Reflections on Authenticity

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Reflections

Authenticity is not unveiled in a swoop of the cape.  That only goes to show the last few days or hours or minutes– whatever the length of time has been since the previous flourish of unveiling– have been inauthentic.  What the flourish reveals is the port of entry to our truth’s harbor.  You enter by submarine.  Your instruments have failed.  The ballast is leaking and the batteries are dead.  The hull is creaking and popping in a very unsettling way, and you settle on the bottom of the harbor on a barge of sand.

(You wait for Hafiz to knock on the air lock!)

Authenticity is what we emerge with.  We need a lifetime to get down to it, and often even the moments of our most uncomfortable vulnerability and of our most passionate honesty are but preludes.  But we can’t know that until we have them.  Without them we would be stuck.  They open the door.

I’m not sure that honesty and authenticity are quite the same, but I think we need a great deal of the former to reveal the latter.  We are not our most authentic when we are chronically lonely, when we are painfully uncertain, when we are angry about a failed relationship or bitter about a recent diagnosis.  We can’t know this until later, though.  I am not saying authenticity cannot peek through at any moment, or even be spurred into revelation by these conditions, but I am saying they are not our most authentic patterns of being.  We have to be honest about this, without shame or blame or denial, in order to make contact with what is authentic within us.  If we want to give it room to grow, we have to give it room to grow.

A day of suspended judgment is a good start.  Then we can be ill and broke and alone and authentic simultaneously.

If what is authentic about us is that we are tarnished, defiled and helpless, then Jesus and the Buddha and many other wise and loving beings have wasted their time.  And I don’t believe that is so.  There may be honesty in admitting we find ourselves in these patterns.  Again.  And again.  But our addictions are not authentic expressions of our given nature.

We can have needs without being perpetually needy.  Our authenticity is a bridge between resource and need.  When we don’t know this we wander impoverished, or we stockpile.

We can fail without being a failure.  Our authenticity is equally revealed in its response to both success and failure, and by that measure cannot differentiate between them.  When we don’t know this we play it safe, hedge our bets, position ourselves strategically, or we fall into the pitfall of taking more credit than is due for the events and conditions of our lives.  By the same means we can succeed without being a success.

We can be honest about our brokenness, and very often this is helpful, but we are not broken so it is important to recognize the gift of the temporary experience of it.  There is some skin to be shed.  Some mask or costume we’re wearing.  Some ideal to which we yet cling.  Something that is not helping.  Authenticity knows how to remove these cloaks, and wash the old wounds gently.

Authenticity knows how to regrow a split tree, to unwind a knot, to mend a heart, to discover a path.  Authenticity knows how to dead-reckon across fields and fields and fields of endless futility, to find the lit house just up ahead.

We can be authentic in our brokenness, and that is in the instant when discover that it need not be.  In discovering this we find we are able to carry the weight of our present.  This is not a show of strength or heroism, but a display of what is true.  Inside of us, in our authenticity, there are legions of possibility and succor.  There are medics, chieftains, informants and counsellors.  There is peace.

Sometimes we use our brokenness as evidence of our failure and compound our difficulty.  But authenticity doesn’t judge.  Authenticity extends a hand.  Authenticity says follow me.  Trust me.  I have done this many times.  Your case is not as special as you think.

When we are authentic we can receive help when it is first needed, rather than when we are forced to submit to a crisis.

When we are authentic we are not telling ourselves how it would be if we were being authentic.  We don’t try to calm seas to prove we have the truth inside us.  We don’t seek for powers or gifts that have not been given.  Nor do we run from the ones that we have.

And when we are inauthentic, it is our honesty that will bring us back.  But it is a special kind of honesty.  It is the kind of honesty that says even though we don’t know how to be authentic, that is okay because we don’t have to know how to be what we already are.  There isn’t really a knowing involved.  We just need to be honest we’ve been living in the dark.  It is the kind of honesty that looks beyond difficulty, keeping the truth in sight.

It is the kind of honesty that refuses to weigh the evidence our pasts have produced against the inevitability of our given nature, but says instead, Yes, these things have been so.  So what.

36 Comments

  1. Authenticity must be playfully comfortable with the stealthy comings and goings and ever-changing faces of bullshit! Peace, joy, and love, friend!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Yes. Authenticity watches it all with out interfering. Unworried and unconcerned. Once in a while raises an eyebrow and starts to offer a calming sentence, but is interrupted by the steamrolling verbosity of the bullshit itself. The bullshit winds itself up, tuckers itself out, falls asleep, and authenticity brings it a blanket.

