01 Aug What does being authentic mean?
To be our authentic self, we have to know what that is. Coming from the perspective of Yoga philosophy, which is thousands of years old and a time-tested path to knowing one’s true Self, this journey begins by noting the difference between self (with a small ‘s’) and Self (with a capital ‘S’.)
When we are born into these bodies, we form an identity based on the particular set of circumstances we are given, and we identify ourselves as that. Our souls temporarily forget that they are part of the one great Self. That Self is the consciousness that created these bodies, that upholds the Universe, and that informs our every breath. Instead we walk around deeply embroiled in our individual human stories, experiences, and feelings, continuously fluctuating between happy and sad, good and bad, up and down, because we live in a limited perception of reality.
However, the soul Self that resides inside, whether we perceive it or not, is ever at peace, unaffected by the outer tides of life. When we get to know our Self as this, then we come into our authenticity because we reconnect with our true nature. And this changes everything.
This reunion of self with Self is the essence of Yoga. The ancient Vedic teachings, from which Yoga philosophy sprang, taught that all creation is part and parcel of one Consciousness. Yet when that Consciousness manifested as many, the law of maya came into play as a delusory effect, which makes us forget our true essence. Yoga is the practice of coming back to true Self- realization. This is authenticity practice at its highest level.
So while it is valuable from a psychological standpoint to be self-aware and to know one’s human self, emotionally, mentally and physically, it is absolutely essential for our greatest health, peace and joy, to become Self-aware through a practice like Yoga.
In True Yoga, I describe the eight facets of practice, called the Eight Limbs of Yoga, that take us from individualized self-consciousness, to the blissful awareness of Self as who we are. This map to wholeness is invaluable to anyone wanting to be authentic. The Eight Limbs begin with 10 lifestyle practices that help us move toward our true nature both internally and externally. These are the practices of peacefulness, truthfulness, generosity, self-control, appreciation, purification, contentment, right effort, Self-study, and devotion. These are followed by practices to make our physical and energetic bodies strong and steady, and then practices to control our senses so that we can draw our attention inward in order to perceive our Divine Self through meditation.
What these practices offer us is the way to be in greater harmony in our human relationships and pursuits, and also the path to liberation from all suffering once we regain the connection to true Self. No physical pleasure can deliver the same lasting joy as coming home to who we truly are.
To begin this journey, we start by stopping. Stop for five minutes and get really quiet. Close your eyes and inquire within. Who am I beyond the roles and relationships that I define myself through on a daily basis? What is the nature of my soul? Even if I am not moving about in my life, there is still an ‘I’ that is conscious of my self. Could this be the one Self that lives within me and everyone else too? How can I connect more to that?
Using a mantra such as ‘So Hum’ is a great way to begin. This mantra means ‘I am That’, meaning that greater, higher Self. Repeat this mantra slowly with each breath, ‘So’ as you inhale, and ‘Hum’ as you exhale, affirming your true essence as the Highest Self. Over time, this brings a gentle quiet to the mind and the heart. It lessens the reactivity levels we feel to circumstances happening around us. It enables an inner peace and even-mindedness that makes our days happier. Try it for five minutes a day for a month and watch your connection to your authenticity begin to change. And remember, the authentic you is Spirit – beautiful, limitless, joyful and pure.