Even a simple story can be a rich source of wisdom. “Look deeply and with kind curiosity into these mirrors of your own Soul. Embrace and appreciate the wisdom they hold. Listen from that still place in the center of your being. Hear the call of the Love that lies beneath beckoning you to come home.”
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Transcripts are approximations of the conversations
Truth & Beauty
There was once a man who had everything. He had a successful business, a wife and children, and his health, but still, he was not happy. He was deeply unhappy because in his heart there burned a question, “What is Truth?”
He devoured all of the books that he could find on religion, ethics, philosophy, and spirituality, and nothing in any of those books eased the burning in his heart.
So, he sought out all of the wise beings that he could find, and he asked them the question, “What is Truth?”
None of them could give him an answer that eased that burning question in his heart, although someone told him that Truth lived high up in the mountains far, far away.
The man realized that what he must do was go on a pilgrimage. So he sold all of his possessions, he released his wife from their marriage, he bade farewell to his children, and with nothing but the clothes on his back, he went out into the world seeking the answer to the question, “What is Truth?”
His pilgrimage took him far and wide, across vast plains, deep into forests, and high, high up into the mountains. There, in a clearing in front of a cave, he came upon an ancient, bent figure crouched over a cauldron.
He walked up to this venerable old being, and he said, “Are you Truth?”
This primordial soul slowly turned and looked at him. It was a hoary aged woman. Her skin was so deeply wrinkled it looked like it had a million rivers running over it. Her eyes were rheumy and red-rimmed. One was nearly swollen shut. Her nose was covered in festering sores. Her teeth were green and rotted. Her hair, what little was left of it, was stringy, grimy, and greasy.
She creakily swiveled her neck around and looked up at him, her welcoming smile unhesitatingly exposing her disturbing grimace, her one oozing, good eye twinkling and said, “Yes, I am Truth.”
“Oh please,” said the man, “let me live with you. Let me live with you so that I can learn all there is to know about what is Truth and finally be able to ease this question that burns relentlessly in my heart.”
The old woman quite agreeably accepted. The next morning and for many mornings after, the man awoke with her, and together they went through the day, she showing him all that she knew. Day after day, month after month, and year after year, until finally, one morning, he awoke to find that his heart no longer burned with the question.
With immense relief and joy, he realized that he had finally learned all there was to know about Truth. He had found the answer to the question, “What is Truth?” His heart and he were free.
He knew that it was time to return home, so he went to say farewell to the old woman. He told her, “Thank you. I now know the answer to the question, “What is Truth?” You have eased the burning question that I carried in my heart, and I am free. You have given me so much, and I would do anything to repay you. Is there anything, anything at all that I can do for you?”
She turned and looked up at him. Her one good, oozing eye sparkled, and her cracked red lips split open, revealing her green, rotten teeth. Every wrinkle on her face deepened into chasms, and she brushed a string of greasy hair back as with great eagerness she said, “oh yes, yes, there is one thing you can do for me.”
“When you return home, and when they ask you about me, tell them I am beautiful!”
Exploring Truth and Beauty
I love the old woman. I love that she is breathtakingly ugly and terrifyingly ancient, yet she has an ageless inner spark and sense of humor. I love that she has a twinkle in her one good eye.
I love that it is in living by her side that Truth becomes known to the man. She does not explain things to him. He does not have to study and learn things. To me, this is the most truthful story about how I eased the burning question in my own Heart. From early days, I ached to understand why I did not matter enough to those who were supposed to love me.
This story does not deny the value of those other things, the books, the wise teachers, the traditions, and the practices. There is a richness in all of them, too. It is just that I see those things as what we expect to be the way we evolve and unfold into who we are here to be. The accepted message is, do enough, and one day you will be enough.
It is surprising and delightful to hear that just living by the side of an ancient, wizened, and unlikely being is the path to fulfillment and awareness. This is being as a way of becoming. The realization feels spacious and liberating.
When I spend time with this story, I yearn to make that journey. I, too, want to come upon this solitary, startling creature and discover that she is the teacher I have been seeking my whole life. There is an itch inside me that can only be relieved by my faithful, daily attendance to living life by her side. Ahhhh, to finally feel that burning question ease and fade away by some means I may never fully be able to explain.
