Who are you? Are you defined by your ever-changing body? By fleeting identities and transient relationships? Do your career shifts or the fluctuating balance of your bank account encapsulate your essence? Ancient wisdom suggests that if something is mutable, it cannot represent your true self; what’s in constant flux is merely an illusion. Your true identity, therefore, lies in what remains timeless within you.
Yes, there’s truth in this perspective, yet it’s also world-denying. And thinking life isn’t real isn’t a very helpful in creating the best human experience possible.
When we come into a body, we are both our unchanging eternal essence AND a changeling, an ephemeral human being.
In this short life, we have choices to make about how we want to live. To what extent do you follow societal norms, or to be more genuine and less patterned, to radiate the distinct divine light only you possess, to give your unique gifts and follow your unique dharma, aligned with the true self instead of others’ expectations. In other words, to live in authenticity.
One of the earliest thinkers to write about genuine authenticity was 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He spoke of the importance of not conforming to the majority opinion, and was skeptical of “the crowd” (which he saw as a force that depersonalizes and draws people away from a true understanding of themselves). Kierkegaard even traced human despair to not recognizing or aligning with one’s true self.
An authentic life is rooted in self-awareness, where one understands their own desires, values, strengths, weaknesses, passions, and beliefs. It emphasizes honesty, which involves being truthful with oneself and others, even when it’s challenging. Integrity (in the sense of integer or wholeness) is key, where we act in harmony with our beliefs and values. An authentic life is a present life, engaged wholeheartedly with the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or fretting about the future. In an authentically lived life, we pursue what we genuinely love and are connected to, and we take responsibility for our actions and recognize our personal agency.
Authenticity values true relationships, giving precedence to deep, genuine connections over fleeting ones: the kind where we are real, to show vulnerability, and emotion, and let others see who we really are. This way you get real friendships is to base them on your true values and real self presentation.
For me, way to know what is authentic is to get very quiet and listen to my innermost heart. To be in a continual interoception- to feel your own body’s cues. Is this good for me? Do I want more of this, or less?
For many, meditation serves as a profound pathway to authenticity, offering the quiet space to turn inwards and confront the layers of self-constructed narratives and external influences. By regularly practicing mindfulness and deep introspection, we can strip away superficial identities, beliefs, and societal pressures that often obscure the true self. Meditation cultivates a deeper connection to one’s core, revealing a more genuine and authentic understanding of oneself and one’s place in the world. Art can also be a profound gateway to authenticity. Through creative expression, we access and convey our deepest emotions and beliefs, and reveal our most genuine selves. Or try doing both together: meditative artistic journaling, and see what emerges. This is a harmonious blend of introspection and creative self-expression. Gather your supplies and set a place to work, and then set an intention or emotion you wish to explore or express, even if it’s just a vague sense. Whether through freewriting (letting any thoughts or feelings flow uninhibited onto the page) or visual expression (allowing your intuition to guide you into drawings, doodles, or paintings), just let it out. When you feel complete, go back to your initial intention and look at the work through those eyes, observing it without judgment, letting the artwork communicate back to you.
I have a thousand thoughts on finding your yes, your flow, your dharma and your authenticity. Some of them are in The Nine Gifts, some are in Reverence, it’s why we offer journals, it’s why I believe in plant medicine and plant allies to help shake us from our patterns, and it’s part of the podcast.
To your most authentic self expression, your own one true light shining, your whole life long.