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Issue 20

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In this issue ~~

* Rediscovering Your Authentic Self

* Where Dreams and Reality Meet

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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Rediscovering Your Authentic Self

Many of the sages have said that growth is not a matter of adding to who you are, but of stripping away the layers you've added over the years that cover and hide your truer self. In Jim Cathcart's The Acorn Principle, the author asserts that "success and happiness come not from changing oneself, but rather from discovering one's natural talents and abilities and aligning one's life accordingly."

As a newborn baby, we're in complete touch with who we are -- our needs and feelings. As children, we naturally gravitate toward things that are fun for us or arouse our curiosity. But as we get older, we're taught that certain aspects of our behavior are unacceptable and if we want to be loved, we're going to have to toe the line. We give up our hopes and dreams in order to fit in. This socialization may continue throughout our lives, unless we stand up for ourselves and actively seek to reignite the spark that was extinguished.

Those of us who have pursued our creativity and our passion have managed to stay in touch with our authenticity to some degree. But nobody escapes entirely; it's part of the human condition. An important component of personal growth is discovering ourselves anew, and the pursuit of reconnecting with our authentic selves can lead us to lives that are more pleasing to us, with less pain and struggle and new depths to our creativity.

So where do you find this authentic self? It's not something that's foreign to us, but something that was always there and got submerged under layers of protection and conditioning. We want to gradually strip away those layers and find the treasure that has always awaited us underneath.

Some of the ways you can touch upon your truer self:

~ What did you love doing as a child? If you don't remember, ask parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, anyone who knew you then. Look at old pictures or, if you have them, videos or 8mm films. Dig up old diaries or journals.

~ What are your values? What really matters to you? Look at each item carefully. Where did it come from? If you learned it from your parents, is it still something that you would choose for yourself? If so, restate it in a way that makes it your own. If not, replace it with something that's meaningful to you now.

~ What's fun for you now? What would you like to do but avoid because you don't think you'd be very good at it or you're afraid of what people will say? My writing skills in high school were not particularly noteworthy, but as an adult, I came to realize that writing is a great way to express myself and communicate with people, and my skills have developed with practice.

~ What topics are you drawn to? If you were going to subscribe to a bunch of magazines, which ones would you choose? You might want to access a list of periodicals or journals from the library or the Web and see which ones appeal to you.

~ What do you do because you know it will please other people? How would you change that if you only had to please yourself? This may be a tough one because after many years of sacrificing your own desires for those of parents, spouses, friends, etc., your own desires may be a distant memory. If this is the case, be patient with yourself and keep looking. Growth has often been compared to peeling the layers of the onion. Keep peeling.

~ Be aware of your body. What messages is it giving you? Which activities allow your body to feel relaxed and open? Which ones make you tense or uncomfortable? How can you stop or change the stimulus that causes your stress? It's like eating food that doesn't agree with you. Taking an antacid may handle the symptoms for awhile, but if you keep ingesting the irritant, the problem is going to recur. Likewise, if you hate your job, staying in a warm aromatherapy bath with soft music and pink light all weekend won't stop you from tensing up again Monday at 9 AM.

Reconnecting with your authentic self will be a long process that will happen in steps, so be patient with yourself. Enjoy the hunt and revel in each new insight. And keep in mind that this is not just about work. While the things you discover about yourself may lead to a career, they don't have to. It's also about making time for the things that feed your soul, whether it be music, art, a sport, reading a good mystery, building furniture, knitting, taking a class, gardening, spending time mentoring a child or volunteering for a favorite charity.

~ Take another look at your dreams from earlier times in your life. While you may not want to do the same things you did back then, you'll get some great clues. Then extract the essence of your childhood or early adulthood passion and give it a new form. For example, if you loved treasure hunts, you might enjoy doing research on the Web. If you were notorious for taking apart your toys, being a mechanic or building computer systems might be great fun for you now. If you graduated from acting school but never had the nerve to pursue a professional career, joining a community theatre could be a very gratifying pastime.

~ Begin to be aware of the ways you function best. Are you a morning person or a night person? Can you accommodate your schedule to suit this? Do you like working alone or on a team? Do you prefer a quiet environment or an active, bustling one? Are you caught up in the fast lane when you really want to move at a leisurely pace? When you're a tortoise in a world full of hares, it can be hard to slow down without becoming suspect. But part of rediscovering your authentic self is giving value to your needs and preferences and honoring them. It may be hard to be different as a teenager, when fitting in is so crucial, but as an adult, we can find the strength to be different and revel in our uniqueness.

~ Look at yourself in new ways. Rather than doing things habitually, stop and evaluate why you're doing them. Is this activity something that used to serve you but no longer does? Is it something you're doing only because your spouse wants you to? Is there another way you can spend time together that you could both enjoy equally? Is there something else you can do that would be more pleasant and beneficial? Our needs and preferences change over time, and it's useful to periodically reevaluate the things we include in our lives.

~ As you come more in touch with what's truly meaningful to you, start to make a place for it in your life. Take time to do things that are pleasurable. Rethink your priorities. Begin to eliminate things that you do solely because you think you should. Certainly you have responsibilities to yourself and your family, but a lot of our obligations tend to be self-imposed and you can negotiate some of the other ones with your loved ones. It may be a little scary to do this, because people have come to expect you to be a certain way, and you could meet up with some resistance from those close to you. Try sharing your discoveries with them so they don't felt left out or left behind. They might even want to join you in some of your new activities and make some changes in their own!

