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On Authenticity

It’s worth starting out by saying that this post may be a little rough around the edges. You see, with my husband away on a 3-month retreat at Deer Park Monastery, I am missing my counterpart to talk through such Dharmic ponderings with. Sooo, I’m fixing on using this post as a stand-in :)

This morning, as part of a practice I call Mindful Morning Saturdays, I watched a portion of a Dharma talk by Sister Lang Nghiem, given recently at Plum Village centered around the 8th, 9th, and 10th Mindfulness Trainings. In it, she spoke about authenticity. She said: according to the Buddha, every moment, we are already our true self.

“Every moment, we are manifesting the totality of our self; the totality of our seeds; the sum of our habit energies. So there is no authentic self you need to be true to. Every moment, you are already your true self. This is a very important teaching to understand.” – Sister Lang Nghiem

My first reaction that popped up in the wake of her talking about how there isn’t really such a thing as authenticity, was: Oh, I super don’t agree with that. And as I talk regularly to myself, I even said it aloud. Of course there’s a difference between someone who is being authentic and someone who isn’t, I thought. You can always tell when someone is being real with you and when they’re not.

As she continued, I understood a little more about the teaching she was offering and it made a bit more sense. However, I was left wondering if perhaps there are two ways of addressing such a dynamic question as to whether authenticity exists: from the ultimate dimension perspective and from the historical dimension perspective.

Here’s what I’m thinking. From the lens of the ultimate dimension: yes, we are always manifesting who we are; we are authentic to who we are based on the fact that we are alive and a collection of causes, conditions, our ancestors, and our experiences. From the lens of the historical dimension: there are clearly more authentic people operating around us than others; those who have the ability to integrate their internal landscape with their external actions and speech and have them in alignment with each other.

In my google search for “authenticity images” I came across this:

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I Think We’ve Got It Backwards

Okay. So, what I’m about to post here has taken me almost a year to flesh out and wrap my brain around. Here goes.

In our Buddhist practice tradition, we have this teaching: This is because that is. Short-handing it, it means: Everything happens for a reason, based on a myriad of causes and conditions. On a similar note, I see as though we have two large components of life backwards, and one leads to the other.

The first thing we commonly have backwards:

A) We often see and regard ourselves as being separate/independent/unique in times when we would do well to strengthen our ability to look with the eyes of interbeing and get in touch with our similarities, shared humanity, and true sense of connection.

and

B) We often see and regard ourselves as being the same in times when we would do well to cultivate a deeper understanding of our individuality.

___________

And because of this first thing we commonly have backwards, it leads to this second thing we commonly have backwards:

C) We try to lone-wolf it in times when we would do well to lean on our loved ones for care, support, and nourishment.

and

D) We rely on others in times when we would do well to cultivate and/or strengthen our sovereignty.

__________

So, D is because of B and C is because of A. This is because that is.

I realize this might be confusing, like I said: it’s taken me a year to flesh this out. Here are some practical examples that will hopefully help a bit (with corresponding letters that match with the points above):

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Not A Pretty Girl

Inspired by an Ani Difranco song that I’ve refashioned and have been playing & singing lately on the guitar, here are some of the ways my “I am not a pretty girl, that is not what I do” expresses itself:

I wear the same basic outfit every day: brown pants/green shirt; my idea of hair care involves washing it 2-3 times a week (no cutting, styling, dying, or whatever else-ing most women tend to do); I wouldn’t know how to apply makeup even if I had it; the few pieces of jewelry I own were given to me by well-intentioned people who don’t know me well enough to know I will never wear it; when I’m in a bar to hear music, I’m the girl armed with a pocket notebook and pen jotting down observational notes; I own 3 pairs of shoes: crocs, snow boots, and motorcycle boots; I’m not interested in mirroring my moves on the dance floor so as to best maintain the reflection of a sex-object; and I am not beholden to self-validation and worth (as I was when I was young) through the ability to attract a guy (or 2 or 3 or 12) – I reserve that dignity to be procured from my own well of self.

 
 

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Whether I Like It Or Not

I am currently doing the work of reconciling with the uncomfortable truth that many people are intimidated by how I show up. And many people misperceive what I do and say, based on their own insecurities and baggage.

I am doing the work of bearing the fruits of understanding that I am different in many ways from most of the people I am acquainted with.

