Authentic: not false or copied; genuine; real.
You know what's keeping me up buzzing late at night these days? Authenticity. It's the central word that is pumping through my veins when I'm moving. It's the silent sound in silence. It's reverberating in my coaching, peering back to me in questions from students in yoga classes, and in conversations with trainees during yoga teacher trainings. It's become the central starting point of my current work and gracing the alter of my mind in my own spiritual practice.
Self-realization. "Fulfillment by oneself of the possibilities of one's character or personality" according to Merriam Webster's dictionary. First off, I'm impressed that it's made it in the dictionary. Way to go Merriam Webster. Second, regardless of how you define it whether it's through a dictionary or a spiritual scripture, it's all about one person...you. And from my ever evolving continuing exploration of the one person I know best...myself I've concluded that what's authentic, what's part of the realization of my very own self, could be absolutely, positively, 100% different than your own experience of your self. Than your own journey and understanding of what's true to you. And that's the magic part. Not the problem.
My own authentic self....my truth...pivots on many central points. One of those is experimentation. I LOVE experimentation. My whole life macro and micro is full of experiments. I live to learn by doing. It's how I gain insight. And it ranges from experimenting with new ways of cooking vegan food, to new spiritual practices, to new methods of journaling and self inquiry, to dating. Yes. Even dating. My last foray into dating was a one year-long experiment. I was absolutely up front that the process was precisely that...experimental. I'd only ever dated friends. I was curious, what was it like to date strangers? What could I learn about myself? What could I learn about love? How could I practice vulnerability in a new way? What fears could I face? What clear conversations could I practice? What honest transparency could I cultivate? Some people found it fascinating. Some people found it the most horrible idea they had ever heard of. What matters is this...it was authentic to me. It was true to me. And to my way of experiencing life. And because I was true to myself, I have no regrets. I made awesome new friends. I saw new egoic patterns I never new existed inside of me. I learned about new triggers and that my defense mechanism is to "freeze." I saw my light and my darkness like never before. I found my strength in a new way. I stepped into an empowered place when I would normally run away. I followed my intuition and trusted my gut.
Experimentation is one of my jams of authenticity. So is creativity. I'm passionately creative. I'm hungry to connect with my creativity from scheduling finger painting parties with friends to keeping a mindfulness coloring book by my side, to staring at pieces of art for long periods of time, to listening to new music on purpose when I write. Creativity is embedded in my DNA. And when I'm creative I connect with the depths of my own soul. I feel mySelf.
I've met people who don't believe they are creative. For a long time I thought, naw...you have to be creative. Everyone is creative! Mmmm. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe, creativity is absolutely not authentic to their truest selves. But maybe something else at the fabric of their soul makes me squirm like creativity does for them.
Let's take an example. I dated someone who believed he wasn't creative. I eventually came to believe this was true. In essence, my idea of creativity wasn't at the center of his fabric of being. However, precision was. Precise project management. Precise planning. Precise time management. When I met him I admired his precision. I admired the detail he paid attention to and delivered on. I thought for a while, like other people I encountered like him, that it was something I needed to cultivate in myself. I went on a mission to plan more effectively. Efficiently. I redid my electronic schedule a million times. You honestly have no idea how many times I did this. Its quite remarkable. I created many, many, many plans. All of which just didn't work. Because the truth was, that level of precision was not authentic to me. It was not part of the essence of who I am. Because in essence I have a lot of spontaneity in me and when I tried to force precision on myself I was miserable.
One day I suggested he and I create the equivalent of my joy jar on my alter which contains colored pieces of paper with fun things I want to do. When I feel moved, I open my jar, pull out a piece of paper and then do whatever is on that paper. Either that very moment. Or the soonest that I can. I wanted to create our own jar for us to pull from each weekend we got together to decide what to do. One word...spontaneity. I love it. I dance in it. I find excitement in it. It creates gitty gut flipping butterflies in my stomach. Spontaneity on the other hand for him, made him nervous. Made him feel uneasy. We spent some time trying to align stars. Me explaining why it would be the best thing ever and him explaining how stressed the idea made him feel. The problem is that I wanted him to be more spontaneous. But that wasn't authentic to him, like planning everything wasn't authentic to me.
Spontaneity. Experimentation. Creativity. All reside at the center of my most authentic self. My most authentic sense of Being. And finally...I'm giving myself total license to be nothing other than what feels absolutely 100% true to me.
