An Authentic Life

This week I’ve been reading a book by Mark Nepo  titled The Exquisite Risk: Daring to Live an Authentic Life. He speaks of the struggle to be real, to live our life with a deeply felt sense of authenticity. What a yearning I have to feel connected to that inner sense of meaning. How easy it is for me to lose that connection.

I was talking with a friend this morning about the desire she has to move out of her current job into something that seems more in line with what she really yearns to do with her life. Yet the realities of life, of needing a full time job given the necessity to put food on the table, pay the mortgage and keep the heat on keeps her anchored where she is. I felt her stuckness very powerfully. She has such a gift to give the world and yet the realities of life intrude.

“Before stories were recorded, what happened to the living was told and retold around fires, on cliffs, and in the shade of enormous trees. And it is said that somewhere on the edge of what was known and unknown, a man and a woman paused in their struggles to survive and faced each other. One asked the other, “Is there more to this than hauling wood?” The older of the two sighed, “Yes…and no.”

My challenges are different than my friend’s yet somehow similar. My thoughts seem to focus on limitations, barriers, if only the world were different, if only I were a better person, if I meditate long enough I’ll be a better person and on and on. Always something to accomplish, always some time in the future that things will be better.

“They say that, after a time, the two who paused on the edge of what was known and unknown stumbled into humility. ‘Please tell me, is there more to this than hauling wood?’ the one would ask again. And the more tired of the two replied, ‘No, no. It is all in the hauling, all in the wood, all in how we face each other around the small fires we build.’ ”

What does this mean “it’s all in the hauling”? It’s so easy for me to lose the essence of who I am in the midst of day-to-day life. How can I both survive and thrive?

“It was then they rested, as we rest, when accepting the grace of our humanness. You see, we’ve always been on a journey, like it or not, aware of it or not, struggling to enter and embrace things as they are. And when we can accept our small part in the way of things, when we can build a small fire and gather, it opens us to joy.”

Embrace things as they are? So I never get to live my dream job? Where is the essence of who I am in that?

I stop and breathe. I remember times when I have inhabited completely whatever I was doing, right in the moment with whatever life brought, giving every bit of myself to it. Yes, there is some sense of thriving in those moments, even when the moments are not what I might have wanted.

In my practice I’m present with my breath, I lose it, I come back. That’s just the way it is. My breath is always there, always keeping me alive. It just waits for me to notice. Sometimes I seem to lose touch with the essence of who I am and what I care about most deeply yet it also seems to always be there, just waiting for me to notice.

Sometimes daring to live an authentic life means changing jobs.  Sometimes not. The challenge, it seems to me, is to live that authenticity right here, right now in whatever life brings and in so doing allow space for new pathways to open up, sometimes in strange and unexpected ways.

2 Comments on “An Authentic Life

  1. Your blog entry reminded me of something I read with you last Thursday on ‘acceptance’ in the book Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn…that fine balance of being really here and trusting that what we need will show up…like when we are working together on the curriculum.

    “Acceptance is a willingness to see things as they are. This attitude sets the stage for acting appropriately in life, not matter what is happening. You are much more likely to know what to do and have the inner convictions to act when you have clear picture of what is actually happening than when your vision is clouded by your mind’s self-serving judgements and desires or it fears and prejudices.” He later says, “But time has taught me that some kind of personal vision is also necessary.”

    So I found one of your last sentences very moving and connecting, “Sometimes I seem to lose touch with the essence of who I am and what I care about most deeply yet it also seems to always be there, just waiting for me to notice.”


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