Living Authentically: A Personal StoryWhatever it takes to find the real you, don't be daunted if the rest of the world looks on in shock. ~Stephen Richards
About a year ago I left my job, moved up in the mountains far away from family and friends, and started anew. I had enough of crowded places, constant machine noise and a life spent mainly indoors. My way out was to use part of my savings to offer myself a year to find out: “What’s next?”
Until then, I had lived in different cities around Europe, working in offices for many years — a normal western lifestyle with its ups and downs and its hectic and stressful rhythm.
For some time I had been uneasy about it, and as I started searching for other possibilities, I suddenly felt I needed to do a clean cut and find a way of life that really fulfilled me.
Here I had my big chance to review my life, and the main question I tried to answer as honestly as I could was: Did I live according to my dreams, my convictions and the demands of my heart?
Obviously I did not.
I wanted to winkle out the person I was deep inside but who had somehow gotten lost along the way during a busy life doing a not-very-inspiring job, mainly for economical reasons.
A good way to see the full picture was to get things down on paper, so I started writing lists to find out how to adapt my life to fit my inner needs. The main questions were:
- What do I want in my life?
- What do I want to use my time for?
- How can I express myself?
- How can more people benefit from my creativity?
- What kind of person am I?
- Is that who I want to be?
The answers to these questions didn’t flow out of my pen at my demand, but they have slowly matured during my endless hikes through the mountains, my solitary days in the little house I’m renting, and through talking to family and friends.
The Same But Different
Of course, in most ways I’m the same person as I was a year ago. However, in some ways I have changed:
- I live at a different rhythm today — a slower pace, closer to myself; a more natural rhythm, more in line with the circadian rhythm and to the seasons.
- I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors — hours and hours of walking through nature bring me back to myself and fill me with inner peace and joy.
- At home I use my time doing what brings me fulfillment. There is time for meditation and reflection as well as for exploring my creativity. I have rediscovered my passion for photography and botany. I indulge in handwork and cooking proper meals for myself from scratch every single day.
- I lead a much simpler life in every way: no shopping other than groceries and every now and then a book or a plant for my balcony. No entertainment, like TV, movies, nightlife, and I keep Internet usage at the lowest possible rate. No tiresome and costly vacations: I visit family and friends when my budget allows me to.
The most important changes have come from three major insights.
Follow My Heart
It sounds so easy to follow your heart. But how often do we choose to do things (or refrain from doing them) out of conformism, because it’s convenient, because we’re scared or just a little lazy?
I have made too many choices because of “head reasons,” and life has always proved them wrong.
Leaving my safe and comfortable job, however, was one of my most important heart choices, and I have promised myself to continue making those kind of choices.
Whatever comes from my heart springs from a true inner need and from love — for myself and for the people around me.
Be 100% Honest with Myself
Being honest with myself goes in the same direction. As happy as I am in my new life, sometimes I feel a certain unease, a kind of restlessness that leaves me going in circles.
I might try to cover it up by keeping myself busy on Internet or with any other meaningless activity, only for the time to pass by. But since Time is not Money, but Life, I don’t want to waste it!
So I make myself look for the root of the unease. Free writing is my way: I sit down and write whatever goes from my mind via my hand to the paper and eventually it becomes clear what is bugging me.
Then I either solve the issue or accept that that’s how life goes right now and that there’s probably something I need to learn from the situation.
Live Relaxed, Smiling & at Ease
I want to live this way, because then I am happy. Originally this insight stems from my too-strong sensibility: All my life I’ve been very sensitive to unpleasant atmospheres, soaking them up as a sponge.
If anybody was in a bad mood, I’d tense up and somehow try to cheer up the situation or just leave the room, always feeling oppressed and unhappy. I was tense with certain people who I found difficult and in certain situations, even before anything unpleasant occurred.
Obviously, that created more problems than it solved, so I have learned to concentrate on always feeling good about myself in any situation with the mantra “Relax, smile and be at ease.”
I have also found a way to deal with situations where others have strong negative feelings: the Buddhist teaching called Tonglen.
Basically you breathe in the heavy, dark, and difficult feelings of others and breathe out light, love, and understanding to help them relax and let go.
I don’t expect any specific result out of that practice; I just do my best to relieve the pain of the other persons. And deep inside, I know it helps.
You don’t need to move to a remote village in the mountains to rediscover yourself. I’m not advocating that others change their lives as drastically as I did.
However, I do think it’s a good idea to take a very close look at who you are and how you live your life every now and then.
Are you the person you want to be? Are you satisfying your inner needs and in some way serving the greater good?
Does your life let you express your creativity, your ideals and what’s most important for you? If you examine this with full honesty, you might be surprised at what you discover.