Personal Authenticity



Spirituality - Acting in the present - Trusting the subconscious - Trusting feelings - Simplicity - Transitoriness

Globalization, with the accompanying breakdown of authority, is a period of transition. There is turmoil and disillusionment. Turmoil because the old ways no longer work. Disillusionment because education and prosperity have not solved the world's ills. Education without magnanimity produces a soulless workforce and prosperity without a social conscience evokes resentment.

This turmoil and disillusionment has, as pointed out by Abraham Maslow in TOWARDS A PSYCHOLOGY OF BEING, spurred the growth of an inner search for new values:
...political democracy and economic prosperity don't in themselves solve any of the basic value problems. There's no place else to turn but inward, to the self, as the locus of values.1

This inner search has found a wide range of techniques. The floodgates for these new values was the sixties and seventies when the West was inundated by alternative techniques, interests, and disciplines. It was a wave that included quality circles, yoga, acupuncture, the Z theory, the books of Krishnamurti, Jungian analysis, relationship counselling, parapsychology, altered states of consciousness, humanistic psychotherapies, a revival of myths, and many others.
This wave of interests and techniques brought changes in personal viewpoints in varying degrees. The sum of all these changes caused the emergence of a consciousness different from our recent past. It produced a surge of individuals pursuing private visions of what `wholeness' means.

The pursuit of this personal vision quest has been categorized as `new age' thinking but the description varies with nation or social category. The communists, especially the Chinese communists, would talk of the `new man' theory. The industrialist might think of self management in an information rich technology. Others, such as the American psychologist, E.C. Tolman, would talk of the replacement of `economic' man with `psychological' man.

No matter what it is called, these interests and ideas can be synthesized into a distinct outlook. It is a search for a conscious life; of choosing a future conforming to what Daniel Yankelovich has termed, `post-affluent values'.
The essence of this consciousness is the basis for a new culture. It molds those who pursue its values and it is this alternate culture that promotes and encourages community. The attitudes nurture community, and, in turn, communities adopt these attitudes. Its main features, a combination of Eastern and Western philosophies, are the following:
1) Individual responsibility for one's own freedom and stability.
2) A flexibility to achieve enhanced feelings of worth and effectiveness.
3) An awareness of personal importance coupled with a simple strategy to achieve a personal vision as described by Duanne Elgin in VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY.
4) A sophistication of self assessment; a modesty about self-importance and downplaying national and cultural chauvinism.
5) An ability to risk trusting the deeper self or to take the intuitive risk.
6) Greater interpersonal communication and openness to others.
7) An emphasis on networking and negotiation; a commitment to sustain the social fabric of a high synergy society.
8) Viewing life as process; always looking for self improvement.
9) Maintaining a lifestyle that respects the environment.
10) Seeing work and play as ways of achieving community goals. The Japanese writer Ichiro Kawasaki has written:
"In Japan work is a ceremony.... To the Western worker, the job is an instrument for the enrichment and satisfaction of the real part of his life, which exists outside the place of work. For the Japanese worker, life and job are so closely interwoven that it cannot be said where one ends and the other begins."
11) An emphasis on personal enjoyment and creativity.


Many of these attitudes are closely connected with a self awareness that spirituality is in humanity rather than an abstruse God. It is a turning away from a patriarchal religion, where God is a male figure giving judgement on those below, to seeing humanity as an integral part of Nature. Some of the major aspects of this change have been captured by what has been described as neo-paganism (using the word `pagan' in the meaning that it is an alliance with Nature). Some neo-pagan values are:-
a) A belief that divinity is internal as well as external.
b) A belief that divinity is equally likely to manifest itself as female or male.
c) A respect and love for Nature as divine in His/Her own right.
d) A distaste for monolithic religious organizations and a distrust for would-be messiahs and gurus.
e) A belief that humans were meant to lead lives of joy,love, pleasure, and humour.
f) The knowledge that human interdependence implies community cooperation.

Nature hikes, wilderness camping, canoeing, and cross- country skiing, are obvious outlets for finding a spirituality in Nature. The desire to conserve wilderness areas and protect species and habitat shows a burgeoning realization that Nature has a hold on the human breast that cannot be reduced to monetary values. Often, in the wilderness, far from the distractions of the modern world, humans realize an abnormal intensity of experience. It is an intensity that is brought about by the wonder of Nature overpowering mundane concerns.

Acting in the present

To continue that intensity in daily life, the past and the future are viewed as constructs of the imagination. We imagine what will happen tomorrow and likewise we view our past selectively, usually on the basis of our feelings. An example would be that when comparing views of childhood with siblings there can be doubt that it is the same childhood. Future dreams and past fantasies take their shade and substance from the power of the present. A person in a blissful state can, in his imagination, carry that state into the future and envision a blissful future. Likewise he could consider his past blissful.

The awareness that the past and future are products of the imagination means that only the present is real. The point of power or emotion is always the present, in the `here and now' of a Zen master.

