“The thing that is really hard and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen
1.) Relationship with Self:
Authentic engagement begins first and foremost with self-worth. We’ve all been in those funks where we wonder why we feel so hollow, so black-and-white, so humdrum and boring, like all joy has been squeezed out of us. Somewhere between playful-child and responsible-adult we abandoned our self-worth. It’s time we got it back.
Underneath all our layers, our holdouts, our thrashing about, our tossing and turning through a life half-lived, lies something magnificent and breathtakingly original, something profoundly alive just bursting with creativity. It’s our self-worth scratching at the cave walls we’ve left it in.
Reactivating self-worth leads to self-forgiveness which leads to self-love. And then we truly free ourselves to live a life of ecstatic abandon and joyful authenticity. Fate is just waiting for us to allow ourselves to be worthy. Destiny is calling our name, longing for us to heed the call of our own Hero’s Journey.
2.) Relationship with Other:
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people the right to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others” – Marianne Williamson
We are built for individual communion (We), not isolated individuality (Me). We can find temporarily solace in solitude, or get away from the rat-race to meditate, or lock ourselves up in our room to allow for creative incubation. But our efforts will be fruitless if we don’t eventually relate to, and engage with, our fellow humans. We are social creatures, after all. We need each other, like a mirror needs something to reflect.
Authentic engagement with others is about finding someone, or a group of people, who inspire us. Whose purpose we’re aligned with, and who, through an exchange of passion and aliveness, cause us to become more passionate and alive. Someone who inspires us to be the best possible version of ourselves, and makes us feel like anything is possible.
When we want others to become more conscious of their lives, it is both in order not to become tyrants ourselves, and in order that new possibilities might be opened to the liberated conscious of others and through them to all humankind. Like Simone De Beauvoir wrote, “To want existence, to want to disclose the world, and to want men to be free are one and the same will.”
3.) Relationship with World:
“You knock at the door of Reality. You shake your thought wings, loosen your shoulders, and open.” – Rumi
In a world where people are divided by sex, race, religion, patriotism, nationality, bipartisanship, and so-called borders, we need more people who are genuine with others and perspicuous with the way the world actually works, despite all the labels and cartoon-in-the-brain rhetoric. We need people who are not bound by any specific creed, nation or state, but who subsumes them all and are free to create and destroy the many symbols and ideas that float around them, while moving freely and open-mindedly through their social environment.
If we would be authentic with our world we should be as resourceful and multi-layered as possible, cultivating a Renaissance spirit. The more abundant our intent, the more epic our presence will be. The more universal our love, the more authentic our journey will be. We live in a melting pot of various cultures. Tolerance and respect go a long way. Open-mindedness to the world’s diversity of culture and ecology bolsters our authenticity while making it more likely that we will be able to adapt and overcome to whatever life throws at us.
Honest creative expression bridges the gap between Self and World. When we create from the depths of our soul for the ultimate benefit of the world, we are doing what we were born to do, what the universe designed us for: to bestow a gift that only we can give. When we take on this role we are all at once the preeminent catalyst, the impossible bridge, and the primordial womb. We are creating diversity and bringing tonality to an otherwise atonal world.
4.) Relationship with Mystery:
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell others.” – Mary Oliver
Stay ambitious. Stay foolish. Stay enchanted. But most of all, share your Awe.
The universe is a devastatingly mysterious place. The fact that we can even remotely understand it is mind-boggling. We: the improbable progeny of the human race; We: the implausible descendant of the naked ape. As we blot out the sun with our impossible opposable thumbs, as our souls are torn between being both an animal and a god, we feel the gravity of the earth tug at our feet while the cataclysmic unpredictability of the universe threatens to destroy us.
How is it possible that we are possible? How can we not be daily astonished by the perplexing improbability of our own being, let alone our ability to question it? Perhaps part of any awakening into authentic engagement is realizing that there is much more that is possible than impossible.
And yet life is far too important to take it seriously, and too serious not to be sincere. Sometimes the most sincere thing we can do is laugh – joyous laughter, like a riot in the heart; the kind of laughter that shatters the glass house of our insecurities and launches us into a higher state of awareness. That propels us into a higher state of awe, where what we don’t know trumps what we know and we are truly free to be curious and creative.
That place where we are free to devote ourselves to the riddle of the human condition and to contribute our own verse to the mighty orchestra of the human leitmotif. That place where we are intermittently self and other, tribe and culture, human and animal, earth and cosmos.