      Peace and love returned, Dennis!
      Michael

      Liked by 4 people

  2. This is such meaningful writing, Michael. Your insights and talent always amaze me. Actually, to be truly authentic 🙂 I have to say I am envious you can take things apart bone by bone and then let me, ignorant reader, digest all these perfect pieces (Can you tell I had been just easting some fish from the Baltic sea?). But if seriously, really, this is so helpful. We were having a difficult day, three generations of family with many cultural differences, attitudes, wounds, egos and misunderstandings, but reading your words with their magical soothing quality, turned the whole mood around (“Yes, these things have been so. So what.”). So, thank you once again, and bless your most beautiful heart.
    Kristina

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Kristina. I am so glad these thoughts were helpful, and can only imagine the dynamics of three generations gathered together near the Baltic Sea! It can be quite challenging to be with family at times. Quite fun. Quite touching. Quite heartbreaking. Quite fatiguing. Quite beautiful. All of life in a couple of hours! Bless your beautiful heart, too.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is very lovely, Michael, and an important subject too, I feel. When I read your words – “Your case is not as special as you think.” – I was reminded of how so very many of my Buddhist acquaintances felt that their own panoply of suffering was a special case, unique, and not to be fully understood by others. Quite often, it was the alleged subtlety of the suffering that made it so, not some terrible disease or oppression, and thus, of course, this subtle and unique suffering could not be dealt with in Buddhist psychological remedies – the development of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic understanding, and equanimity.* No, my case is so special, and I suffer so uniquely, that much as I would wish it were otherwise, and much as I seek salvation from it, I personally am beyond help, and have the deep humility to admit as much. It is, quite simply, inverted egotism; it is common, and not remotely authentic.

    This quote by Golda Meir, which I came across only the other day on someone’s blog – I think it was the very lovely Val Boyko’s – also came to mind: “Don’t be so humble; you’re not that great.” What a fabulous riposte to the aforementioned inverted egotism and faux-humility!

    * See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html

    Liked by 7 people

  4. This piece spoke to me in the here and now that I find myself in, Michael. Through all of the struggle…or any of the struggle…the thing we can hope most for is that this authenticity is what rises from the ashes. Much love my friend ♡

    Liked by 4 people

    • Well the thing about authenticity Lorrie is that it will rise. It is more a question of when than if, and if we are not careful we can even turn the question of when into a trap. But the authenticity is there, and and always has been! It shines right from you!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 5 people

  5. So many of these healing words I want to tweet, share, and remember!
    “We can fail without being a failure…….we can succeed without being a success.”
    “There is some skin to be shed. Some mask or costume we’re wearing. Some ideal to which we yet cling. Something that is not helping. Authenticity knows how to remove these cloaks, and wash the old wounds gently.”
    “When we are authentic we can receive help when it is first needed, rather than when we are forced to submit to a crisis.”
    Authenticity has been on my mind a lot lately. Thanks for the reinforcements, these blessings which multiply and return to you.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Glad you enjoyed it JoAnna, and thank you for the lovely blessing. And for the reblog, too. Much appreciated. This is something I think about often– too often probably, as thinking has so little to do with it. But trust seems to be a big component. Trust is like a tight rope that spans over the abyss of thinking… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

    • Sometimes when we are tired and frustrated and out of sorts we can become a little callous to the world. It’s not always a pretty scene. But there’s a time and a place for that, and it’s in that little line, So what…, and its best-suited to the moment when the story-keeper taps you on the shoulder and starts in with the BS again… 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  6. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Hey Michael,
    I can’t believe I didn’t see this before! I haven’t had my computer on much lately for various boring reasons.
    Authenticity is what we are born with, then it gets all covered up with the masks and costumes, and when we dig down in there with honesty and courage (not easy), we emerge with Authenticity once again.
    “A day of suspended judgment is a good start. Then we can be ill and broke and alone and authentic simultaneously.” Yup, it’s true – not judging ourselves as well as not judging those people. Just being with what is.
    As we know, “our addictions are not authentic expressions of our given nature.” And “Authenticity knows how to remove these cloaks, and wash the old wounds gently.” I love this line and I love the line you wrote in your comment to Dennis, “The bullshit winds itself up, tuckers itself out, falls asleep, and authenticity brings it a blanket.” The Authentic Self knows how to heal the ego.
    ” Authenticity doesn’t judge. Authenticity extends a hand. Authenticity says follow me. Trust me. I have done this many times. Your case is not as special as you think.” What a beautiful, heartfelt way of saying this!
    And this one! “When we are authentic we are not telling ourselves how it would be if we were being authentic.” Haha! And then,” It is the kind of honesty that says even though we don’t know how to be authentic, that is okay because we don’t have to know how to be what we already are.” Yes!!
    And then the perfect ending, “Yes, these things have been so. So what.”
    Once again, Michael, the way you put words together… It’s like hearing a song that resonates, and thinking, “now why couldn’t I have written that song?” I guess that’s it. They resonate in the heart like a song. And here I’ve done it again – quoted a bunch of your own words back to you. 🙂
    Peace and Authentic Love,
    Mary

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mary! I think when we are inspired and it feels like we could have written something, it’s true. I often marvel at how other writers can say things that give me that feeling, and of course when I think about it, what’s really neat is that it’s about encountering something we already know, but encountering it an authentic way. Isn’t that one of the amazing things that happens in life? We encounter and discover beauty and truth which is always a reflection of what is inside us, but its expressed in a way that is unique. Authentic. When it happens it expands us somehow. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and think you are feeling that reflection of your own beautiful authenticity.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

