“Staying Authentic” by Alicia Patterson

Being “spiritually minded” has so many different definitions these days.  Some preach about a spiritual practice and may not be fully living it with their actions and life choices.  Perhaps they look the part, but it doesn’t always mean they’re living in truth.  A common theme discussed by those in the spiritual realm is that difficulties arise when we are very open and constantly encounter different types of energies and experiences.  Going through the motions of life is much easier when emotions are closed off or numbed.   We all know those whom are always calm, all the time…even in crisis.  One might wonder how they do it.  Are they covering their emotions (consciously or without knowing)?  The outcome of the situation is usually the same either way.  What we don’t know is what those covered emotions does to their being.  What happens to them on the inside when they hold it in?

There are those whom are reactive and explosive to everything.  The slightest challenge (perhaps one that is a mere annoyance to others) can cause a disturbance.  These kinds of emotions are so fragile.  To observe from the outside is kind of like the train wreck phenomenon…no one really wants to watch yet we cannot look away.  This is because when we see others expressing themselves (even if it is in a way we see as negative), we are in awe at their ability to do so.  It reminds us of the reality of emotion.  The lesson is available when one can observe this kind of emotion from the inside during the actual experience.  When we can learn how to see these reactions coming, we can learn how to monitor them so they are more easily detected.  Simply because we see these emotions within ourselves doesn’t mean we have to react or respond to them.

Trungpa suggests that true compassion is not making everything sweet, but to be authentic.  To be in truth and authenticity all the time can appear harsh, but the opportunity to grow and learn comes from truth.  This space comes when we show others our real self, and give them the room to experience theirs.  This allows everyone the space to grow.  As we do so, we may get burned.  When we are open, just because we don’t intend on harming others, does not mean that others have no intention of harming us.  We sit back and take it in stride, all the while attempting to keep our cool, right?

A very wise woman told me once: “Some people hide in their darkness, and some hide in their light.”  Many of us have been through the phase where everything in life is beautiful and wonderful (maybe even sugar-coated?)  How lovely it is to be on a mindfulness or yoga retreat where everything is clean, people are full of love, and there are no clocks or places to be.  Yet, that’s not the real world most of us know.  Life’s lesson is to see how we react when we step out onto the street and spill our coffee or get bumped into by that stranger who is walking just a little too fast on their cell phone.  Sometimes we hide in our darkness as well; it’s all we can do.

What we really want is to see things as they are without a tinted lens.  Outside of a controlled spiritual practice such as meditation, yoga, dance, chanting, martial arts, etc. one can practice constant mindfulness.  Mindfulness changes form as we grow, as all things do.

Helpful thoughts and reminders are (but not limited to):

  • When a person or experience comes in front of you, it is your attraction.  There is a reason it is there and so we can learn from it.
  • Whether it is a positive or challenging experience makes no difference.  Notice the emotion that is tied into the experience, where does it go in the body?
  • How does your mind react?
  • How far into the mental story do you go before you realize that this experience may be insignificant in the grand scheme of your life?
  • How often do you tell yourself something that you wish you were or could do, but never take the steps to do it?  When you see someone else in front of you do it, how does it make you feel?
  • How do you react to criticism?
  • What is your knee jerk reaction to situations in life? (positive, challenging, physically and mentally challenging or stimulating, stress, confrontation, judgment, family or love conflicts etc.)
  • What REALLY matters to you?
  • What makes you feel energized and free?
  • What brings about positive reactions from you?
  • At what times do you feel more prone to control, be lazy, engage in harmful addictions, distract yourself or procrastinate?

All of these awareness exercises can serve as a guide to begin noticing patterns we fall into. Every person has a different patterns based upon their ideals.  When we are more present and in tune with who we are and who we want to be for the world, those whom we come into contact with will benefit.  This process trickles out through our families, communities, and beyond.

Some say the purpose of life is to open one self to all that is.  We hope that what we experience is full of love, but we accept it is not always so.  We embrace the parts of life that involves suffering.  We open our arms to invite darkness in, knowing it too will pass.  There is no wishing, there is only what is.  What is will be, until it is not anymore, and so the cycle of life continues. Where do we come from, and where do we go?  No one really knows, and isn’t that the wonder of it all?  Who would REALLY want to know all there is to know, what else would there be left for us to discover and learn.

Some suggested reading is:

  • Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa
  • Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
  • The Big Questions by Lama Surya Das

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