I want to tell you a story. It is a bit of a fairy tale, I suppose.

It is the story of a woman called Molly, but could just as easily be about a woman called Kate, or a man called Sam, or Thomas. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin…

There was once a little girl called Molly. She was a very lucky little girl. She had a very busy and successful daddy, who worked very hard so that her family could have lots of expensive treats and holidays and presents. She also had a very busy mummy, who was always organizing things, helping other people, here, there and everywhere.

Everyone loved her mummy, because she was always so helpful and kind. Molly knew that these were very important things that her mummy and daddy had to do, and so she knew she must not mind. She knew that to mind was being selfish, and made her a bad person.

So Molly grew up learning how to be good. Very good.

When Molly was all grown up, she realized that she knew how to be good, but that she did not know how to be happy. She asked her dad, who told her, ‘Get yourself a good job, earn lots of money, get yourself a big house and fancy car, and you will be happy.’

So Molly tried that. However, although she did everything her dad had suggested, she still did not know how to be happy. In fact, she felt a bit empty and a bit lonely.

So Molly asked her mum, to see if she could tell her. Her mum said, ‘Serve others, always be there whenever anyone needs you. You will be tired, and there will not be time to do things for yourself, but people will love you for it, and so you will be happy.’

So Molly tried this. Still she did not feel happy. In fact, truth be told, she felt a bit cross.

So Molly went to see her doctor, and told him that she wanted to be happy. Her doctor suggested she take a little white tablet once a day for six months. She did as he suggested, and it made her feel a little calmer, maybe, but once she stopped taking them, she felt just as unhappy as before.

A friend suggested to Molly that she read some self-help books, and so she went out and bought some. The books told her to write loving letters to herself, and to look at herself in the mirror and tell herself that she was beautiful.

Molly tried very hard to do this. However, every time she sat down to write herself a loving letter, she could not think what there was to love. And every time she looked into her eyes in the mirror, and tried to say aloud the words the books suggested, the words felt hollow, ridiculous, like they were meant for someone else. Someone more worthy. More loveable.

One day, Molly found herself walking through a forest. It was a path she had never come across before. In fact, she had no idea how she got there. She had just sort of closed her eyes and become very still. She had found herself just listening to herself breathing. And that had brought her here.

As she walked along the mossy path through the trees, she noticed a Wise Woman. Just sitting, looking at her. Almost expectantly.

She decided there was nothing to lose. And so she went towards the Wise Woman. As she came closer, she could feel a strange energy, tingling through her body. In an inexplicable way, she knew it was an energy that she and the Wise Woman shared. She knew that they were meant to meet here.

The Wise Woman looked at her and waited for her to speak. ‘I want to find happiness,’ Molly said. ‘I don’t know what to do to be happy.’

The Wise Woman said a strange thing. She said, ‘My child, what do you need?’

Molly was puzzled, and felt a bit cross. Firstly, the Wise Woman had called her a child. And she was not a child. She was a grown up. Could the Wise Woman not see that? Also, the Wise Woman had asked her what she needed! How useless was that! Did she not realize that she had come here to understand what to do, not to be asked what she needed?

The Wise Woman saw her reaction, and just smiled. And waited.

Molly realized that she was being invited to say something. So she thought hard, and then she said, ‘I need to stop needing so much!’

The Wise Woman considered, head on one side for several moments. Then she asked, ‘What is it you need, my child, that you feel is too much?’

Molly was flabbergasted. She felt like she was being criticized, got at; she felt stupid. Why did the Wise Woman keep asking the same question? She had given her the answer already. Wasn’t she listening!

Then something clicked. She gasped, as if a shock had gone through her. She looked at the Wise Woman, and looked into kindly, knowing eyes. The Wise Woman smiled and nodded. And waited.

Molly looked at her again, then looked away, and then back at her. She saw a depth of knowing in those eyes. Somehow, they gave her courage.

She took a deep breath, and began: ‘I need to be loved.’ She said, almost in a whisper.

She looked at the Wise Woman for approval, but the Wise Woman just smiled, met her gaze, and waited.

‘I need to be listened to...and heard.’ Again, the waiting, and the encouraging smile.

Suddenly, she knew she could say it all. All of it. All the needing and the wanting, the longings she had kept in for so long: ‘I need to say what I’m feeling I need to be allowed to feel what I feel......I need to not feel guilty......or ashamed or bad. I need to know I’m okay. Just as I am. To love me!’

The words were starting to tumble out now.

‘I need to laugh out be enjoy myself to say say no...To choose ’

The Wise Woman still met her eyes. Molly stopped and felt the connection. It was so profound that it took her breath away.

Then the Wise Woman spoke, very quietly, almost lovingly. The compassion in her voice was so soothing, such a relief, like balm on a sore wound.

‘My child, you have always needed to do those things. They were always yours. To experience them was the reason you came.

But you had forgotten, and now you have remembered.

When we fall into a place of forgetting, we forget our joy, our power, our magnificence, our freedom. And in its place, we learn shame. You have learned to feel ashamed for being you, my child. You must forgive yourself.’

Again, the surprise at what the Wise Woman had said.

Molly thought and thought, but could not understand. ‘I don’t understand,’ she said.

The Wise Woman nodded. It was clear that she did not need any further explanation. That she knew what Molly meant.

‘When we forget who we are, and why we came here, we start to believe we have got things badly wrong, have done things that make us bad. We feel terrible shame. We stop being able to be ourselves, still less to love ourselves. Instead, there is only shame.’

‘You have to forgive yourself for forgetting, my child. For allowing shame to take over. For hating and despising yourself.’

Molly thought about the Wise Woman’s words. At first, they sounded extreme but, the more she pondered, she noticed a growing feeling inside her that said the words were true.

‘What must I do?’ she asked.

‘What would you like to do?’ the Wise Woman asked her. Softly. Like she, too, was holding her breath.

Slowly, meaningfully, Molly stood up. ‘I would like to laugh...and shout...and dance...and run...and splash in puddles! I want to say it like it is, no more pretending, I want to choose, to change, to be free, to be me!’ Me!'

She was shouting now. And grinning. And laughing. Arms wide, head thrown back.

Suddenly, she became aware that the Wise Woman was no longer there. She felt bereft, as if a part of her was missing.

‘Where are you?’ she cried out. ‘Don’t leave me now. Not now. I’ve only just begun to know you.’

Somewhere, she could not tell whether it came from inside her or outside of her, she felt a voice. As it spoke, it seemed to vibrate all through her. The air around her sparkled and shimmered.

‘You haven’t lost me, my child. You can never lose me, nor I you. We are forever one, always were, always will be. You need only listen, and you will remember.’

Then she heard a peel of laughter, bright, sparkly, effervescent, full and joyous. It was like a thousand bells tinkling.

The air was full. What of, Molly could not tell, but somehow she again felt a remembering stir in her.

‘But for now, beloved child of mine, you need to go and jump in some puddles!’

So she did!