My devotion to a spiritual path differentiates me from most people. My commitment to cultivating skillfulness is relatively unsurpassed by those most commonly in my midst. My values, ethics, and codes of conduct are more honed and far less wavering. And it all creates a divide, whether I like it or not.

I am challenged with how to express this to the people in my circle, as I imagine most would hear this and think that I am full of myself, but that is not what’s going on here.

Simply stated, I am now coming to terms with the reality I feared unfolding a few years ago, when I stepped on the path of making a conscious effort to stop dimming my light – I am outshining others and finding that I am in a league of my own.

_______

Food for personal thought:

Maybe it’s not that I need to find others who can keep up with me, maybe it’s that I need to be more accepting of the fact that I am leading the way.

What do I see as the difference between self-confidence and ego?

What do I see as the difference between being self-possessed vs being cocky?

 

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On Solitude

Pic taken during my one-week solo stay at the Mission Lookout Tower, May 2018

 

There are at least two kinds of solitude: one we experience when we are by ourselves alone and the other we can experience when we are in the midst of others.

There is a kind of solitude, which is spoken to in the sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone, that can be carried within us wherever we go. It involves an ability to live in the present moment, free of worry, stress, anxiety, craving, and attachment.

Just because we may live alone doesn’t mean we know how to be alone. And just because we have house mates doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate the art of solitude.

It’s good to mention too, that there is a solitude born from isolation and separation and a solitude born from a deep sense of interbeing and re-connection with one self – and they are not at all the same thing. Using the Eightfold Path as a guide, we could say there is Solitude and then there is Right Solitude.

Additionally, solitude as a power or virtue is all of the following: drastically undervalued, super misunderstood, and detrimentally romanticized.

Ah, the inner stirrings of a writer on solitude.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2019 in writer's life

 

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Those Who Know Me Well

Those who know me well, know that I have a knack for naming inanimate objects and other things you don’t typically give names to. They know I’m an expert in collecting indoor bugs, which I then set free outside. They know I’m a sucker for babies and that no matter how pressed for time I might be, I will assuredly stop and crouch down to pet a dog. 

They know my rock star husband is Macklemore but not because he’s my type – which he’s not – but because of his lyrics, charisma, and smile. They know, too, that it would NEVER work out between us, which is totally true. They know that my vocal stylings are formed heavily by having listened to a lot of Tori Amos and Ani Difranco in my formative years, and that I have a secret calling to be a traveling musician in a band with a tour bus and a new stage to play on every night.

They know I have a special affection for crows and ravens and that my affinity for trees likely influenced my wearing of the same matching color scheme of clothes every day. They know I don’t wear underwear, except for those days when it’s impossible not to, and they know I don’t do anything with my hair other than wash it, brush it, and clip it back with something – no trimming, cutting, styling, primping, or dying.

They know I write a whole lot more than I talk and I don’t tend to give advice unless it’s asked for and they know that if I’m in town and not at meditation on a Monday night it means there’s something wrong.

They know that my high rate of organization and efficiency rubs a lot of people the wrong way and that it’s difficult for me to forge close friendships in part because of how often they’re intimidated by me – and they know that makes me sad.

They know I live with a lotta heart and joy to be alive and an uncommon fortitude of intention.

They know that I know that I’m a marvel; that I do my internal work; and practice to stay grounded, connected, and humble.

 

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Masks

Last night, I attended our First Friday art walk downtown, where a plethora of coffee shops, stores, and offices host showings of local artists work, which takes place on the first Friday of every month. One installment especially stood out to me at the Dana Gallery, where a series of masks were on display that had been made by young people of all ages residing at the Watson’s Children’s Shelter here in town. Accompanying each mask was a one-line description and the age and gender of the person who’d crafted it. Here are the ones I jotted down on location:

“My masks show that people only see part of who I really am. If people saw all of me they wouldn’t want to be friends with me.”         13-year-old girl

“My mask is a unicorn, crying rainbows.” 9-year-old girl

“My mask is wearing a mask. It says you can’t trust people even if they say you can.” 14-year-old boy

“My mask is crying rainbows because I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m sad.” 4-year-old boy

“My mask only covers my eyes. I don’t think people should cover up who they are.” 12-year-old girl

“My mask is a superhero. I wish I had superhero powers so I could protect people.” 10-year-old boy

“I don’t want to talk about my mask.” 3-year-old girl

“My mask has blood on it. And the black is meth and drugs.” 9-year-old boy

I thought the premise of these masks paired well with a meme I came across yesterday on twitter (pictured above).

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