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By Barbara McDowall

According to my dictionary the word 'authentic' refers to something or someone who is clearly genuine, true, and real.  People who are authentic are noteworthy.  They get our attention and we can find ourselves wanting to be associated with them because they show us what we seek for ourselves ~ to be our true selves and to be confident about who we are. 

We may have met people to whom we were instinctively drawn because they seemed 'comfortable in their own skin'.  They had a confidence about them that was magnetic.  We wanted to be around them hoping that some of what they had would rub off onto us.  That maybe through some kind of osmosis we, too, could be that way in the world. 

I remember meeting such a person some years ago and was drawn to them because they exuded a sense of calm self assurance.  They were easy going and exuded self acceptance and an ease with who they were.  And I wanted just a piece of what they seemed to have.  That began my search for my authentic self that continues to this day.

To be authentic requires each one of us to wake up, to be aware and conscious of who we are in the world.  The more aware and awake we are the more choices we know we have about how to respond to the world around us.  The more self confident we are the more confident we are about the world around us.

We must come to fully know, love and accept who we are.  It means being able to identify, accept and integrate our shadow self, the part of us we unconsciously dislike and disown.  Often what we view as distasteful in others is really what we unconsciously recognize in ourselves.  We will not be wholly authentic until we are able to acknowledge, accept and integrate our shadow selves.

Fortunately, there are numerous tools at our disposal to help us wake up to our authentic selves.  I have come to appreciate the difference they have made in my life.

First and foremost authentic living begins with fully knowing the self.  It is important to 'know thyself'.  To be fully self expressed, one must know the self being expressed.  Have we unconsciously determined we are not worth the effort?  Are we too busy to do what ever it takes to live a life of abundance, joy and fulfillment; to have a firm foundation with which to meet the world?

Each of us came into the world with wisdom most often unrecognized and untapped.  And over the years we have added to this wisdom through our life experience.  To access that wisdom we can practice using the simple tools of paying attention, reflective walks, meditation, free writing, and breathing.

Paying attention requires us to slow down, something we in the Western world find quite difficult to do.  Through reflective walking in nature on our own without the distractions of a companion or animal, we can access our interior wisdom centre.  We can see clearly and creatively and from that place make conscious choices.

Meditation also allows us to travel inward, to be still and to connect with the wisdom we have stored over the span of a life lived.  Begin by setting aside time (10 or 15 minutes to sit in stillness and listen for the still small voice, your intuition to speak.

Free writing allows us another way to connect with our ever present 'knowing'.  Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist's Way, refers to it as Morning Pages.  She suggests writing 3 pages daily first thing upon waking, before breakfast, the radio, talking or reading the paper distract us.  Write through the blockages and connect with clarity, creativity and choices.

Breathing can centre and ground us and is one of the most portable tools we have for quiet reflection that allows us to connect with our internal wisdom centre.  Stop to breathe three deep breaths whenever you can throughout your day.

Any and all these tools can allow us to bring what is on our minds to our wisdom centre, to consult with our interior sage, and to see what options lie before us.  We can integrate this wisdom into all aspects of our lives ~ personally and professionally.  When practiced with intention and determination on a regular basis, we can experience peace of mind and well being. 

What sets authentic people apart is their ability to be large, to take risks, to march to the tune of their own drummer.  They stand up and take responsibility for who they are and the lives they lead.  They have come to understand and accept they are here for a specific purpose.  Through the excavation of their authentic self they are able to identify that purpose.  And fulfill that purpose in their own authentic way.

May you give yourself the time to re-discover and come to know your authentic self, may you come to love and accept who you are and allow yourself to become all you are here to be.  The tools are there for you to access at any time. 

Authentic Living