04/24/2012 01:39 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2012

Remembering Who You Really Are

How is it that we allow layers of beliefs, attitudes, fears, judgments and grief to attach to us and literally change not only our appearance, but the very essence of who we really are? I first heard of the Golden Buddha legend from Dave Saunders and it exemplified the concept of hiding your true nature.

In the early 1930s, reconstruction work on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thailand required the destruction of an old abandoned temple that housed a stucco-covered statue of Buddha, which was painted gold. Despite the fact that the statue was not attractive, its destruction was not an option and it was moved to a warehouse where it was kept for another 20 years under a simple tin roof.

In 1955, a new building was built and the monks decided to install the statue inside, but the crane that was supposed to move the statue broke and the Buddha fell into the mud. The Abbot of the temple came to evaluate the damage and started removing the mud and observed that the wet plaster that covered the Buddha was cracked. Once all of the stucco was removed, he discovered that the statue was made of solid gold: the largest gold statue known to man. The Gold Buddha stands almost 10 feet tall, weighing over 5 tons. It is thought that the statue came from Ayutthaya and it was disguised under plaster to hide it from the Burmese, who were besieging the city and its true nature was forgotten for almost 200 years.

This story brings to mind how often we choose to hide under a façade of our own making. I believe that it is necessary to conceal certain aspects of our selves when it is unsafe to be otherwise. If you are being abused, threatened or demeaned, it makes sense at times to hide until the threat passes. However, when we forget to let the shroud of concealment go when we are finally safe, it is at that point when the process of forgetting who we are begins.

With the chaotic events occurring all over the world, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and fearful. When we are dealing with our own trauma it is difficult to watch the news and see people from every walk of life writhing in pain and agony. As we go through life, the hairline fractures of our self-esteem eventually increase in numbers until the choices we make pack on the "stucco", covering our golden selves. This "layering" can come from our parents, religions, governments, abuses, hurts, failures and loss. When the weight we carry becomes too great, we will sustain damage. The weight of this layer, like the gold Buddha, will eventually crack. If we are fortunate, when we sustain damage to our façade, we will not choose to patch the crack that reveals our true essence. When we see the gold beneath the stucco, each one of us will be at a crossroads. I hope we choose to remove all of the layers and bear witness to our true self.

We have the opportunity to set ourselves on a new course. To do so means we need to continue to focus on who we really are before the pain and in most cases, because of the pain. We can choose to change our thoughts, words, actions and feelings to create the changes that will transform our lives. Instead of feeling helpless and amplifying the pain, let's become the powerful force of love and hope that we know ourselves to be. This is why we are here. Be the Gold Buddha and remember who you really are.