Recently, I sat down to dinner with friends of mine, who like myself are all in a transitional phase in their lives, both personally and professionally. It’s funny how that happens, how the universe has an uncanny way of linking us to those who are virtually walking a path of self discovery-simultaneously!
There we were, the four of us, together on an evening when the sun, the moon and the stars seemed to align. Where synchronicity, rather-divine grace brought four people together to share in good food, good wine and great conversation. The topic of conversation?… Everything from relationships, friendships, ones responsibility to contribute something meaningful to their community-to a discussion on what each of us hopes to accomplish in the New Year.
As the night went on, we spoke about our past experiences, how each of us has grown over the years and we collectively explored what it means to embody the quality of authenticity. It was at this point that something inside me shifted. This shift was similar to the shift in awareness that occurred when I had what I will refer to as an “awakening” 5 years ago and with my complete and undivided attention, I listened closely as my friend explained how her girlfriend was embarking on a challenge to embody authenticity in all areas of her life. She explained how her girlfriend’s new found philosophy on life was a kind of no holds bar approach, which immediately offered me a sense of complete freedom and an eagerness to embrace this ideal in the New Year as well. I thought how could I want to be anything less than authentic. Especially because authenticity defines exactly what I have been working on fully embodying in my own life ever since I embarked on my spiritual path.
Since my dinner with friends, I have continued to unpack the word authenticity, mapping out exactly what it means to be my authentic self. I remember an interview I listened to in early 2010 with poet, David Whyte who sat down for an interview with Tami Simon. In this interview Whyte spoke about the “conversational nature of reality” and explained the idea of being a “serious conversationalist”. After my dinner with friends, I recalled this interview and it dawned on me that in order to cultivate authenticity, it’s imperative that I partake in these serious conversations with myself from time to time. Not in a mindless, fearful, self deprecating way, but in a manner that incorporates what Buddhists refer to in meditation, as mindful. Of course, this can be a daunting process. When asked why one might be afraid to have a “serious conversation”, Whyte offered his wife’s profound and professional perspective; noting that most of us are afraid to have a serious conversation with ourselves because if we did, “large parts of us would shrive away”. If this explanation is indeed true, which I believe it is, I imagine that these “large parts” of myself include aspects of my career, being a mother, the life I’ve built in New York over the last decade, as well as the time I’ve invested in all of my relationships. For many I’m sure the thought of letting go of large parts of their self made identity can be painfully difficult. However, if everyone could simply examine their lives in an authentic and honest way, surrendering the parts of themselves which no longer serve any purpose would actually be freeing.
After investigating and contemplating dynamic parts of my life over the last few weeks, I have been doing what I love to do most, write. Of course creativity is never an easy task, especially when you’re drawing upon your personal experiences to derive your own truth. In fact, there is a kind of forceful need to recognize, map out and reconcile all the negative patterns and behaviors that desperately need to be addressed. For me when a shadow rears its ugly head, a number of emotions always begin to surface, calling upon me to address each shadow of emotion in a way that is utterly loving and kind. However, the beauty of seeking truth and embracing authenticity is determining if everything you previously deemed as authentic about yourself, is authentically who you are and if not, recognize how and if you have fabricated your self-identity based upon a story, or a lie you’ve been conditioned to believe, or perpetuated yourself. Of course the next step is to simply let it go.
With all due respect to those who know me, whom I love so dearly, who’s relationships and friendships I cherish, let me explain what I mean by the statement above. After engaging in some rather serious conversations with myself lately, I have realized that my most fundamental values and ideals regarding the importance of family, love, friendship and kindness to others, is not a lie. What is a lie, are the stories that I have told myself in the past, the stories we all tell ourselves which inevitably keep us from our own well being and being authentically who we are. These endless stories are illusions and lies we’ve perpetuated in our minds that ultimately make us feel unworthy of love, joy and true happiness. The truth is, this pervasive thinking keeps us stuck, bound to suffering and unable to realize that the happiness, joy and freedom we want has always been rooted at the center of OUR being. Now don’t get me wrong, once we discover our authentic nature, we will have to be brave and accept that we will continually have to assess various aspects of our lives from time to time to address the triggers of negative emotions and behaviors which can and will arise. Many of us may not be prepared to address these emotions without the professional guidance and support of a therapist, mentor, teacher or a community. However, the beauty is we can each seek the support and guidance we need, tailored specifically to address our individual needs.
As I continue on my pilgrimage through life, I am reminded of how important it is to not only be patient, loving and kind to others but to myself as well. I have also realized that in order to truly embrace and embody authenticity, I will continually have to turn inward to lovingly allow myself to authentically embrace and face challenges as they arise in my life, but I will do so with the utmost humility and gratitude.