        Thank you, Michael. 🙂
        Yes, I believe that is true – that when we are inspired by something and feel we could have written it , it is inside of us. I write about the Authentic Self, and how it heals ego a lot, and also about how the world mirrors what is inside of us, and how we express in our own unique way. I write about the truth and beauty within us, and how that is reflected in Nature. I pretty much always agree with what you say. I guess, for me, reading your words, I am always blown away by your talent. Sometimes the way you say things touches my heart so deeply – the art of it. It does expand us somehow, I think, when something dear to our hearts, such as authenticity is expressed in such a beautiful, beautiful way. It’s like…..and I so wish I could explain better, but it’s like being understood in a deep way. It’s validating to hear your wisdom, and have it resonate, but, well like a song or like looking at a beautiful painting that can make me weep. It’s like our hearts merge with your writing, and thus with your heart in a way. Does that make any sense at all? I guess I just mean that your unique way of expressing your heart is just fantastic and I just appreciate you so much!

        Love,
        Mary

        Liked by 1 person

        • I appreciate you very much also, Mary. There is an appreciation that is possible, I think, of the fact that we carry different qualities of the same being in a sense. So that we can at once know and also be illumined by what we are able to share with one another. There is really no need to explain such things! Ha!

          I am very grateful for your presence here and in my life.

          Love
          Michael

          Like

    • Hi Julie,

      I think authenticity includes many forms of response, and that they are tailor made to suit the moment, the relationship, and the need. But we can’t plan them in advance, and they arise spontaneously. There are obviously times when a brusque response may not be the most helpful, and others when it is. In some moments the act of denying what has never truly been can open the door to freedom, but in other moments it can frighten and thus open the door to a cage. Authenticity knows how to navigate these waters I think.

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  7. Dear Michael, authenticity is a word that is showing up for me suddenly very often….I wonder if it might because, locked in my submarine, I decided to Google it and well, you know how it goes, one search leads to another, so perhaps it is me that is simply showing up for authenticity. I am glad you raised authenticity in tandem with honesty because I am not too sure how different the words are, YET.

    What is certainly very powerful is that we can find authenticity in our brokenness, in fact, that is where I find it can flourish as I may feel the hurt that comes with showing up, I will love that person who shows up, we all get a bit bashed up and broken along the way.

    For me, authenticity has become the awareness of that part of me and to love that part and give it a bit of kindness – because there have been times in our lives when we needed it and we didn’t get it.

    The authentic self can do that for the “self”.

    I think, or at least, that’s where I am at right now. I’ll continue to be back for more. 🙂

    Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s lovely, Harlon. You caused me to think of something that I think is worth saying, too, and that is that authenticity does involve a certain showing up. The brokenness gives authenticity a way to emerge from self-concepts and shadows and masks, and so in that way can be good. As I mentioned, it is a good opening, but not something to perhaps be fixated on long term. But to even be broken at all, we have to show up. We have to get into the big bad act of living and have a few encounters– encounters with others, with ourselves– and from that I think new life can emerge…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

    • Whoever it is, it is good, David!
      May we wake together
      in the shelter of our perfect
      and mutual authenticity.

      Like

  8. I like and identify with this on so many levels, and can’t begin to thank you enough for having written it.

    You had me hooked at:

    Authenticity is what we emerge with. We need a lifetime to get down to it, and often even the moments of our most uncomfortable vulnerability and of our most passionate honesty are but preludes. But we can’t know that until we have them. Without them we would be stuck. They open the door.

    I remember my very first blog post, when I felt the vulnerability of putting myself out there. As you say it was just a prelude for what was to come, but such a necessary step!

    And your exploration of honesty versus authenticity I found incredibly eye-opening.

    Thank you Michael, this is a post that will stay with me a while.

    Much love
    Julia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Julia, for taking the time to read and respond. I’m glad you enjoyed this and explored that distinction of honesty and authenticity with me. I hadn’t really planned on that– it just kind of happened as I went with the voice. Then I thought: I sometimes feel as though I’m being honest, but it’s not the full picture… I thought it was an interesting thought to explore.

      I was petrified before my first post. Ha! Amazing how those steps into the light are greeted with such amazing responses… I would do well to remember how this all works… Your presence here is a lovely reminder.

      Much love to you as well.
      Michael

      Like

  9. We are beautifully broken but together in truth we find it was just an image, like a funhouse mirror, we just had to get past the strange sight and realize that “it is us indeed” and the next one, and the next one, till we emerge from the funhouse in the light of day as whole as when we went in. Another beauty Michael, I keep dredging these to my “save for when I have a good amount of time to study it good” moments, I’m glad I did, peace and love, K

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kim. You are to be commended for your persistence! Ha!

      Yes, I agree that together we are given the grace to see what is beyond the image. The funhouse mirror is a perfect description I think. We see all the false versions, distorted reflections of the world around us, and then find being just what we are is perfectly easy, and perfectly beautiful!

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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