Authenticity is a slippery slope. We often equate being authentic with self expression – but is this really authenticity? The great mystic Gurdjieff suggests that a person has personality and essence. Personality consists of all the different identities we carry, the many I’s of the mind. One moment we’re cold, the next hot. One moment we’re hungry, the next we’ve eaten too much.
Essence is obscured by personality. It is that part that is most true and yet often buried under a lifetime of patterns and preferences.
When you “express” yourself, what is being expressed? Is your expression simply a reaction – an effect to an outside cause? Or is it a cause in and of itself? If you are being reactive, can that be considered authenticity?
In the Landmark Forum they suggest that the only way to be authentic is to be authentic about how inauthentic you have been.
Counter-intuitive wisdom indeed.
Today’s video explores authenticity and offers a powerful way to transcend the ever changing preferences of the mind. I cover authenticity in the context of teaching and leadership and what it means to help others be authentic in our presence.
The great Sufi mystic, Nasruddin, illustrates this theme with a poignant story:
Nasruddin was visited by some students, who asked whether they might hear his lessons. He agreed, and they set out toward the lecture hall, walking behind the Mulla, who had mounted his donkey with his face to its tail.
People began to stare. They thought that the Mulla must be a fool, and the students who followed him even greater fools. Who, after all, walks behind a man who rides a donkey back to front?
After a little while the students began to become uneasy, and said to the Mulla:
“O Mulla! People are looking at us. Why do you ride in this manner?”
Nasruddin frowned. “You are thinking more about what people think than what we are doing,” he said. “I shall explain it to you. If you walk in front, this would show disrespect to me, because you would have your backs to me. If I walked behind, the same would be true. If I ride ahead with my back toward you, this shows disrespect for you. This is the only way of doing it.”
This is the difference between essence and personality.