by Melody Larson –
The Path to Authenticity
: Are you thirsty? Do you thirst for contentment, for meaning, for happiness, for healing, for empowerment, for belonging, for security, for success, for freedom, for purpose, for love? Why does this life seem to leave so many “so damn thirsty?” The answer is that we’ve planted ourselves upon camels in the desert when our home is in the sea. The desert is the home of the personality, but the sea is the home of the soul. We’re each here as an emissary of our soul and fulfilling our higher purpose is what transforms this desert life into a joyous oasis. To do it, we must stop serving the whims and wants of our egos and begin serving our deepest dreams.
It’s a process of self-transformation and that is never easy. It’s really a leap from lower to higher consciousness. We must delve into the dark places of our pain and fear and imbue them with light. We must leave the comforting world of complacency and conformity and, dry as it is, that world may be all many have ever known. It’s a journey inward, into Self, instead of outward into the world. It’s a journey of claiming the power within us instead of seeking our power externally. We must be willing to give up values and beliefs that no longer serve. We may even have to give up people, things, and experiences that no longer serve. It’s a journey of simplification, of sorting.
The way to an authentic life is choice. We’ve each been given feelings in order to communicate with our soul and to know if we’re on purpose or not: but we must choose to honor those feelings, to listen to them and to act on what they’re telling us. We’ve each been given a mind that allows us to create thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions: but we must choose the thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions that serve our highest good and discard those that limit us.
These inner feelings and higher thoughts will often conflict with the wants of our personality. The personality is concerned with being, doing, and having what society tells it to be, do and have. Choosing to listen to, and to trust, our own inner voice above all the racketing, demanding, power hungry, or even well-intentioned voices of others is what it means to live authentically. What does the path of authenticity look like? What are the landmarks? I have found six. Let’s explore each of them one by one.
Self-acceptance isn’t something to seek, but something to claim. Acceptance is an inner state of being, not something that happens as a result of external events. There’s nothing we need to become, nothing that needs to happen, in order for us to be happy with who we are. Acceptance is a choice and a recognition. Recognize that you’re a spiritual being having a human experience, and not the other way around. Recognize that you’re a body within a soul, and not the other way around. You are a whole and beautiful being, right now, just as you are! You are always growing and evolving and that evolutionary process is perfect.
Everything that has happened, that is happening, and that will happen is perfect. How can that be? All of it, all of it, is the path of purpose. All of life unfolds as it should. Even what we call ‘bad’ is part of the journey. Therefore, choose to accept life as it is now. Choose to accept your life as it is now. Life is now. It’s only and ever this moment. It’s only from a place of acceptance, honor, and cherishing that you can begin to hear your own soul’s voice. It’s speaking now, through the ordinary events of your daily life. But unless you take your focus off the past and off the future, you’ll never hear its guidance.
The joy that you seek is not the reward waiting for you at the end of this journey. It’s not something that belongs to your future. Joy doesn’t come when we’ve achieved our purpose—it’s what allows us to achieve it. Joy is the way! And the way to joy is acceptance.
Acceptance will not on its own lead to a more authentic life. We must also be willing to take responsibility. Responsibility is what empowers us to make changes instead of stagnating, instead of acquiescing. Responsibility is what converts our dissatisfaction into self-determined action. When action is intentional rather than reactionary, we shape our future rather than letting people and circumstances shape it for us.
Do you blame others for the way your life has unfolded or is unfolding? Is it the fault of your childhood, or of your spouse, or of your boss, or of the current state of world affairs that you are not happy? Are you giving away your power by seeing yourself as a victim?
The fear of never being in control, of never knowing who or what is going to do something to us next, is a far greater fear than the fear we feel when we take a risk to change. It’s a fear that eats us up from the inside out. It’s a fear that steals our capacity for joy. To become empowered you have to take responsibility for yourself and for the way your life is going. No person or event can determine the shape of your life unless you allow it. You allow it when you choose the safety of powerlessness over the risk of self-determination. The only failure in life is not choosing for yourself how you’re going to live it. Just like acceptance, responsibility is a choice.
