I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to live authentically. It’s almost a cliché to say that we want to live authentic lives. What does that even mean when society hands us a script at birth with our parts highlighted in yellow? We quickly learn what we’re supposed to wear, say, and look like. We’re told whom we can love and whom we can’t, what our relationships are supposed to look like, and when they’re supposed to happen. There’s an acceptable range of jobs we’re supposed to have, with an accompanying amount of money those jobs are supposed to earn us. In addition to this general script there are the ever-narrowing scripts doled out to us based on race and gender. This is the music you’re supposed to listen to. This is the god you’re supposed to worship. Here is the list of acceptable activities, and the ages at which it’s acceptable to do them. The only way to avoid going crazy is to pretend that the scripts aren’t there, to tell ourselves that these scripts are our own words, our own choices – the only right way to be.
But…when you commit to a deeper understanding of life, when you embark on a spiritual practice – especially meditation – it becomes harder and harder to accept the script.
A typical Buddhist question to ask yourself is “Are you sure?” In answer to whatever rigid opinion, fearful thought, or cry of self-pity you might have, ask yourself “are you sure?”
Are you sure you’re going to die alone? Are you sure you’re supposed to have children? Are you sure you need to make $50,000 per year, minimum? Are you sure you can’t wear a mini-skirt and long hair after age 40? Are you sure that the only legitimate love relationship is one man, one woman? Are you sure the man always has to be the one to propose? To say “I love you” first? To open all doors? Are you sure you have to smile and hide what you really feel, ignoring the elephant who is not only in the room, but who has a favorite chair? Are you sure?
I’m not sure about any of these things. Taking baby steps, I’m trying to question my assumptions, and try something different. I don’t want my script anymore. I want to improv for a while. What that means for me is that I’m trying different kinds of relationships. I’m trying to address feelings as they come up rather than allowing them to eat at me from the inside like cancer. I’m trying to do the things I really want to do, rather than force myself to do what other people want me to do. I’m trying to be there for the people I love, not because they expect it, but because that’s who I want to be. And I’m trying to tell people I love – not just tell them, but describe in colorful detail – how I feel about them, because life is uncertain. I can’t control life or other people. But I can dictate what I allow my mind to dwell on. I can share with people how important they are to me, whether or not I get anything in return. I can do things that help people, that make the world a better place – not just for them, but for me. Because this is who I’m choosing to be. My actions may be misunderstood, but that too is outside of my control.
Living this way is giving me a deep sense of security. That security is not based on what any person or any god or any group thinks about me. It is based solely on what I know to be true. This knowledge comes from the Quiet Place within me, the Me who has never been hurt – that place inside me that truly doesn’t give a fuck – in the highest and best meaning of that expression.
I’m wishing you all a happy week full of improv.
Peace and blessings,