What feels true to you? The only person who can answer what authenticity means to you...is yourself. So to get you started with some...of course experimentation... I'm inviting all of us to take one step further in connecting with our most authentic selves this Joy Tip Wednesday. Here's how to get started:
- Follow your burning passions and curiosity. My burning curiosity and questions started me on a spiritual path. Led me to my love for nature. My fascination with all things Spirit. With the sound behind Silence. To explore what is true and what is not true. To coaching.
- Not sure where to start? Begin with the little bird renting the most space in your mind. Perhaps it's a fascination with rock formations. Your desire to start a new hobby. Or read a new book that keeps calling to you from the bookshelves. One of my biggest moments of realization started from Karen Armstrong's book The History of God. This book was always some how front and center in the most obscure corners of bookstores I visited. I had no interest in reading about a history of Monotheism at the time. And somehow, I couldn't get that book out of my mind. Finally, after seeing it for what felt like the millionth time, I took the "hint" and started flipping through it. I have no idea what hooked me, but something had me wanting to buy the book right now and run home to devour it. This work became the doorway that took me to the next doorway into a curiosity with Islam, mysticism, devotion, and so much more. Whatever is sticking out to you...just follow it. I guarantee that it will somehow lead you to some deeper sense of yourself, some insight, some new way of seeing, clarity if you are receptive to it. Open to it. Sometimes those are huge "Ah ha" moments for me. And other times they are more subtle "hmmm...oh...I see..." moments.
- Make a list of three people who you are most drawn to these days. My experience is that the people I'm most drawn towards have some mirroring reflection back towards the deepest part of my soul that I'm meant to explore next. Sometimes my pull towards them is to see a part of myself I haven't explored. In a sense, a pairing of me with them. In other cases it may be that they are reflecting back the opposite of what I am meant to explore in myself.
- Engage in self-inquiry. When you follow your "pulls" whether it is what you find interesting, or questions that are burning, or people that are fascinating, infuse some good ole self-inquiry and reflection into the process. Whatever that means to you. Personally, I love putting pen to paper. Others I know love to dance or move something out. Build something with your hands. Create music. Paint strokes on a sheet of paper. Or cook. Whatever gets you into the space of self exploration and is known to bring you moments of clarity...go there. Do that.
Follow, follow, follow. I can't say that enough. The number of times I've doubted following something that later became my biggest teacher are numerous. I finally stopped fighting the burning sense inside of me. The calls outside. The clues reflecting back. And when I did, I finally started meeting myself.
Follow the questions that keep showing up inside of you. The desires that keep pulling you. The connections that keep calling out to you. Because they may turn out to be your greatest teachers in ways you absolutely, never expected. And what will they teach you? About your most important subject in life....yourself. About what being real...being genuine...feels like to you.
Strangely, the more I know about myself, the more I feel connected to others. It is through connecting to my own humanity, my own unique spark, that I'm feeling myself more connected to the Essence behind it all.
Listen, for years, I fought the pull toward what appeared to be "individuality" in service of transcendence. And when I mean fight....I mean fight. I'm a determined person. So individuality and I had a drag out fight for a long time. In service of the Greater Good of course. Ha. One day when I was sitting silently in prayer I realized that by rejecting my parts of my own individual self...if I really believed there was something greater behind it all...I was basically giving The Universe, God, Spirit, My Intuition the middle finger in a way. As if to say, yeah...all this special unique architecture you put into me? You um....made a mistake. I remember gasping out loud. As if I had been caught doing something absolutely horrible.... Oh my God...I thought. If you're so devoted like you say you are Marci...then by rejecting yourself, you're very unique authentic self....you are in fact rejecting that which you love most...The Divine. And then it clicked. What if being ourselves was the whole...point.
Whether you believe in something greater than yourself or not, life is so much easier being simply...yourself. Kids are the greatest example. They have no concern about being anything other than...themselves. And they experience life as joy...play. Their presence is inspiring. Their wonder is intoxicating.
So light your own special torch. Have courage to explore your own depth of being. I am confident you'll be surprised. You'll be mesmerized. And perhaps the ease, the joy, the peace, whatever it is that you are hungry for...will start to naturally seep into your very being. And perhaps for the first time, you'll start to meet your Whole Self.