When we choose responsibility, a glorious thing happens. We reclaim power over our own lives. We begin to live more purposely rather than operating on auto-pilot. We begin to break old patterns of behavior and to challenge knee jerk reactions. We begin to notice when we’re thinking, feeling or doing something that is harmful to our self-esteem. We stop living life in half measures and it blooms in all its fullness and richness. Most importantly, we begin distinguishing our true desires and needs from the false ones that don’t really serve our higher good.
If you want to take responsibility for your life and get out from under the nagging weight of the victim’s fear, you have to do something that at first seems to go against everything we’ve been taught: you have to become selfish. You have to put your own needs and desires above everyone and everything precisely in order to serve everyone and everything. Selfishness in the highest sense of the word is about being yourself so fully that you can share yourself fully and beautifully with the world. When you dance with the Self joy becomes the primary rhythm of your life.
Simplification is the first step in becoming selfish. Without the time, energy, and freedom to devote to joy you’ll never fulfill your purpose, since joy is the way to find and express it. Joy has a very hard time flourishing in the weed-strewn soil of conformity. In order to become empowered and therefore lead a joyful life, you must pull out those weeds and make space for your soul desires to flourish. It involves ridding yourself of everything and everyone that doesn’t please you or serve you. When you’ve cleared a clean, fertile space in your life you can plant the seeds of your authenticity. You can stop wasting your life force on image making, material consumption, pleasing, and pretense and begin using your life force to cultivate your uniqueness, your genius, and your passion.
Choose to focus on internal rather than external validation. Internal validation means removing the social masks we’ve plastered to our psyches. It means giving up on image making in favor of Self-expansion. It’s exhausting to try to be all things to all people. We were never meant to apply our energy in this scattering way, but to concentrate our energy into the singular expansion of our own genuineness and uniqueness. When you give up the effort of trying to be what society says you should be, you make space for your true gifts and talents to emerge. And it is those gifts and talents that the world needs!
We can’t avoid our healing work. The only way to get past our pain is to go through it. There’s no way to connect with soul until we remove the guilt of being who we are.
To hate ourselves in any form is to blame the Universe for our very nature. That kind of irreverence is the polar opposite of gratitude for life! The soul knows only reverence for life. When we let go of any guilt, pain, anger, or unworthiness that we’re experiencing we open up the channel of effortless being. Universal Energy can flow through and we become the instruments of spirit we were meant to be.
Healing work is about confronting the habits, hurts, and fears that keep us living small, that keep the instrument that is our authentic Self from being played. This confrontation involves a journey to the underworld of the psyche in order to meet the Shadow. This term, coined by the psychologist Carl Jung, sounds dubious, dark, and dangerous; but it only remains so until we shine the light of consciousness upon it.
It helps to be less intimidated by your Shadow if you can understand its intentions. They’re never to harm you, but to protect you. As children we were vulnerable to many circumstances in life that were just too big for us to handle. In childhood, the Shadow was the Guardian, serving to shield us from life’s difficulties, locking away anything too traumatic for our undeveloped psyches to process. It kept our fears and hurts from overwhelming us and rendering us dysfunctional. It also stored away any ideas, talents, and dreams we had that were met with adult disapproval so they could be retrieved at a safer time.
The Guardian becomes the Shadow when we never go back to process all of those fears, hurts, and neglected gifts that it’s still storing away for us. We’re capable of handling all of it. We’re no longer vulnerable children. Once you are ready to face your Shadow, you’ll find that there is nothing there as horrible as you might have imagined. Facing your fears and hurts immediately reduces their power over you. It frees you from the coping mechanisms and avoidance strategies you’ve created that only stunt your growth and diminish the magnificence of your life.
