I’ve been reading a fantastic book by Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection. She defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” But who are we?
This question seems to be at the heart of a lot of conflicts and suffering. We suffer within because we define ourselves, whether through others’ expectations or through our own, and then we seek to stick firmly to this box we’ve put ourselves in. We suffer with others because we put them in a box (or accept the box they structure for themselves, if we are enlightened) and then try to keep shoving them back in it when they go out of bounds.
So far as I can tell, in observing Nature and myself, we are change. It is the one thing that can consistently define us – there is nothing about us that will remain forever static. Our feelings shift, our thoughts are constantly wandering, and even our bodies are made up of new cells that constantly replace old ones. The world around us changes, too. Existence is change. Even the seemingly stable earth herself, as every Californian knows, is full of moving and shaking.
To be me is to be change. Change happens because the world of nature around me changes. Because there are parts of myself I discover. Because there is an internal drive toward evolution. Because I play with my life as if it is my art. Because I feel another person’s feelings or think their thoughts. Because I get lost for a moment in their eyes. Because I move fluidly back and forth between a sense of expansion and individuality, between unity and emptiness, in the artificial and temporary space between my soul and the soul of another being.
Change can be really hard for oneself and for those around us. We all get used to a person in our life being a certain way – a certain personality, character, behavior, role. If one is sensitive, the combination of all these people’s unconscious expectations can feel like a cage, limiting our capacity to unfold. But really, our own fears of self-possession, self-knowledge, and self-love form the bars and lock on our prison.
If we trust ourselves and our connection to the Divine to bring us through any suffering, any heartache, any loneliness… then we are liberated to explore our full selves, and though it may be painful, it is a gift we give to humanity as a whole and to everyone we touch. Sometimes we fumble through our changes, hurting people along the way, either because we are clumsy with these new parts of ourselves, or because there are parts that are disconnected and broken, or because we haven’t yet figured out how to love our shadow-self and put her in service to our entire being.
But where there is fear, there is always courage. Where there is suffering, there is always love. Where there are mistakes, there is always grace. I am the beloved of the Divine, and so are you. And we are the Divine, made manifest.
To be authentically myself is to be the meeting place of the opposites, the friction, that creates existence. I am where light and dark, creator and destroyer, become lovers. To be authentically myself is to explore myself and my world, to make mistakes, to hurt and be hurt, to love and be loved. To be authentically myself is to be the essence of the Divine, of Nature, expressed through the fleeting moment of one life.