Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.
What would happen if we started being honest with ourselves about what we really want?
What if we started being ruthlessly real? What if we actually said the things that we think about, but are afraid to say?
Our egos may shrink and squirm, afraid to face reality as it is; afraid to bypass all the pretense; afraid to confront the shear nakedness of authenticity.
But maybe if we could evade the grip of our ego-based fears, we could embrace unfiltered, unmediated reality.
Maybe, just then, we’d start to come alive.
When I speak of open, authentic honesty, I mean being truly connected to your higher self. Not the ego-dominated self, but your spirit, (or whatever word you’d like to use, the word is not important). When you’re tuned into this source that is bigger than your puny ego, your living from a state of unadulterated awareness.
When you’re acting from this state, you’re not thinking about whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate. You act completely naturally, unafraid to express yourself authentically and freely. You’re not afraid to tell someone how you really feel or ask for something you need. It’s from this place that you experience bliss, because there is no ego holding you back from it. There is no hesitation when the ego is not present.
So how do you get into this state of flow and uninhibited movement?
Here are the three simplest and most effective things you can to become more conscious, and in turn, more authentic.
- Practice mindfulness. This is the most important aspect of acting authentically. If you’re not being mindful, you lose awareness of your ability to determine whether you are acting reactively or if you are acting from your authentic Self. I have to admit, remaining in a position of persistent mindfulness is not an easy task. This is not something you will master in a day, a month or even a year. But you can practice, and the more you practice the more it will be easy to remain mindful. The way to practice mindfulness is to simply center your focus and attention on whatever you are presently doing or experiencing. Easy to describe, difficult to practice.
- Use reminders to help you stay mindful. There are a lot of mental triggers (or anchors, in NLP terms) you can create to prompt you to return to mindfulness. One great trigger is remembering to be mindful every time you see a red light at a stop light; or just every time you come to a stoplight, green, yellow or red. I have a bell on my bike that I ring when I’m riding to help remind me to be mindful. Another good and more permanent reminder is getting a tattoo somewhere you can easily see to make you mindful. If that’s not your thing, you could have a bracelet or ring that you’ve chosen as a sacred symbol to help remind you to be mindful.
- Practice daily meditation. There is no substitute for consistent, daily meditation in aiding your facility to remain present. The best thing about meditation is it also allows you time to actually listen to yourself. Most of the time, we’re constantly talking to ourselves and we never take the time to listen. During the practice of silent awareness, we have the opportunity to listen to our thoughts and feelings, and in doing so, we’ll be better equipped to remain mindful when we feel pulled into unconscious patterns. The most important thing to do is start small. Practice meditating for 5 or 10 minutes each day before you go to sleep or after you wake up. Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel your mind isn’t quieting fast enough, or if you think you’re not good at meditating. If you remain diligent, your mind will eventually get tired of listening to itself babble incessantly.
The more mindful we become, the more we increase our capacity for action that is stripped of pretense and duplicity.
When we’re completely authentic, we’re no longer afraid to speak and act in meaningful ways. We’re not afraid to tell someone how we truly feel. We don’t shirk when faced with the choice of either acting from integrity or slipping into cowardly ego-based decisions.
Maybe if we started saying the things we think but do not say, our lives would have more meaning.
I think then we could grasp what it means to really be free.
Maybe then we’d realize the true meaning of liberation.