When you allow the fullness of who you are to step into the light, healing happens. The need for escapism, cures, and self-destructive habits diminishes. You stop running and slow down enough to experience the beauty and wonder of living. Silence becomes a friend. In the stillness of self-love, a channel begins to open within you and the energy of your soul begins to flow forth. Then, to increase that flow, you have only to extend that self-love and self-compassion to the world.
Compassion is a profound human emotion. It’s the heart of The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Its literal meaning is “to feel with” or “to feel joined.” Compassion pulls us out of egocentrism, enabling us to experience oneness with another and with all things. This is another facet of authenticity. Authenticity means viewing the world from the soul’s perspective instead of from the limited perspective of the personality. Compassion removes the personality’s false gods of competition, morality and judgment from their thrones. It allows us an expanded view of the world. It lets us see the world as our soul sees it.
Compassion is more than sympathy, even more than empathy. Implicit in sympathy is pity. There’s an underlying assumption that others are helpless to heal themselves or to change their situation. Implicit in this pity is both fear and judgment. We wish to remain removed from another’s suffering. We ruminate in a fear that this could happen to us. We’re really putting ourselves at the center of the suffering and are not fully present to the other. Our energy is directed inward toward protection instead of outward.
Empathy is no better. We place ourselves in another’s shoes instead of extending a vision of the other being in different shoes entirely! We’re still at the center of the suffering and we are still judging the other as incapable. This also means that we’re judging ourselves as incapable. We’re removing the option of choice from life, both for others and for ourselves.
Compassion is the opposite of judgment. Compassion acknowledges the inner strength within each of us. It honors individual and collective choice. Without choice, we remain powerless. Without power, we remain at a distance from our soul. Until we close that distance we cannot fulfill our true purpose. Compassion, then, is about honoring another’s suffering. It’s also about recognizing that their suffering is their passage to growth. Compassion is a choice to view suffering as a universal experience. From this perspective, everything that happens in the world is based on choice and can be viewed from a place of love and trust in each soul’s experience.
When you remember that you’re a nonphysical being having a human experience and not the other way around, you can see all world events as harmless from that higher perspective. This expands the definition of compassion beyond honoring suffering. It’s honoring all experiences, even if they are not the experiences we would choose for others, or for ourselves. We stop trying to change the world and instead start loving it just as it is. This leads to surrender, the final milestone on the path of authenticity.
How can surrender possibly relate to authenticity? We’ve all heard the adage of surrendering to a higher power, of “letting go and letting God.” Wouldn’t this mean giving away our power? And isn’t authenticity about regaining that power instead of giving it away to something outside of ourselves? The key here is to realize that this higher power is not something outside of you, it is within you. You are God in the sense that you are an aspect of everything that God is. God is not some being that created the universe, God is the Universe.
Surrender, then, is not about helplessness and it is not about powerlessness. Surrender is about turning over the driver’s seat of your life to your soul–to the full, intelligent, powerful, creative being that is the true you. It’s about freeing yourself from the manic, reckless driving of your personality that keeps crashing you into one dissatisfying conundrum after another or that keeps speeding you right past all those lovely, magical roadside attractions in its effort to reach some destination that will once and for all bring satisfaction. That final destination doesn’t exist because we never arrive. We are ever-evolving beings!
The higher part of you knows how to create a life ride that is based on maximizing the pleasure of the journey. Life is calm, purposeful, and safe when your soul’s behind the wheel. It’s also exciting, passion-filled, and free! When you let your soul guide you, you surrender to the need to reach any destination, knowing that wherever you are in the moment is one of an infinite number of experiences.
To live authentically, we must surrender our personality’s limited, stubborn, cocky vision. Would you rather see the world from atop an anthill or from atop a mountain? Surrender gives us this broader perspective and allows us to make more informed, intelligent choices. When we allow your eyes to look further we discover more opportunities and options than we could ever have imagined if we’d remained at the anthill level of living, which is where the personality resides. Authenticity is about being a world maker, not a world dweller. Which path will you choose?