I received the following comment in the “What is your greatest difficulty with living authentically?” box in the side bar. (I would like to know yours too. Just type in the square box to the right of this post under “answer”.) Here is the comment:
Here’s my off-the-cuff answer for living life authentically, and my difficulty, or what i perceive my difficulty would/to be.
The meantime. The in-the-meantime moments.
This is without me knowing what your definition of authentic living is. And without me really producing a definition of my own. Again, off-the-cuff. To me, authentic parallels real.
My Definition of Living Authentically . . .
I think that for all of us some things matter more than others. We have a sense that some things, relationships and individuals are closer to us, or ‘more us’, than other things, relationships and people.
I don’t care much about clothing but do value my favourite books and a couple of pieces of clothing. The books for the insight they brought me, the clothes for a kind of flamboyance (which I don’t usually bother to express).
I care much more for some people than others – most of the world I haven’t met and am quite indifferent too really.
So I think we have a sense of ‘a part’ of us that is our core. This gets spoken of as our “heart” sometimes perhaps our “soul” or “spirit”.
When we are in touch with this core of who we are (our gift, vocation, spirit, heart, liveliness . . . ) our life is qualitatively different to when we are just going through the motions.
When we are in touch with our deepest, most precious, self then we have a sense of being engaged with life (even if the aspect we are engaged with is some of the worst aspects – talking to a friend who has been assaulted or raped or fired by a company despite years of dedicated service for instance). When we can look after ourselves and stay engaged then we are nourished (even if we are dealing with the dark stuff). I also want to emphasise that for many of us for much of the time we overlook the good stuff – many small delights (like a flower glimpsed, or the freshness after the rain or a genuine smile from a checkout operator, or the pleasure of walking along). Authenticity doesn’t mean ignoring the good the dark aspects of life. It also means being in touch with the good stuff (and this is, curiously, what we often do devalue and ignore).
My definition of living authentically is: living from the core of who we are. Which means being in touch with the world around, our own situation (the dark as well as the light); and, our responses to it (not blocking those which may be ‘negative’ or ‘positive’). Doing this leads to a lasting and substantial sense of satisfaction.
In the Meantime – Goals and Destinations
Planning and anticipating, visualising and timetabling are all valuable parts of our humanity I think. They can give direction to our lives and be pleasurable to engage in.
They also can leave out our present experience. We can believe that what we are doing now doesn’t compare to our goal or destination. Even if what we are doing now is taking steps to reach where we are headed.
I think this might be what is meant by ‘in the meantime’ – the stuff that happens while we aren’t where we most want to be. All those things which aren’t our goal or destination – and some of which may even get in the way of us getting there. Though for me ‘in the meantime’ doesn’t have a strong sense of frustration or anger – of being blocked. More a feeling of indifference.
This might be what John Lennon was talking about (in Beautiful Boy) when he said that:
Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
Lots of Stuff
There is lots of stuff that is just ordinary; that doesn’t relate directly to what we most care about. In some ways there is lots of ‘meantime’ in our lives.
What to do?
I have several ideas about what to do with the ‘meantime’.
1. Do as much as you can of what you care about and let the stuff that doesn’t matter slide. This will lead to you doing more of what you love.
2. Introducing more steps toward doing what comes from your core. Replacing some of the trivia with stuff that means more. (This presumes there is some trivia to replace. This may well not be your situation at the moment.)
Fifteen minutes a day, or even a week, can add up over a year (depending on what it is you are doing).
3. Bringing awareness or a spiritual practise to the ‘meantime’ stuff.
Standing in line is an opportunity to:
get in touch with your senses
call a friend on your mobile phone to say hi
focus on something that you have been only half aware of.
These are my suggestions about what to do with the ‘meantime’. I hope they are helpful. I hope they respond helpfully to the comment. If you have other suggestions about what to do in the meantime please add them in the comments.