Being Authentic

At Unity of Independence this Sunday, our teen ministry had the chance to lead the worship service – and they were great! They gave a wonderful presentation entitled “The Masks We Wear,” a metaphysical interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland” that encouraged us all to be aware of the way we show up in the world. I was inspired not only by the message, but especially by their courage in stepping up and taking charge.

Now I have spoken on this subject before and probably will again, so please forgive me any repetition. But there is so much to say on this topic! Not just Sunday talks but nearly all of the experiences of my life seem to point back to this Truth: that there is untold power in just being yourself and being authentic in all that you do.

From day to day, moment to moment, we are called upon to play so many different roles. We behave one way at work and another way at home; we are one way with our family and quite another with our friends. Each person and each situation calls forth a different response from us, a different aspect of our personality.

So as we go about the business of life, adapting to the demands of each moment, how do we stay true to ourselves amidst constant change? Which one of the roles that you play is the “real you?” What is the sense of “I” and “me” that seems to stay the same throughout it all?

Well, there is only one Self, the great I AM, the Spirit of the universe; that is the True Self of each and every one of us. Beneath the personality, underlying all our ideas of who and what we are, Spirit is our true nature – formless and ineffable. The Buddha referred to this mysterious aspect of Spirit when he called our true nature emptiness. So if our true nature is formless and “empty,” what does it mean to be yourself?

What if there is no “I” or “me” that is separate from the world around us? What if the masks that we wear and the roles that we play are the truth of us, in that moment? What if the ways that we interact with others, our roles and relationships, are the ways that formless Spirit expresses itself, in this world of form?

What if we could give ourselves completely to the present moment, whatever the situation might be? What if we could forget about who we have been, and who we think we are, and just let ourselves be what we are called to be?

I have found this to be the essence of authenticity – to surrender myself wholly to whatever it is I might be doing, to whatever role I might be playing.

I have always been an introvert, given to solitude and contemplation – maybe even a bit withdrawn. But life has called me to be a son, a father, a brother, a friend, and often a counselor, or a teacher, a performer, etc. Now I don’t always feel like any of these things. Often I feel more like an observer, an outsider. Often I would just as soon be left alone.

But when I accept what life has to offer me, and give myself to the opportunities and the people in front of me, then something magic happens! If I forget about myself and just surrender to the moment, I find within me whatever is needed to meet the needs of that moment. I find the patience and the wisdom to be a good listener, and to say the right words. I find that I am a good friend, or counselor, or whatever it is I need to be (and when the occasion calls for it, I can put on a damn good show!).

My point is this: we are not separate from what we experience. We are what we choose to be, and we are capable of doing all that we decide to do. To be authentic simply means to commit to our decisions, our relationships, our lives – to abandon ourselves fully to the roles that we play. So don’t limit yourself! Forget “I don’t… I can’t… I don’t know how…” and seize the opportunities in your life! Don’t approach the challenges of your life half-heartedly, and with hesitation – but give yourself entirely, and courageously, to all that you say and do. For as a wise man once said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”

Thanks for reading!

~ Ben

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