Living inside this story for even a few moments, I step into the freedom that the man realizes after being with her for a year. And, just as my burning question fades from my Heart and I am filled with gratitude, she teaches me an even greater lesson. ‘Tell them I’m beautiful.’
As I spend time with this story, I observe that I have a lot of prejudice against the externally successful man. My perception centers around the idea that he has wasted a lot of his time chasing those external signs of success. Those were never going to be the path to any real or lasting happiness, in my opinion. I do not have sympathy for his situation, which is really unusual for me. In every other story that I have chosen to perform, I believe in being one hundred percent accepting and faithful to every character, whether they appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’
This discovery of my prejudice is actually very revealing and surprises me. In it I can see my own story about how success’s external measurements have not been a priority for me. I can also see how this has been a cover for my deeper story that I am not worthy of success, material manifestations of wealth, or physical property. Believing that superficially true story allowed me to continue to, quite reasonably, turn a blind eye to my deeper, impoverished one.
It was so easy for me to find evidence that external success and wealth were unimportant, not the point of life, the shallow person’s desire, not mine. I was deeper than that; I could tell myself.
I am deeper than that, but that is not why I did not pursue physical wealth.
I did not pursue physical wealth and property because I did not want to face my core wounding around my being unworthy, unloveable, and undeserving. I had built that wounded story around the pain of being abandoned by my dad and with him, his entire family. I could not know at the time that it was my mother’s choice to make this break with them. I imagine now that she believed it was the best thing for my older sister and me.
All I knew then was that I was not worth enough to matter enough for him to put the energy and time into keeping me in his life. And, there was the fish. My dad, as with all the men in his family, loved fishing. He may have loved it the most of all of them. One of my last memories as a very young child was being out on a boat with him on one of the lakes in upstate New York.
My memory is that I was about 4 years old. My older sister and my dad’s new wife were on the boat, too. It was my first time fishing with my dad. I can see the boat, my new kid-sized fishing rod. It wasn’t a toy. It felt like the real deal, just smaller. I was super excited because I knew how much fishing meant to my dad. Clearly, our family had already broken apart, so I probably did not get to see him much. I am sure I missed him and would have done anything to please him.
I can feel how much it mattered to me to have him love me and think I was important and worthy of his time and attention. I do not think I had yet lost hope of having both of my parents in my life.
I can see the scene, me with my fishing gear, the boat rocking on the water, the sun shining, a fortuitous breeze blowing. And then it happened, I caught my very first fish, ever! I can hear my squeals of delight as I exclaimed my triumph. “Daddy, Daddy, I caught a fish!”
I was beaming with pride and confidence that he would think I was amazing. I do not actually have a memory of his response beyond seeing him smiling at me. That part receded into the mists as unimportant as time went by. What remained was the memory of my accomplishment and how it simply had proved not to be enough. Because not long after that, we moved to another state, and I was cut off from him and his entire family.
In my grief, I surely wondered why I was not worth his time and attention. I am sure I puzzled over the lack of even a letter or a phone call from him. I no longer got to play with the many cousins or visit the multiple aunts and uncles I had felt surrounded by. The hole in my life felt large, and it grew larger with every passing season. It became a black hole in my soul, sucking any light or matter foolish enough to get too close, never to be seen again.
To survive, I had to stop the leakage or, at the very least, slow it down. So, at a certain point, I began to search for a story that could form the basis of my defense against the blackness. It turns out that the best story I could find was that I simply must not have been worthy enough to matter to him. I could point to that fishing trip and tell myself, ‘Well, you failed. You just did not catch a big enough fish.’
I can imagine my inner self saying,
‘If you had caught a better fish, he might have stayed in your life. It has to be your fault because you cannot prove otherwise. You know that the fish you caught was pretty small and unimpressive. It was a lot smaller than the ones he was normally excited about having caught himself.
So, you aren’t worth it, and your accomplishments, if you want to exaggerate and call them that, aren’t particularly interesting or worthy of attention. In fact, you ought to just forget about ever accomplishing anything special. You won’t succeed, and you don’t deserve the rewards that come with accomplishment.”