The emphasis on immediacy, on being `here' now, focuses attention on the feelings and actions of the moment and invests them with a momentous quality, a sense of `aliveness'. It is also a meditative state that strengthens attention to the present. The wayward thoughts that lead us astray from what is actually happening, lose their appeal. Energy and feelings are channeled into the present and not squandered on past or future fantasies.

This viewpoint can be seen in the very young. To them, everything is new and momentary. It is a childlike curiosity in the moment that allows incredibly swift learning to occur. As we grow older our preconceptions increase causing us to `filter', or control, the messages we receive. Control automatically means pre-selecting an outcome and denying childlike curiosity. It is a normal human desire to favour outcomes that are pleasing and satisfying, but `filtering' suppresses childlike curiosity.

The essence of unhappiness is the desire to repeat the past. The imagination constantly tricks us by golden images of past or future pleasures. Empowering the present, is a process of weaning ourselves from images, and immersing ourselves in the present. To be immersed, gives time to feel emotions, but not to impose an outcome. The immediate impressions assaulting the senses, the `cleansing' of the `lens of perception', bring an extra-ordinary aliveness to the moment. It is a non-reflective and non-judgmental awareness that sees the moment as it is, not as fantasy. Aldous Huxley's sense of aliveness allowed him to see the freshness of life and continually describe events as "extra-ordinary".

This focus on the present doesn't mean complete self-denial. There is a trusting of the subconscious self. A primeval belief that personal changes are not moment to moment choices, but occur on a deeper level. The present is continually generated into a larger, more refined, form, and the future flows from being a better person, not from imposing a controlled outcome.

Trusting the subconscious

On a conscious level we are all very aware of what we are doing. However, on the subconscious level we are often not aware of how ingrained attitudes force choices not in our best interests. The attitudes embedded in the new inner search allow the subconscious, or hidden side of our personality, to surface. Only after we are aware of why we perform in certain ways can we start the long and painful process of growth and change.

The increased emphasis on the power of the subconscious is a recognition of the power of the inner self; an increased trust of one's own wise person. It also signals a greater willingness to trust an intuitive world.

A useful technique for freeing the subconscious is the use of dreams. A brief survey of the works of Carl Jung is usually sufficient to convince anyone of the power and depth of the subconscious. Dreams, fantasies, and imagination are all powerful tools for unearthing the real person. Dreams are not random phenomena. They contain messages that are useful aids to the individual. Another method is meditation. It is for each person to find the path that is best suited to his or her disposition.

This journey into the subconscious is a search for the wellspring of personal power. It is not a fixed point in the psyche that can be reached in a pre-determined fashion. In some, it is a broad valley of interests in a general area, in others, a narrow sharp defile of particular interests.

The search for the wellspring in not new. At the site of the ancient oracle at Delphi a Greek artisan carved the words, "To thine own self be true". In the Western world that saying became a goal to be pursued as if it were some gem to be secured, a reward for a life of search and patient work, a fixed point in space and time. The words of Heraclitus expanded on that, "Deep, deep, the psyche. You may search each pathway and will never come to an end". It is those words that move the search for the wellspring away from a fixed viewpoint to a never ending pathway.

Trusting feelings

Focusing on the moment and trusting the subconscious allows feelings to gain added stature. There can be a tendency to become immobilized dealing with conflicting feelings, doubt, and lack of self confidence. These are not signs to abandon feelings for the safer ground of self will, but an accurate reflection of the vividness of the moment. Frustration and fear is a constant companion in allowing deep creativity to emerge. The ambiguity may be so uncomfortable that one jumps into premature closure without waiting for the appropriate response. This is the asceticism in creativity, a living in the mystery; to quote Heidegger, "The openness holds open the open".

Fear is a safeguard from potentially painful experiences, a warning, and thereby an object of learning. Conflicting feelings and the fear inherent in those feelings are part of the openness to new understanding. In Buddhist literature it is called the Path of Disappointment. Unless transformed to the knowledge that caution has to be exercised, fear can paralyse the creative search. There has to be a trusting, childlike faith, a naiveté, in allowing the `creative' working in the person and in the universe. Fear is a channel to the cause of the fear, a constructive devil to be examined, not a crippling emotion.

Conflicting feelings also enhance the sense of immediacy. We are tossed about and buffeted by the winds of emotions. The fragility of feelings leads to the cultivation of `beginners mind' where everything is seen as new and incredibly exciting. Competence and solid feelings can be an invitation to give up uncertainty. Ambiguity, where emotions are straws in the wind, allows a person to dwell in `the strength of the moment'. There is a heightened awareness of the unique response. The further one extends the self into the unknown, the stronger one becomes in effectiveness and feelings of worth. It is the psychological retreat into the desert.

