Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Authenticity and No Self

Bonnie, over at Original Art Studio (link at right or right here) got me thinking about authenticity as a blogger. I left a comment there that developed into this post below. Thanks, Bonnie!!

What (who?) is my real, authentic self?

I ask myself that question as a husband, a father, a friend, a kindergarten teacher and as a blogger, too.

The answer is the same for all my “selves.”

I'm most authentic when I don't wish to take back my words, or to undo what I’ve done.

Many times I have heard someone say something mean or hurtful, followed, eventually, by a recantation like, "I’m sorry. I didn't really mean the hurtful words I said."

I've done this myself.

How authentic were my mean words? How authentic was my apology? Just wondering.

From a Buddhist point of view there is no "self." Seen from this very helpful perspective, the issue of authenticity shifts, lightens up, and even disappears, sort of.

Sort of, because I've learned—the hard way—to force myself to become familiar, even friendly with, my "shadow side,” the dark, negative, angry, sad, and scary realms within. Darkness doesn’t like being lit up with mindfulness. Fear, anger, sadness—they don't like being lived with, looked at, tolerated, accepted. They lose their power when I'm able to sit with them. Poor babies. Poor monsters under my bed.

So the question remains. Given my multifaceted "self," what facets do I want to display to my family, to my friends in real life, to my readers in blogland and to my students in kindergarten?

Maybe karmically that is the key question for me: What sort of person do I wish to be as I stand up in kindergarten as a teacher of very young and very impressionable children?

That's easy. I wish to share the positive, uplifting, optimistic facets. These facets are solidly genuine, really authentic, and surely worthy of sharing. And they’re the facets of me I wish to cultivate.

I’ll look under my bed in private.


The Pollinatrix said...

My futon mattress is directly on the floor, so the monsters under my bed are microscopic. But like bacteria or a virus, they can still be pretty powerful.

But you're so right about sitting with them. Last night I was watching an Eckhart Tolle video and he was talking about that very same thing, about saying Yes to our Nos. I'm learning to do this, and it's amazing how quickly the No becomes a Yes when I say Yes to it.

Reya Mellicker said...

One of my great teachers used to say that this world would be so different if people examined their own motivations before opening their mouths. Maybe the words we use in anger or haste don't reflect the truth, but they do reflect an emotion that is bursting to get out of us.

One thing I wonder about is, what is INauthentic. It all seems real to me.

Great topic! Thanks to you and to Bonnie.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Polli—

As you point out, those little fears and angers that are so small as to escape our notice those guys, like viruses, can be the ones to really lay us low, put us out, or even kill us. Luckily, they swell up and come to the table of awareness when invited to the meal.

The process of saying Yes to our Nos must be done very carefully and with wisdom.

There are many Nos which we want to lull back to sleep peacefully in the subconscious mind. Watering the seeds of unhappiness is a really ill-advised idea.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Reya, thank you for your comment and question. In a moment of anger, fear, sadness, or what have you, those emotions are real, are authentic. I agree, anger (for example) seems real--is real--in the moment it arises.

Nothing unreal about anger! But as your teacher pointed out, it is wise, really wise, to think about what you wish to do about that anger.

The first thing or fifty things that come to mind will probably be revised within one minute. So, those 60 seconds might save YEARS of regret and work later on undoing whatever it was you might have done upon first angry impulse.

There's over 2 million people in prison right now in our "fine," "fair," "free" country. I would guess there are many among them who might speak more eloquently and convincingly on this topic than I can.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Thanks Dan! I agree, we have to be careful not to use authenticity as some sort of tacit permission to verbally embarrass or abuse others.
We need to be authentic AND compassionate AND appropriate in the context in which we find ourselves.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Bonnie. Yes! I happened to grow up in Palo Alto CA, around people influenced by Fritz Perls and his friends at Esalen Institute back in the 60's. The idea was that being authentic was the only thing that really mattered. Oh my! So many people's lives got badly banged up. Some very brutal things were said. Psychodramas, I think they called them. Lotsa hurting.

Alden Smith said...

The self is a vexed and problematic concept. I always think that who I am and what I project to the world is always changing. To be authentic in revealing who I am I think I have to accept that at times my nature will be both positive and negative - why? because this is the reality of engaging with the Shadow. To engage with the shadow is to come to terms with the negative, destructive side of our nature. We deal in a healthy way with the Shadow if we accept it, try and make friends with it (not indulge its destructive side) thus acknowledging it, taking responsibility for it and integrating into our larger selves. By doing this we cease to project the shadow side of our nature on to other people and the world at large. --- That of course is the Jungian concept of dealing with the Shadow - In the course of this life times work I think we have to accept that a lot of time we are not going to be saints, we are going to be human - human beings on a voyage towards growing our true selves. Its the process Jung called Individuation. -- There ends the sermon. :-)

Dan Gurney said...

Well said, Alden.

Von said...

Thanks for a great post!

Stream Source said...

If I'm authentic, then I am passionate and compassionate. I am confident and fearless.

Blessings to you and your friends, Dan ~

Dan Gurney said...

Von, you're welcome. I'm happy you enjoyed it.

Dan Gurney said...

Stream Source, I like that. Thank you.

jeanne leigh said...

I have just found your blog from Humbleuker's blogs he follows. I love what you are doing here. I attended a retreat "Living Buddha,Living Christ" a few weeks ago that has and is deeply affecting my life. I am just beginning to learn of the practice of mindfulness. This has been a missing piece of my spirituality. I want to learn all that I can about this and apply it to my life. I know I will be reading a lot of your posts here as time allows. Thank you for writing this blog. I think it is going to be very helpful. Peace, Jeanne Leigh

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Jeanne,

Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment here. I am happy to know you've found something of value here. I wish for you every success with your cultivation of mindfulness.