This narrative worked. It formed enough of an inner wall that most of the deadly leakage stopped or slowed down. This firewall was a costly investment, though. I was now blocked from accomplishing, succeeding, or being rewarded by success. I would never be seen as worthy in this story, so I did not even really try. Whenever I did come close to feeling accomplished, my shame would appear just in time to make sure and derail it.
Over the years, I managed to scrape by, put on a good face, and pose as the happy underachiever. When I did try, I was careful to choose an arena that was still small enough to feel comfortable. This was my ‘fake it until you are sure not to make it’ pattern. I wanted to appear to be someone striving for success but always have something to get in my way.
I could also claim that I was following a more spiritual path to explain my success-avoidance lifestyle. Material wealth was not important to me because I knew in my core that possessions would not fill an empty Heart or heal a splintered Soul. Using this belief as a shield for my unhealed wound of worthlessness had the benefit of sounding really profound. I even fooled myself for quite a while.
The price for removing this block was to face that original wounding and wrap my arms around that young girl. Assure her that the adults made decisions that had nothing to do with her value, but it makes sense why it would feel that way. Then, let her know how much I appreciate her bravery and sacrifice. And tell her that I love her.
Again, that sounds easier than it was. Facing this story about myself felt like opening a metaphorical closet jammed with every instance in which I had betrayed myself throughout my life. It spanned decades, and that meant a deluge of boxes and clutter cascading out onto my head. For days, I felt like I had been buried in a pit of despair.
All I could see and feel was regret. How many opportunities to become someone or something had I sacrificed in the name of this inner firewall? As I sat with the knowledge that I had been my own saboteur, a tsunami of grief washed over me. It seemed as though I would never be free of it. As I looked back over my life, I felt deep pain over every missed opportunity and every rejected invitation to genuinely flourish. All of this was done in the name of protecting me from that early, overwhelming pain.
Over time, my cover story became more and more solid. I could point to plenty of evidence of its truth as I continued to self-sabotage. I never forgot the original hurt, but I just did not have to feel it very much. If I unplugged that black hole too soon, I risked being sucked into it and never getting back out. If I kept up this barrier, I would never know the joy of becoming my full, true self.
It was in spending time with the story of Truth & Beauty that I found out the Truth. In allowing the tale to be a mirror within which I could see myself, I uncovered this decades-long deception. As I explored what I disliked about the man and what stories it brought up in me, my vision cleared. I saw this sacrifice of my success to protect me from being lost in the pain of abandonment as a child. I had betrayed myself; only it had come from a place of deep Love.
I was too young to have had good coping skills, and so the best my ill-equipped mind could do was to try to take control of a situation that felt dangerously out of control. If I could claim to have caused this hurt, then I had the chance of making sure it never happened again. Sure, it required me to amputate parts of myself, but an amputation is preferable to death. And that is what that huge swirling black hole of pain felt like…death.
So, this is where the Love comes in. There is within me a subterranean reservoir of universal Love. It lies out of reach of the pain and suffering of my ordinary existence. It is the source of my deep, inner wisdom, and it holds the secrets of my destiny. It is a potent, still, pond within. Whenever the pebbles, rocks, or even boulders of life are thrown at it, they cannot make even a slight ripple.
It is this Love that helped my young mind craft my coping stories, knowing that they were temporary and that one day I would pull back the curtains and see the Truth. It is also this Love that has its arms wrapped around me as I do, so I can complete my grieving and heal that core wounding. She is with me all the time, quietly, comfortingly, showing me how to live in a way that eases the burning in my Heart. She is Love, and she is Truth.
Truth Is Beauty
I know that within me, I have each of the characters in this story. My Soul sent a question to burn in the Heart of the part of me represented by the successful man. It is calling me to reclaim what I may have sacrificed along the way as I collected the outer trappings of success.