The search for the wellspring is an internal and external process. Greater depth of understanding and inner clarity is reflected in a greater understanding and clarity of external effect. This is also applicable to organizations such as corporations. The 3M company, for instance, came to realize that its midwestern American roots, its internal processes, were of too stolid a character to compete effectively against Japanese market gadgetry. They realized that the external process (marketing) reflected their desire to produce adhesives that were practical and useful. The Japanese internal processes included a love of gadgetry and this made the production and marketing (external process) of gadget items a pure delight to them. It is for each corporation and individual to determine what segment of society is the proper reflection of their internal process. It is a question of where you want to make your mark.

Another indication of the wellspring is synchronicity: the occurrence of events that assist in developing a person's thought or action. These unpredictable aids may be thought of as chance events and of no significance. However, they are better thought of as a result of interest and energy being expended in a particular direction. It is more than just luck. As Goethe said, "Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now". Everything is an omen.

The wellspring can be a life of service, a search for spiritual values, or a direct experience. Whatever the wellspring, its careful appraisal is essential, so that a conscious choice of the heart can be made. The optimistic and growing personal stance requires a person believe that the object of love is a positive force for the advancement of humankind. It cannot be made out of despair or fear. It is a view of life as a series of challenges and opportunities, not an insurance policy.

Life, viewed as an unfolding process of self discovery and enlightenment, is, in the Indian tradition, dharma, or path. It is the unfolding search for the wellspring, with the individual watching life unfold and `steering' as best as possible. The adoption of this view is becoming dominant. Arnold Mitchell in THE NINE AMERICAN LIFESTYLES,2 puts the figures of inner directed people (who would view life as process) in the United States as going from 22% in 1980 to 33% in the 1990's.

Life as process is an intuitive reaching for personal strengths. Reaching for one's strength clarifies the wellspring. It is a continual building process where external validation verifies the internal dialogue. A breakdown of verification, where the outcomes differ radically from the beliefs held, indicate that there must be a re-evaluation of internal processing. The breakdown may indicate that a strategy of beliefs are inappropriate.

Self-responsibility and the power and the energy of accentuating the positive must guard against hubris. Endlessly rising expectations, the desire for `more', is a continuum. It ranges from a modest increase to an overwhelming urge that enslaves rather than ennobles. It is wise to bear in mind that one should live off the land lightly. Only light baggage is needed for the journey through life.


A lifestyle of simplicity avoids chaos and confusion by focusing on the essence of life. It focuses on a personal response to the question, “What creative act touches my primal power?” Simplicity is not a Spartan denial – it eschews indulgence and the hazards of overweening ambition. The model is of fluid growth - seeking and accepting moment to moment successes and welcoming change.

Joseph Campbell describes this simplicity as following your bliss or the giving of permission to follow your personal road or myth. It may be as fearful as giving up a job as a banker, leaving wife, family, friends, life in Paris, and going to paint in Tahiti as did Gauguin. The choice is often difficult and opposed to a life of comfort. It is an abandoning of the known and a committal to a voyage of personal discovery. This simplicity can also be described as an unconditional loving of the self, trusting that the path shows what must be done to be truly alive.

The trusting of the self constantly faces human fears. Do we fear early retirement? - Are we losing the love of immediate family? – Are the losses too great in continuing on this path? These shifting fears have to be accepted as part of life, their strength is not denied but the commitment to the path, trusting the self, is not to be de-railed.


The transitoriness of life is an accepted Buddhist doctrine. The various shifting realities are accepted by an adept with the words, “Ah, so.” It is a mistaken Western belief that acceptance means non-action. It is not so. It is an acceptance that the facts are before you, and they are viewed, as much as possible, without an accompanying devastating emotional impact. A person’s position with the company has be terminated and he or she faces early retirement – “Ah, so.” The facts are accepted and the person moves on to seek alternatives.

The awareness that emotions are transitory does not deny their impact or the message they carry. It is accepted that the wellspring of trusting the self is constantly buffeted by the winds of emotions. Fear and doubt are constant companions. Commitment and perseverance in the face of fear and doubt is a constant challenge.

A useful method of remaining in touch with the inner search is the adoption of the ‘witness’ state. As a witness distanced from the emotions one can remain aware of the inner search as separate from the emotions of the moment. This is a ‘two minds’ state. As an impartial witness one observes the person struggling in the grip of emotions. As an impartial witness one can move the person observed from the grip of despair to a new alternative in small incremental steps. As an impartial witness one can advise the person observed to take responsibility to risk moving from a restricted, fearful, and controlled reality to a sense of freedom and stability closer to the wellspring. Emotions still exist, the difference is that all emotions are accepted as transitory.

1. P.10. Towards a Psychology of Being, by Abraham H. Maslow, Published by D. Van Norstrand Company, 450 West 33rd Street, N.Y. N.Y. 10001.
2. The nine American Lifestyles, by Arnold Mitchell. MacMillan Publishing Co. Ltd., New York, N.Y.