves from our story?
Most importantly, be willing to recognize or “hear” your internal narrative (especially in charged situations.)
In the midst of telling your story, stop. Simply stop the narrative without waiting for it to come to a conclusion. Be still.
In that moment of “storylessness” recognize what is present without any need for story. Recognize what is always here. You, free of story.
SG: On page 70 you have one of my favorite, most reassuring lines in the book, “Harmony is not the absence of stress…” This is great news! How does stress exist in a harmonious life?
G: As we breathe, stress can come in and stress can move out. Living is a dynamic experience, so the movement between activity (stress) and inactivity (rest) is present in all life forms. When one side of this dynamic is out of balance, harmony is absent. Our disharmonious lives today are generally geared toward over activity. Our identity gets wrapped around how active we can be. We then become exhausted and collapse.
When we recognize disharmony, we can choose to listen more carefully to our rhythmic needs of activity and rest. Both internal and external activity—stress—is sometimes pleasant and sometimes not, but without it we aren’t fully alive. The possibility is to live fully, embracing both activity and rest in whatever harmonious balance is uniquely right for you. In an inquisitive, deepening life, even periods of disharmony can be balanced with the profound nourishment of rest.
SG: HerExchange readers are women on the move both personally and professionally. With that in mind, what is the importance of the phrase “keep quiet” and how can we begin incorporating that practice into our over-scheduled lives?
G: At any moment, regardless of the intensity of the moment, we have the capacity to retreat for an instant. Staying conscious in this instant of retreat reveals the spaciousness of the open mind. This innate spaciousness is nourishing for mind and body, and in that moment it can mysteriously spread to other minds and bodies. It is an instant of simply being yourself, with no story of yourself dominating the space. It is an instant of pure nectar! If you like it, you can devote more time in you day to tasting the nectar of yourself. One instant can reveal what is available at any instant.
SG: I ask all interviewees, what is the one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you were 20 years old?
G: That the surge of life I felt in my mind and body was trustworthy. That it was conscious of itself and would eventually recognize itself in everybody and everything.
Get more http://www.gangaji.org/
Stephanie Goetsch, October 2012