Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What Is Being Authentic?

    My Hibiscus plant is peculiar. She puts out one blossom at a time, for three days duration, then falls off. It is the second day that it opens wide, wholeheartedly wide. Other flowering bushes hold their blossoms longer, but this is authentic to the Hibiscus.

   My class encompasses the ideas of authenticity this week. Are we authentic with those around us? Is that like saying, "Are you honest with your fellowman?" I'm asking because I don't have the answers. I do know that I pretend sometimes; to like what I am doing, to be happy when I'm not. Pretending is not equal to being real. It has potential to become real but it also has potential to leave us empty.

     So I have a story to tell. It will help me clarify my own motivations. I wanted to do sometime authentic for my birthday. I came up with the idea to go swimming with my whole family. Swimming is fraught with vulnerabilities for those of us who have body issues, but it also has potential to be  wholehearted fun. What is not to love about being wet, treading water, and splashing others? Our athletic club rents out their swimming pool so I pursued finding a date. They don't rent the pool often, mostly because their times are after closing on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday's time was way too late for toddlers and so I considered Sunday. Does swimming together as a family break the Law of the Sabbath? I honor that day as a day set aside for spiritual things. I never go swimming that day personally, but would it be kosher as a special family event? I felt it was right for me so I scheduled the pool and announced my celebratory occasion. Then the trouble started. Not everyone was in tune with my plan. I understood and knew it was important for each family to choose for themselves. I was disappointed but chose not to cancel. For weeks I re-thought and re-thought, each time feeling that I should let things be as I planned. On the day of the party, with some members of the family missing, I proceeded to go to the club to set things up. The employee knew nothing about my reservation. He wanted to close and leave. He called the boss. My grandchildren were lined up behind me excitedly talking with each other. Several phone calls later he announced the boss was coming in himself. We rushed in. I watched the children's faces. They were totally open and having such fun. The Dad's were playing with their children. This was what I wanted. A large place to be together without bickering, without distracted parents, just body and soul participation. Was it right? Yes. Will I do it again? Probably not. It left out people I love. It did, however, teach me to stand. My default mode when I am challenged for doing something wrong is to capitulate.

   "Some of us move toward (criticism and shame) by seeking to appease and please."
   This does nothing to move me towards compassion and connection because it is a pretense. It does not require evaluation, just giving in.
    "Others move away, withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. And, some of us move against it (criticism and shame) by trying to gain power over others, by being aggressive."
   These reactions move us away from real courage to feel what we feel. To have compassion for what we lack and move us to be more authentically connected to our most important source of truth, the Holy Ghost.
   "Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are."
Brown, Brene (2010-09-20). The Gifts of Imperfection (p. 50).

   To this I add, it is the practice of listening to the spirit. If the Hibiscus could be shamed into blooming longer would the blossom be as beautiful?

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