The Courage To Be Authentic

 *First posted on www.artofdharma.com , Written by Claire Spencer, Edited by Omatara James

One of my favourite quotes in the world (yes I mean the whole world) is from the great Buddhist Teacher and Scholar, Chogyam Trungpa.

Photo: vmburkhardt.tumblr.com

The Courage to Be Authentic

Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.

Let me precursor any musings I present on this quote with one simple fact; I am no Buddhist Scholar :) This quote just resonates with me on so many levels, because I feel that at some point in our lives, we stop fighting our raw and beautiful heart, but embrace it with a genuine acceptance.

Anyone out there on the path, doing the tough “internal work” will tell you that genuine acceptance, and the practice to get you there, will include experiences of genuine fear and discomfort. Why?

Well, as Chogyam Trungpa says, a willingness “to open up” suggests a not only vulnerability, but also an authenticity about who we are. Although simple, this is not easy. Again, this is not easy. Many of us are taught to “fragment ourselves” from a very young age. We learn from example, to be more sensitive to the images and ideologies of our cultural norms than to our own breath. We are taught to follow the societal expectations of our environment.

We observe that the work world has different rules from those of the home: which differ from those of our friends, which differ from the regulations of traveling abroad or even just to the supermarket. I’m not saying this is a bad thing necessarily, the old adage “a time and place for everything” is tried and true. However, what I am saying, is that we learn the fine art of masking our authentic self from a very young age.

Transparency is a lost art in a society that values conformity. We learn over time to build walls and moats around our hearts, in essence, to protect ourselves from any judgement and/or hurt. Over time, these walls not only work hard to keep the unknown out, but they work equally hard to keep us within them. We become opaque to our very selves.

It becomes harder and harder to stand in front of someone with an open, unbiased and non-judging heart. Yet, we yearn for that genuine warmth and connectedness from others, so, how do we undo this and start from a space of openness and trust?

I remember a teacher of mine telling me: “Claire it’s taken you nearly 30 years to learn this kind of personal distrust, it’s going to take the same time to unlearn it…”

What did he mean by personal distrust? At the time, I perceived this as the feeling that I wasn’t quite “up to it,” or “good enough,” or even “sure of myself.” As a result, I avoided looking deeper. At this stage in my journey, the idea that I could look into myself and see something perfect or close to perfect felt wrong, impossible even. An idea like that could only serve to undermine a world I dedicated so much of my consciousness to creating. In fact, such a notion might unravel the universe as I knew it.

If we’re truly deserving, and okay, if we’re truly perfection cloaked under all of this delusion, grasping and ego, then why are we doing what we’re doing? Why can’t we just be?

You see, the path to the authentic self can be “shattering” for a while. Shattering. When we begin to question our masks, our fragments, our perceptions and concepts of self, then the familiar self feels less like home and more like another place with more questions! (Such is the joy of a philosophical and spiritual pursuit!)

How then, do we come to land in a space where we are true both to ourselves and to our environment? How do we arrive at a place where our words and actions embody our practice? How do we align our body, mind and actions to be the truest representation of who we are?

The quick answer is that there is no quick fix.

In Tibetan Buddhism, we believe that this journey is guided by an Authentic Teacher. Whether you follow Buddhism or not, it’s a daily practice to rewire our thinking, to relearn ourselves, to open ourselves, and then to forget it all and start again.

The idea of “self” is shifting and if you’re from a Buddhist perspective, it’s not even really there! Therefore, the only way to be your authentic self all the time, is to try to be authentic in each moment. Again, be authentic in each moment.

We try to practice mindfulness, acceptance, tolerance and gratitude underpinned with a generous dose of love and compassion, for ourselves, and for others.

We are relentless in our journey. To become authentic is to try and try again, to stand up, fall down, to brush yourself off, laughing at the absurdity of it all and to start each day with a softness knowing we have to try it all again.

This is the “fearlessness” Trungpa speaks of: the brave heart of a warrior in battle with ourselves! I’m know I’m waging a war each day with myself, quietly storming the barriers I build, tearing them down. It’s hard, but so worth it!

This week I have a personal mantra for you, something inspired by this courageous journey. Each morning, as you wake, take a deep breath and read this message:

This is a note to our busy self, our frantic and unrelenting self, our self full of doubts and dreams, of ups and downs.

This is a reminder to the kid inside that still kicks leaves and giggles at “inappropriate” times, to stay strong and never lose that twinkle of joy at seemingly simple things.

This is the warm knowing smile to our adult self and a generous embrace at the end of a long day, saying: “You know what— I’m more than okay, I’m great…”

This is a morning salutation, whispered as the sun slowly rises and the dew melts away exposing a brilliant brand new day full of possibilities to be happy and give happiness.

This is your reminder to BE.

I wish you great courage on your spiritual journey, and feel so very privileged to be able to share mine with you. Thank you!

Please feel free to share any insights you have on this topic; you never know, your words may just change someone’s day for the better :) !

*For more articles like these, check out Art of Dharma

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