To Thine Own Self Be True

**I wrote this in 2006, shortly after the illusions of my life were suddenly and painfully illuminated.  Then, as now, I strive to live in the truth.

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Veracity is adherence to the truth.

Veracity is the heart of morality  ~ Thomas H. Huxley

my hand outstretched over a background of summer grass, the word truth written in red inside a red heart

Love the Truth

What does it mean to live in the truth?  Is it true that to be dishonest is to be amoral?   Can you keep a secret, or tell a little white lie, and still honour the truth?   I find myself growing wings and embarking on a journey to discover what living in the truth means.  It has become my quest, my search for the Holy Grail, the only way I know to learn and grow from the tsunami that has hit my life.

Nine months ago, as my twenty-four year marriage was exploding and my world was dissolving and evolving without me, my soon-to-be ex-husband asked me a question, “What do you want in life?”

I sat with that question for a while and the answer came to me – I want to live a life of truth.  After living for so long with my head planted firmly and deeply in the sand, with my eyes and ears cloaked in so many years of lies and denials, I needed to be immersed in the truth.  I needed to know what that looked like, what that felt like.  I needed the truth to guide me on my voyage of discovery.  I needed to know what living in the truth meant.

Galileo said “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”  In this ‘age of enlightenment’, my spiritual quest for the truth is not unique. A search on Google for “inner truth” spits out 5,500,000 possible matches; over 2000 titles on enlightenment are available from Amazon. As the baby-boomers hit middle-age and beyond and are confronted with the undeniable truth of their impending mortality, more and more people are becoming seekers, looking to uncover their own meaning of life.

I set out to discover my own truths.  Eihei Dogen, one of Zen Buddhism’s most prominent figures, wrote, “If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”   I believe in a Higher Power, that everything happens for a reason, and that wherever you are, is where you are meant to be.  These were the truths I carried with me on my journey.  When I was falling into the abyss of grief and fear, they were my lifeline which kept me from drowning.  I studied dozens of books taking notes and highlighting as I went, journaling about what I read and learned, discovering insights about my life as I wrote.  I began seeing a psychologist to help unravel my ‘self’ from that of my ex-husband and to slowly peel back the layers of protection that covered the truth.  I began to unwind and separate the threads of my truth from his truth.

I spent time cleaning the clutter from my closets and cupboards, filling boxes for a garage sale and giving away bags of clothes and shoes and in so doing I began to clear my mind as well.  I learned how to practice meditation and incorporated that into my daily life.  I began to sit in stillness, to immerse myself into whatever thought, feeling and emotion that flowed through me. I began to find the truth hidden within.  My discovery of myself and my truth became my vocation.  Peeling back the layers of the onion to reveal my authentic Self has been the most wrenching yet rewarding task I have ever done.

I needed to learn the truths about myself which I had long been denying – to acknowledge and take ownership and responsibility over my own actions and choices during my life and my marriage.  I needed to own and accept all my ‘selves’, the dark as well as the light.  Marianne Williamson, spiritual activist and internationally acclaimed author and lecturer, teaches us that “Emotional wholeness is the acknowledgment and integration of all our qualities.”

A sprinkling of rose petals frame the words Live in Truth with a small burning candle set inside a glass flower placed on the lower left corner.  In order to live in the truth, we need to live in all our truths, not just those that serve to present us in what we deem to be a positive light.  Williamson goes on to say that “We seem to have great resistance to looking at our lives, and our world, with emotional honesty”, yet to do anything less is to deny ourselves the opportunity to live a whole and complete life.

We also need to learn to separate our own truths from those of others, to take ownership over our own emotions and not to take ownership over the emotions and choices of another.  To take false ownership not only denies the truth within you, but also denies the right of responsibility from its true owner.  This was clearly demonstrated to me in the relationship with my good friend, Carla.

When I first learned about my husband’s affair, I was hurt, angry, devastated and humiliated.  My immediate reaction was to keep private the details of our separation as I learned to process and recover.  Carla was the one person to whom I entrusted my thoughts and emotions, and I asked her to keep my confidence.  I felt then, as I do now, that my separation and divorce and the reasons behind them, are my story to tell – when, if and to whom.

Several times during the ensuing months, Carla would accuse me of not living in the truth because I was not revealing the affair to the world at large.  Each time she confronted me with this, I would step back and question myself – by choosing to keep this part of my life private and asking Carla to keep this secret, did this mean I was not living in and acknowledging the truth?

Martha Beck, a Harvard-trained sociologist and an innovator in life coaching, compares secrets to stars in her New York Times best seller, Finding Your Own North Star.  She says “They’re hot, volatile concentrations of energy, and they have two ways of dying.  Over time, small stars simply burn out and cool off, becoming what astronomers call white dwarfs.  Massive stars collapse in on themselves, growing so dense that they create an immense gravitational vortex from which even light can’t escape.  They become black holes.”  I wondered whether my secret was a black hole and whether I was in danger of being sucked into its whirling vortex.

I meditated, studied, journaled and talked with my therapist about this.  I came to trust and believe my own instinct to find a way to define ‘black hole secrets’.  If keeping the secret causes emotional or physical pain to anyone then it’s a safe bet you’re in danger of being pulled apart by the black hole.  However, if the only discomfort felt is the need to gossip, then the only person served well by breaking the confidence is the person who is doing the telling. You can live in and honour the truth and still keep a secret.

The more I learned about myself, the more I began to trust the truth of my instincts and to listen to my ‘gut’.  As I learned to accept and take ownership over my choices, my feelings and my truths, I felt my reality shift.  A miracle happened in my life;  I began to lose the pain, fear and grief surrounding my separation and impending divorce.  A miracle is really just a shift in the lens through which you perceive life.  I realized my husband’s affair was not about me, it was about him and his choices and denials and his own hidden truths.

I let go of the life I had thought I was living and the future I had envisioned.  I let go of the person I was and surrendered to be the person I was always meant to be.  I learned from my past and stopped living in it.  I stopped projecting and expecting the future and instead, I work at living in the moment, taking comfort in the knowledge that what is meant to be – will be.  The I Ching states that “A light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized.”  This can only happen when we have the courage to face our self-deception, denials and illusions – to face things exactly as they are.

"The Seekscape" painted by my son Patrick O'Neill

I am still learning and discovering what it means to live a life of truth.  I will forever be on this voyage.  What I know for sure is that the truth is the only path to a whole and complete life.  I have learned from Mahatma Gandhi’s principal of non-violence which declares that “moral force emanates from righteous action”.  I believe, as Marianne Williamson states in A Gift of Change, that “while such force might not have observable effects, it indeed has effects on an invisible plane.  By simply standing in Truth – not only in words but through our behavior as well – we help create a wave of power that will heal the world.”

When I embarked on my pilgrimage I hoped to find healing, solace and peace.  I wanted to show my children what was possible in a time of crisis, to grow as a person.  I needed to learn from the earthquake which had destroyed my world.  I had no idea that I would find something much more powerful.  I would find my Self.

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2 Comments

Filed under Spirituality, truth

2 responses to “To Thine Own Self Be True

  1. Hello, so glad I discovered your blog. You have such a strong voice, and your imagery is vivid. I love the image of secrets as stars. I wish you all the best on your journey.

    • Naomi,
      What a treat to wake up to your kind comments and “likes” – thank you! An even bigger gift is in discovering your blog as a result – I’ve just spent an entire cup of tea meandering through your wonderful writing.
      *off for another cup and more meandering…*
      Best,
      Terri

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