“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.”
~ Pema Chödrön
We hear the term ‘authentic life’ thrown around so much these days that it’s almost become some sort of new-agey jargon, like it’s a happiness destination, a finite point.
When I hear it, my cynical self can’t help but visualize the Oprahs and the Deepaks of the world: pretty and tanned, sparkling teeth, nice shoes. Successful, lovable, spiritual. Media moguls.
Cynical Renée: They’ve got their shit together in a way that I never will. They’ve got it all figured out. I’ll never ‘have’ what people like that have.
Real Renée: No, you won’t. You do (you will) have your own thing, though, and who the f*#&! are you to assume that it is not / will not be just as spectacular?
I’m learning to let my authentic self win these battles more often, but cynical me still butts her head in now and then.
No moment or day, month or year is going to be completely smooth, even when we are doing what we love. But what if we were to practice just noticing the snippets of our lives where we are at our most content, where we feel clear and easy?
I really believe that noticing these moments is key to creating the space to allow more of them to flow in.
The more we acknowledge these moments, the more capacity we have to manage the less pleasant stuff in life in healthier ways.
Cultivating awareness allows us to bloom, and this takes time. I have plenty of days where I struggle with this. But here are some things that I’ve been mindful of lately:
1. Noticing when I feel that I need less (fill in the blank with a favorite vice).
We might just notice that we want a thing, and then figure out why.
Then we can notice how we are okay without actually having the thing.
Then at some point we will notice that we can still feel good whole (good, real, full) without the thing. And then maybe we stop wanting the thing all together, or maybe we still do it sometimes but it becomes a treat rather than a crutch.
The key here might be culling the moments of malcontent and boredom.
2. Days when I wake up feeling good.
When I do feel good in the mornings, why? Even if I’m achey or groggy, maybe I just don’t feel stressed out because I have an hour to sit and sip the peppermint tea that my body so madly craves instead of shoving three cups of coffee down my throat only to sit in an uncomfortable chair under blinding fluorescent lights at work.
This morning I craved soft boiled eggs with sourdough toast (cut into ‘soldiers’) covered in butter, orange pekoe tea and a mango. Did I actually have that? No. But I paid enough attention to that want that I’m going to make it happen more often.
3. The absurdity of looking forward.
Call me idealistic/pretentious (I fully admit that I can be both), but lately at work conversations about weekends kind of bother me.
The reason is this: it is so normal to accept these little snippets of ‘free’ time, to look forward to this, that we forget about now. What if, instead of looking forward to the weekend, we actually were just making the most of the present?
I don’t know, Just pointing it out.
4. When I (fill in the blank with a simple and healthy thing) more easily.
Yeah, that’s right, fill in the blank: breathe, smile, move, engage.
5. When money feels like a flowing thing rather than a block.
Money is a struggle for all of us, in one form or another. It’s hard and I don’t believe it’s easy to get around the issues that we have with it.
But there are some moments that I think about it differently. For instance I might say ‘wow, I have $100,’ instead of ‘I only have $100.’ There are behavioural changes that must follow that in order to feel like money is more abundant or flowing.
This concept of financial security: is it all in our heads?
6. When I don’t lie.
I am generally honest to a fault by nature. But when I mention not lying I mean not lying to myself.
I know what is best for me and more and more I just do it, without asking permission, apologizing, explaining or feeling guilty.
7. When I feel more (don’t fill in the blank).
I mean, I just feel more of everything.
At work, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to feel. Most other times, I feel like I’m allowed to feel. Not dump all over everyone, just be completely honest and open about where I’m at.
That’s pretty much it.
The concept of authentic living doesn’t mean that we are always happy. It means that we are able to feel and process the full range of emotions and you (are learning to) do this in an appropriate way. This takes time and patience and tons of unlearning.
As each day brings us closer to our last, I feel more scared of not fulfilling my purpose than I am about doing it.
We may not all have the capacity (or will or ability) to quit our day jobs and move to France tomorrow, but we can take baby steps. Then take the leap when the time feels right.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise