This page gives you an excerpt from Carmen and my book, Living Authentically. It sets out my own approach to self development.
Following is the the Introduction, which explains what the book is about. You can read a testimonial from one reader at the bottom of the page.
Flowing From Our Core
We live authentically when the core of who we are flows with the process of life. The rest of this book explains this sentence. We flow with life in hundreds of big and small ways every day. Flowing with life is not something to aspire to, it is something that we already experience.
As long as we are alive at least part of us is flowing with life. Those parts of us that do not flow with life are dormant – we may experience them as numb parts of our bodies, nagging aches, parts of our experience that we ignore or deep longings we may not understand the origin of.
Often when we find one of these dormant parts of our experience we feel split – we are “in two minds” (or two bodies) about this part of our self. So, when we find one of these dormant parts of ourselves it can be at first a frustrating experience – we don’t know what we want, what we want to do, or even what we can do. However, with some patience and work we can include these dormant parts of ourselves and so grow a little more and feel more alive.
I believe that the most significant part of us is our core, what some people refer to as our ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’. However, ‘spirit’ or, ‘soul’, is spoken of in so many different ways that I feel I would have to spend this whole book explaining what I mean when I say ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’; so I will refer to this “part” of us as our ‘core’. When I speak of the core of who we are I am referring to the fact that some experiences are more important to us than others. We feel that some things, experiences and people are closer to us than others. What they are closer to in us is what I mean by our ‘core’.
Our purpose – our own rhythm, our sense that “this is simply who I am”, that “this is what I do” and which is not necessarily just about behaviour – is very close to our core.
Our Culture Is Hostile To Our Core
Our culture seems to be set up almost deliberately to separate us from our core. We are required to live by clock time rather than in accord with our natural rhythm. The need to earn money, not what is important to us, determines much of what we do.
Living out of sync with our own rhythms leads to a great deal of low grade ‘illness’ and many ‘psychological problems’. The quotation marks are because these ‘illnesses’ and ‘psychological problems’ can be very sensible adaptations to decidedly awful situations: if the only way you can get a break is to be sick – then you will be sick. If the only way you can get space for yourself is to be hostile or depressed – then you will be hostile or depressed. It may be that when we are ‘ill’ or having ‘psychological problems’ we are the sanest we have ever been.
Our ‘problems’ and ‘sicknesses’ may be what are keeping us healthy. Someone who doesn’t give herself a break, a “workaholic”, may have a cold that hangs around for months – which eventually leads to her having some much needed time off. Many businessmen, and it is still (!) usually men, are motivated to start living in a worthwhile way only after having a heart attack. Some people who are hard on themselves have a ‘problem habit’, like overeating, which is the one time they enjoy themselves – to take away this ‘problem’ would be cruel indeed.
Experiencing Our Core
We experience our core in small ways every day. We get thirsty, get a drink of water and go on to the next thing. We wonder what is on TV, look at the guide and, if you’re like me, decide there is nothing worth watching (again!). In such tiny ways we show that we are well in touch with who we are and what we want. These experiences just feel natural to us – and they are.
Once we go beyond these simple bodily needs the situation rapidly becomes more complex. Meeting our emotional needs means negotiating social codes and making direct contact with other people. Satisfying our intellectual curiosity means mastering abstract symbol systems and learning how to find information and teachers. Finding our own purpose can take many attempts and much dedicated reflection on our efforts.
When I was thirty-two I found my life purpose (or vocation). Finding an authentic Christian and physical spirituality is one of the things I’m here to do. Until I found my life purpose I had been committed to a spiritual path, Evangelical Christianity, and I had an ongoing fascination with our emotions and relationships. I also had ‘discovered’ my body – that I tended to ‘live in my head’ and that the physical was a
whole realm of delight, which I had largely ignored.
I was on a Taize style retreat (which emphasised individual silence and communal chanting) when my faith, my long-term fascination with psychotherapy and my newer interest in our physical bodies all came together. This was a greatly exhilarating time. It was only possible to bring these together because I had made previous attempts – trying out different spiritual practices, investigating different psychotherapies and many different styles of bodywork. All this took ten years or more.
In all these areas of our lives (the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) we have usually experienced our core: times that are precious to remember. These are times when the core of who we are fits harmoniously with the environment around us.
What might these precious experiences be like? Physically – being touched with genuine warmth and feeling; emotionally – finding someone who can really listen to us; intellectually – discovering or creating a philosophy that we find satisfying; spiritually – finding a practice that connects us with our core and so we discover joy.
If we don’t experience our core we will live a life of ongoing dissatisfaction. Because our core is the most important ‘part’ of ourselves, living from our core is the only way for us to have a life that has ongoing satisfaction and joy. Only by living authentically will we have anything other than fleeting satisfaction. Living authentically we experience a life of meaning.
What This Book is About.
When we are flowing with life, living from our core, we are in good touch with our situation. Flowing from our core and being in touch with the situation we are in, will usually lead to satisfaction. On occasion we will also experience frustration. My purpose in writing this book is to address dissatisfaction and frustration.
I hope to help you identify where you don’t flow with life and give you ways to start flowing in all areas of your life.
You will find in each of the eight sections of this book that there are exercises to do. The rest of the book is really to support these exercises – to introduce them, to explain what they are about, and why they are worth doing. It is doing and reflecting on these exercises that I hope will assist you in living more authentically.
Follow Your Pain
We are commonly advised to follow our bliss. This is good advice and not unpleasant. Who wouldn.t want to follow their bliss? After all, it promises a pleasantly spaced out feeling.
I am uncomfortable with this approach though. It seems to ignore pain and suffering. Who would want to look at pain and suffering? We avoid them if we can – which is sane and reasonable; our lives are difficult enough already. We also try to medicate and anaesthetise our pain and suffering. Which may be less sane and reasonable – it can lead us to ignore the indications of real problems.
Pain is nature’s way of getting our attention (and it works!). I suggest we follow nature.s advice and pay attention. Ignoring our pain may lead to us ignoring real problems, not just pain. Pain means there is a mismatch between your context and your self or between parts of your self.
When I say, “follow your pain” I mean psychic pain. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t take a painkiller when you hit your thumb with a hammer. If you are clear about the cause of the pain take appropriate action – consult your health carer.
Yet there is pain that isn’t so easily dealt with. Pain that is seemingly inexplicable. You need to stay with this pain to see where it leads you. It will show you where the mismatch is – between your environment and your self or between the parts of your self.
You can find the link between your pain and your environment/your self by asking, “When did the pain start?” You might discover: your head started aching just after you argued with a friend; your spouse left and your back has been hurting ever since; you have a stomach upset that began when you were given that new project at work… These things may have happened recently or you may have had these pains for many years (some people do not know who they would be if they did not have their pain).
You can also imagine what would alleviate the pain. Your aching knees may tell you to sit down and relax. Your tense shoulders may let you know about anger. You know that your persistent headache will go away if you can only get a few minutes peace.
Imagining speaking to the pain or the sore part of your self can also give you information about the link between your pain and your environment/your self.
Your heart may tell you that you want a hug, your stomach may ask for some depth in a relationship; your tired eyes may tell you what you are looking for.
If you feel that your pain is leading to somewhere you are not ready to go then stop. You may well need the support of friends or counsellors to have the strength and time to follow your pain where it leads. The idea that we have to face our pain and pasts all alone is unhelpful and on occasion dangerous. When we don’t want to face
our pain alone it is support that we need – not well-intentioned advice, or those who are uncomfortable with our pain trying to fix us quickly. What is required is the loving and accepting presence of someone else.
Our pain will lead us to where we need healing, or to where we need to change our behaviour or move to a different environment – if we will listen. So heed nature’s signal: following our pain leads us to living authentically.
Living Authentically is your guide to a life of less stress and more joy.
“At last! A self-improvement book that is not guilt-ridden. It gives us permission to not only accept – but to discover who we really are at our “core.” Evan and Carmen guide us gently and kindly with examples and exercises toward a peaceful and authentic life.”
Corinne Edwards – Author of Reflections from a Woman Alone