Let me begin this month’s topic with a parable:
A traveller nearing a great city asked an old man seated by the road,
“What are the people like in this city?”
“What were they like where you come from?” asked the old man.
“Horrible,” the traveller responded in disgust. “Mean, untrustworthy, detestable in all respects.”
“Ah…” said the old man thoughtfully, “you will probably find them the same in this city as well.”
A few hours later another traveler passed by and asked the old man the same question.
“What were they like where you come from?” he similarly asked.
“They were fine people. Honest, industrious, generous, caring; I was sorry to leave,” the traveller responded.
“You’ll find them the same here,” the old man replied.
What is quite incredible is that this simple parable contains an astounding truth. If your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal vibration of energy have produced a life where you are encountering generous, kind, honest and caring people, then that is what you will continue to attract no matter what new city or change of circumstances you find yourself in. Likewise if your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal energy have produced circumstances where people are dishonest, greedy, mean and self-centered, then changing your city without changing yourself is highly unlikely to produce anything different.
Let me illustrate this reality in this way. Recently a friend of mine was trying to entertain his young son and thought of an ingenious way to keep him busy. In a magazine he saw a full-page picture of the world map. He knew his son was interested in geography so he took out a pair of scissors and cut the map into numerous pieces, making a puzzle. He gave it to his son figuring it would entertain him for some time. Five minutes later his son was back to say, “I’m finished.”
“How did you complete it so quickly?” his father asked in amazement.
“It was easy,” answered his son, “On the other side was a picture of a man. I figured if I got the man right the world would be right.”
Oddly enough, here another truth is revealed: Get yourself right and your world will be right. If you want authentic meaningful relationships with others, look no further than yourself. Become authentic. Become yourself.
I have a good friend who is the most authentic person I know. People love being around her because she is so real, with no pretence. She makes everyone feel special, not in a phoney way; she makes them feel special because she is genuinely interested in them. She values people. She values relationships, knowing that even the most causal relationship, a moment with a stranger, has the potential to gift them and us in some way. And so she lives her life day-by-day, moment-by-moment, open, honest and receptive to others. It sounds simple but it’s actually revolutionary, given that most of us approach others with an agenda of our own.
The question you must ask yourself is do you value relationships? Are you willing to be authentic yourself in order to have authentic relationships? Are you prepared to change, grow, open your heart and show yourself to others? Unless you can answer yes to all three questions, it’s futile to hope for authentic relationships with others.
Here are a few of my own observations on the qualities possessed by those rare individuals I have encountered who are one hundred percent authentic in who they are:
1. Authentic people are not afraid to be who they are and show who they are. There is no pretence. There is no building themselves up to look better, there is no tearing themselves down to look worse. They are secure with who they are. They know their strengths and use them in a loving, compassionate way. They know their weaknesses and catch themselves, without recrimination, when they fall into them. They are what we sometimes refer to as being “real.”
2. Authentic people are approachable. It doesn’t matter what position they hold or what activity they are engaged in, if you are with them you will be treated with respect and attention.
3. Authentic people are interested in others. They have learned that having an authentic relationship holds the key to joy and happiness. It is not work or effort for them. It is natural because they have developed this ability through wisdom. Whether it is a life-long relationship or an encounter of ten seconds, they know it holds within it the core truth of our being, namely that we are all one. They see in others another part of themselves, another part of God, a tiny piece of the unfolding matrix that is totally unique in and of itself. This is of interest to them.
4. Authentic people put others at ease. We know when we are in the presence of an authentic person because we feel relaxed, at home. We feel heard, respected, important, interesting. Authentic people make us feel that way because that is how they see us, and through their sight we in turn see ourselves anew. We see the promise of our own lives and our own possibilities through their enlightened vision. We knew it is true because they see it, and we trust their vision. It is one of the greatest gifts we can be given, and in turn give others. But we can only give it if we’re authentic.
5. Authentic people know their place in the world and fulfill it with joy and attention. Sometimes it will be a position of power and influence. Other times it will be the most humble of occupations. It is not the occupation or position that distinguishes them, but rather their ability to know and be themselves, and to have deep meaningful relationships with others.
6. Authentic people live day-by-day, moment-by-moment. They have the presence of Zen masters. They know well that life must be lived and experienced one situation at a time, so that’s what they do. They know deeply that nothing is more important than this very moment. When we are in their presence we know it too, for we vibrate with their frequency.
Authenticity does not happen overnight. We humans are too filled with our own arrogance and selfishness. Too attached to our agendas. Too busy with our own lives. Too fixated on our goals. Our concern is primarily with ourselves, but this can change when there is the vision and will. If authentic relationships are important to us we can practice being authentic. We can make a start and learn as we go. Nothing is impossible to us. Then, as we become more authentic ourselves, we will discover the joy of deeper relationships and will want to become one hundred percent authentic.
We might find that we want no distance or barrier between others and ourselves. There is no telling where it might lead us. The masters of old were just like us before they began their journey of discovery, and we will be just like them when we take our own journey into authenticity. It is a worthy journey.