Wednesday, August 28, 2019

AUTHENTIC, AUSCHMENTIC – When Being Yourself Is Just an Excuse for Being A Jerk

(As a Nature-and-wonder writer, I find most of my inspiration in the natural world. But I must continually remind myself that I am, that all of us homo sapiens are, also part of that world of wonder. We are animals…and at times we act like it. Often in ways that are most admirable, but also at times when we should know better.
The inspiration for this post is the heartache someone I know is experiencing over her estrangement from a very dear friend—one who’s suddenly decided that being kind and considerate is not who she is.)

“Authentic” has taken on a new definition. It used to mean real, without pretense, the genuine article. It had nothing to do with permission or entitlement, aspects today’s meaning seems to have acquired in spades.

Who knows, maybe it’s like the word “truth” in this, the Trump era; it means whatever you want it to mean. Or maybe it’s just some lazy psychiatrists’ attempts to make their patients feel better, even though not a single person the patient knows will actually be the better for it—nor will the patient for that matter.

No, authentic does not mean you can accept a friend’s invitation and then show up with a few of your own friends. It doesn’t allow you to make plans with someone and then just go ahead and do it on your own without telling them. It doesn’t forgive you for failing to communicate.

Do you think you can just do anything you want to, or say anything you damn well please, and then expect everyone else to just suck it up and say “Well, I guess that’s just so-and-so being authentic; that’s just who she is.”?

I don't think so. That’s not the way a thoughtful society works. It’s not the way true friendships work. Nor is it a behavior most of the world’s faith traditions would condone. Not when your “authenticity” comes at the expense of another’s—or a family’s, or a community’s.

       By acting in ways that put others out, by
       saying things that hurt, do you think that’s
       who you really are?

I guess I should be more understanding, since being “authentic” takes on some of the characteristics of an addiction. There’s this little voice somewhere inside that tells you No, you shouldn’t say or do that! But then, denying those better instincts, you do it anyway. That's just the real you, you  rationalize.

I have no problem with folks trying their best to be true to their principles, but c'mon, don’t conflate that with permission to act out your character flaws.

Rarely, a brave friend or loved one will give you some honest feedback. But you’ve become very good at making sure such honesty comes at a price. Sadly, they usually find it’s not worth the effort. They just get used to it and absorb the impact of having to accommodate you.

Or you simply find someone new, be it friend, or counselor, or clergy person, who won’t mind enabling your weakness. Meanwhile, you just keep putting your “authenticity” — translation: needs—first, while imposing on, even hurting, people who should be able to expect more of you.

Do you really think that kind of denial has anything at all
to do with authenticity?

By acting in ways that put others out, by saying things that hurt, do you think
that’s who you really are? Or are you just demanding the right to be mean, angry
or thoughtless?

You really want to be authentic? Open your eyes. Try being more self-aware. Think. Find a way to move beyond whatever pains, problems and privileges in your life you've been nurturing instead of dealing with and moving past. Start acting like a friend, not to mention a member of a kind, cooperative society.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

THE SHAPE OF BREATH – Finding Form In the Abstract

I used to think of my breathing, if I was even aware of it, as a simple, one-dimensional, in-and-out exercise. Inhale…stop. Exhale…stop. And so on.

That is, until I started meditating. In meditation, relaxing completely and centering one’s presence are all about breathing. I picture each inhalation filling me, body and soul, with light, with the good, positive, healing energy of a beneficent cosmos; each exhalation, ridding me of darkness and any negative vibe.

As I visualized my breathing, I realized I was seeing my lungs as a pump. And instead of the back-and-forth cycle of those hand-held bicycle pumps we used as kids, it’s an elliptical one oriented at right angles to the plane of my chest. Half of it is actually outside my body; the other half, inside.

The in-breaths rise up and toward me, releasing their fresh, healthful air at the top of their arc; the out-breaths recede from my face and then fall away, releasing their tainted air at the bottom.

The key difference is that the motion of my virtual pump never stops, nor starts. Like a ski lift chair, the baffle swings seamlessly around a hub at each end of its cycle, in continuous motion.

  Like one big, blurry Möbius strip, consciousness
  moves from one reality to its flip side without ever
  crossing an edge.

So what actions or thoughts in your life have shapes? Are there times when your reasoning, instead of the back-and-forth, either-or kind, becomes more circular? Are key decisions or changes kind of like old RFD routes, meeting at crossroads with stop signs? Or are they more fluid, with paths merging like they do at freeway on- and off-ramps or rotaries?

How about your spirit? If you could step back and see its expression as your higher power might, would that have shape? Are your spiritual thoughts simply linear, intellectual tellings? Or might they, by entertaining more askings, spread into forms with width and breadth?

The world’s religions celebrate many shapes: the circle, revered by many faiths, including Paganism; the triangle of the Celtic or Christian trinity; the yin-yang form in Chinese mythology. Are these just symbols like so many corporate logos? Or do they have something to do with how those beliefs actually work?

I believe in the interconnectedness of all things. What I do here and now affects everything, everyone, everywhere, for all time…and vice versa. And this belief can take on many profiles.

Depending on my state of mind—and sometimes on the number of tequilas I’ve imbibed—it might be a massive, shape-shifting amoeba-like blob; or a shape of shapes, perhaps overlapping like those on a schematic diagram to create new shapes; or one where the spaces between the shapes take on shapes of their own. It could even be like one big Möbius strip, with consciousness able to move from one reality to its flip side without ever crossing an edge.

Have I overwhelmed you with abstraction? Sorry, I guess it’s just the way this curious, helplessly creative mind works. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter in the least what shapes your breaths or thoughts take on. Though for me imagining those forms helps me appreciate concepts that would otherwise be just elusive, blurry abstractions.

What’s important is that we are at least open to seeing our consciousness, our beliefs, in fresh, new ways where each encounter we have with them is a breath of fresh air.