so-called authenticity

February 3rd, 2011

My teacher Maezumi Roshi used the word so-called a lot. He used it before every word that really wasn’t what it stood for. (That’s every word.) It’s such an efficient way to point out the source of our confusion: confusing the way things really are with the mental artifice of words and concepts.

That’s why I’m majorly peeved by the word authenticity. As soon as I say it, I’m not. Just the notion that there is a way to be more real than you already are is a lie. People who trade in authenticity trade in deception, and it’s a deception that they reinforce by their own salesmanship. So I was happy to expound on the word “authenticity” for the extraordinarily authentic Irène Nam and her recent Simple Soulful photography workshop. Here’s what I said:

What I like to remind people is that authenticity is just a word. It is a word for what you already are. Never let anyone lecture you about what authenticity means, or how to have more of it. You have it in abundant supply. You just don’t believe it.

And then I said a lot more. Oops. Listen only if you have the heart for what is real.

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  1. I agree it is a word thrown around quite a bit (even by me!) and I appreciate your framing it as an issue of trust in ourselves…in our own “authenticity”…as if this “authenticity” is something outside of us, and we have to search for it, find it, and somehow incorporate it in our lives.

    Comment by Swirly — February 3, 2011 @ 3:44 am

  2. Really, Maezen, you should do a podcast.

    This was great.

    Comment by J. Andy Lambert — February 3, 2011 @ 3:48 am

  3. I find your posts so full of peace and non judgmental. How do you do that? I don’t know for myself.

    Comment by Elizabeth — February 3, 2011 @ 3:48 am

  4. Thank you – when people say that word it gives me the heebeejeebee’s. It just sounds so phony… even when I say it. So, thank you.

    Comment by jacqueline — February 3, 2011 @ 3:53 am

  5. … and when you are grateful, be grateful. Right now I am.

    Comment by Sacred Arts Studio — February 3, 2011 @ 4:25 am

  6. Breath of fresh air + balm after all the lip service payed to the word. Thank you.

    Comment by Mamie — February 3, 2011 @ 5:41 am

  7. wow… “i promise you will work a lot more and interfere a lot less”. “you are every slant of light.” and ah… “is your real life occurring anywhere else but here.” i needed to hear each of those things, and many more that you said in this clip.

    my critical mind came to rest listening to you. i love how you continue to remind me that it is all within me already. thank you.

    Comment by Katie Murphy — February 3, 2011 @ 8:19 am

  8. I think you may have helped me with “mu” in this little shore presentation. Five little words you said!


    Comment by Alan Faulkner — February 3, 2011 @ 11:23 am

  9. I’m so glad for the reminder that I am what I am… I’ve got no other choice! 🙂 thank you for reminding…

    Comment by Kate — February 3, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  10. Thank you. I once went to a wedding where the maid of honour toasted the bride by saying she was the only person she knew who lived authentically. I had no idea what this meant but it sat oddly with me. I blame Oprah. It’s nice to know that I am not alone in my reaction to this concept.

    Thank you for your words on this subject. I found them most reassuring.


    Comment by Bobbi — February 3, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

  11. I can never read the way you speak. I vote for a podcast as well!

    Comment by talin — February 3, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

  12. This is really good, thank you.

    Comment by Kaspalita — February 4, 2011 @ 10:41 am

  13. Nothing in between.
    What is the name of this space?
    Show me, don’t tell me


    Comment by Alan Faulkner — February 4, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  14. I find myself loving and also a little bit defensive about your good words here. Trying to understand why… I think it’s because the way you describe practicing being authentic is just what I’m noting when I’m thinking in my mind: “That person is living authentically” – a life of being present to who they are and the path they’re walking by the minute, rather than constantly checking or posturing or grasping for approval. When understood this way, the word feels like a helpful way to name something, rather than an ego/mind trap, or an inherently deceptive commodity to be avoided. But that’s probably your whole point! Thanks for pushing me to think and feel on these things!

    Comment by Kristin Noelle — February 4, 2011 @ 11:37 pm

  15. Here you go: can you show me your inauthentic self? No, it’s only a judgment in your head. It’s only a thought. Whether you’re judging yourself or others, it’s still a judgment, and that isn’t real. THAT’s what we need to see.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — February 4, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

  16. haha! okay, it’s probably not meant to be funny. but it lightened up a WHOLE entire concept for me. i always feel like when i’m being a sh**, i’m not being true to myself. and the serious guilt spiral begins which makes me even worse. but, i just realized i am still just being myself then too. for that moment, wait — i’m 3-dimensional?? 🙂 flowing…changing… and so i just had a laugh with that little sh**. i think i finally get this. and this i can deal with. and let go of being ‘better’. ha! no more guilt spiral. seriously. clarity. holy wow. oye, that ego. gosh, i hope this is coming out right. so good this is so good.

    Comment by latisha — February 9, 2011 @ 6:47 am

  17. You have such a beautiful, soothing voice…

    Comment by Angela DiGiovanni | Living Out Loud — February 13, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

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