~ Start to bring your new authenticity into your creativity. When you're faced with a challenge at home or at work, instead of resorting to your usual options, try brainstorming some new ones. How would the person you are now (or the person you want to be) handle this? Include some options that seem outrageous, and let that outrageousness expand the boundaries of your usual thinking. If you're in the arts, how can you approach your work in a fresh, new way? If you're a veteran, you may have habitual ways of working that are comfortable to you. Try something new. You may not stick with it, but it can open up new avenues of expression for you. Try a different medium, a different style, a different approach.

Finding your authentic self may be a lifelong quest, and you'll never achieve it 100%. But the insights you'll have along the way and the greater happiness you'll enjoy are well worth the pursuit. We're each unique beings, and the more we can uncover our authenticity, the more we can bring our special contribution to the world and feel really good about our lives.

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Where Dreams and Reality Meet

"Follow your dreams" is a common mantra these days. For those of us particularly in the western world who have our basic needs met pretty easily, we have the luxury to pursue self-actualization, to "find our bliss." Up to a point. We still have to pay rent and put food on the table, sometimes for others as well as ourselves, and the standard of living these days can get pretty expensive.

Dreams are great. It's fun to fantasize about what we can be, and dreams are the seeds that lead to the realities we create. But how many of you had a dream as a child or teenager only to have the roof blow off the house when you announced to your parents that that would be your career?

When it comes to dreaming and "getting real," we tend to think of the extremes. You know the typical image of the dreamer, whose dreams are all fantasies that stay in his or her head. They talk about all the great things they're going to do, but they never seem to get around to them. The flip side is the realist who is constantly worrying about finances and impending disasters and doesn't have time to pursue anything just for pleasure. But keeping your fantasies in your head can leave you with some good feelings and long hours of daydreaming and nothing to show for it, while being too much of a realist can be a very dry existence indeed.

There are some dreams that are meant to remain fantasies. As a child, you may have wanted to be an astronaut, veterinarian, fireman, inventor, baseball star or President of the United States; that's part of testing the boundaries of who you are. As a teenager, you have your typical "they'll be sorry when I'm famous" type of dreams. These serve their purpose in comforting you during a very challenging time of life, but most of them are not meant to be lived out. True, some people really do become rich, famous movie stars, but most of us don't.

But what about the real dreams, the ones that still make your heart sing? Those are the ones that you want to give life to in some form. But often we're stopped by the practical considerations of our daily existence. How can I give up my law practice and open a crafts shop when I have 3 kids to put through college? Or how can I become an astronaut when I can't even get myself to the gym twice a week and I'm afraid of heights?

Following your dreams is a balancing act. While some people do give up their lucrative jobs to live a simplified existence in the country, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Perhaps you'll begin living pieces of your dreams as a hobby or a side job. As your skills and income grow over the years, you may choose to make your hobby a full-time job. Or it may happen when you retire. If you happen to be on the verge of graduating from school as you read this and are in the throes of choosing a career, giving reign to your dreams may mean taking a job at McDonald's while you practice shooting video on the weekends, or temping or waiting tables while you audition or write your book.

Despite the myth of the overnight success, most dreams are achieved slowly and steadily, through small, consistent steps. It doesn't all have to happen tomorrow. Make a long-term plan that includes interim steps and short-term goals. Look at where you want to go and work backwards to map out the steps that will get you from here to there. Then start pursuing step 1. And while you're doing that, make sure your financial needs are met; it's hard to put energy into creating your dream when you're terrified of getting evicted because you haven't paid the rent in 3 months. Part of your long-term plan may be to start putting away money on a regular basis so that when the kids graduate from college, you can quit your high-paying corporate job and open up that crafts shop or become an astrologer or massage therapist.

And if your dream just isn't physically possible, like becoming a ballet dancer at the age of 40, you can still take a class at the local dance studio or go to performances. And your dream of being an astronaut could evolve into a study of astronomy, aeronautics or cosmology, or perhaps directing or acting in movies like Apollo 13.

A word of caution. If you share your dream with someone and they want to give you a "dose of reality," take it with a grain of salt. They may be afraid that you'll be hurt and disappointed, or they may be jealous that you had the guts to pursue your dream. Either way, they feel the need to tell you the hard facts. But nobody can predict another person's future, and dreams are achieved all the time. So I strongly suggest only sharing your dreams with people who will understand and encourage them. As long as the odds may be, who's to say that you're not the one who will beat those odds.

You need to keep your eye on the dream and the reality at the same time. Like a hot air balloon, if there's too much air, it will float away, but if the ballast is too heavy, it'll never get off the ground. You want enough of each to fly at just the right level.

Remember, your dreams are a signpost to your authentic self. You're meant to pursue them. While you don't want it to be at the expense of your responsibilities to yourself and others, by finding the balance and the appropriate pace, you can make your dreams a reality!

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Creative Tip

A fun way to learn more about yourself is to treat yourself to a reading with a good astrologer or psychic or read a book on numerology or a personality system like the Enneagram. You'll gain interesting new insights and validate things you "kind of" knew about yourself already.

 

Wise Words

"I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up."

~ Albert Einstein

"Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly."

~ Langston Hughes

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

The Acorn Principle: Nurture Your Nature - Find Out How Rich, Full, and Rewarding Your Life Can Be . . . Jim Cathcart

The Adventure of Self-Discovery . . . Stanislav Grof, MD

The Adult Years: Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal . . . Frederic M. Hudson

9 Chances to Feel Good About Yourself . . . Judy A. Laslie

All About Me . . . Philipp Keel

Live Your Dreams Workbook: Discover & Live the Life of Your Dreams . . . Joyce Chapman

Discover Your Destiny: Finding the Courage to Follow Your Dreams . . . Bill & Kathy Peel

Achieve Your Dreams . . . Kathleen Russell, Larry Wall

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© 1999 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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