The breakdown of his ordinary life is necessary for him to connect to the deep wisdom he seeks. This is true of my own life. The path to easing the burning in my own Heart required me to release my grip on any stories I had created that served as diversions from my wounding. It reminds me of the saying, ‘You can’t buy happiness.’ And yet, I did try to do just that. For me, it was not material wealth. I collected stories that cushioned me from having to feel the burning.
I also have within me the character represented by the ancient woman. I only need to spend time with her day to day, side by side, and her wisdom soaks into my very being. There are no particular strategies or techniques I need to use. It is in being present that whatever burns in my Heart will be healed. The Soul calls, and the Heart answers.
Now that I see myself in the character of the successful man and understand why I have always felt disdainful of him, I can measure my level of self-acceptance by how compassionate and loving I feel toward him.
Do I empathize with his plight? Can I acknowledge and validate how it must feel to have striven and accomplished so much according to others and society’s measure? I can feel my inner block moving. It feels like a boulder being shifted on the ground. I feel the weight of it, I hear the scraping sound and feel the friction as it moves. I feel my resistance even as acceptance patiently waits, trusting, knowing that it is inevitable now that I have seen the story as it truly is.
In seeing the story as it truly is, the cascade of awareness and transformation are set into motion. Once begun, it is never possible to put it back in place. Like labor and delivery, once it starts, there is only one possible outcome: that baby is coming out. Whatever else it looks like, I will no longer be pregnant when it is over.
Likewise, I cannot force or rush the awakening. It has its own timeline and pace. I can only tend to it, feel into it, and give it my attention. Like the man in the story, I will wake up one morning, and the burning in my Heart simply will have vanished. It will feel like it happened overnight, when, in fact, it is the result of living beside the Truth for days, weeks, and months.
And this is the other great gift of this story. Awakening takes time. It requires only that I show up to do the work, the daily chores. It tells me that I need only to live beside Truth and follow her lead to ease my heart’s burning.
So, this story is a map for my awakening and becoming more fully who I am here to be. Even though I am not a successful business person, I do not own a large house and am not seen as rich, I have accumulated the trappings of a persona that would appear to most as successful-ish. I have built a veneer that gives me the appearance of success.
However, behind that facade, I hid my impoverished self. It was an exhausting way to live, to perpetually be projecting what I believed to be socially acceptable. At the same time, in my deepest, hidden part of myself, I had secretly deemed myself unworthy. So, like this character, I had a question burning in my Heart that I did not know I would ever be able to answer fully. This story tells me that it is possible to answer it, and it tells me how to do it.
- Follow the question that burns in my Heart.
- Live beside Truth, however repulsive or ugly she may appear at first.
- Show up every day.
- Follow her example.
In this way, one day, I will awake to find the burning in my Heart will have vanished. I will joyfully and triumphantly exclaim that I am ready to go home, to return to the ordinary world. I will ask her if there is anything I can do for her.
She will ask me to tell everyone that she is beautiful.
Look Into The Truth & Beauty Mirror
As you read the story of Truth & Beauty, notice how you feel about each of the characters. Which one stirs the strongest feelings, either positive or negative?
- Write about the character you dislike the most in this story. As you do, see if there are any signs of what part of yourself or your life you see reflected there.
- Which of the characters is the exact opposite of who you believe yourself to be?
- Which character do you feel the most positive feelings toward, and why do you think that is?
The story reveals that daily presence in companionship with Truth is the secret to healing the Heart’s discomfort.
- Explore what hurts in your Heart that does not seem to go away no matter how many books you read or teachers you listen to.
- What is the unappealing Truth that might be the key to easing the burning in your Heart?
- How is this different from a more heroic approach to conquering pain, confusion, or suffering?
Wealth means different things to each one of us. Become clear on the story you have about it to transform your relationship to it. For some, wealth is a four-letter word.
- What is your definition of wealth, and where do you find it in your life?
- Where do you reject it?
- Who is your most powerful role model regarding wealth? What lesson did you learn from them?
- What is your vision for being wealthy?
There are many voices in your life telling you who you should be and what you should do to be successful. The key to living joyfully is to know which voice is your own.
- List all of the ways you are meeting others’ expectations and rate each one on a scale of 1 to 10 to see how much they match your Heart’s true desire.