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Advaita for the 21st Century

True Self
Eric Putkonen

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Eric Putknonen

 

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Authenticity and integrity is really the same thing. To be authentic means to be our real being. I did not use the word "self," because our normal conception of self is a false self. What many people see as themselves is not their true selves. We often try to identify ourselves by our accumulated facts and events, what we do, what we have, what we think, etc., but this is not really our true identity.

I was born male in 1974 (Generation X). These are only forms; I am much more than this and cannot really identify with it. This is not who I am. That is the problem. We identify with the superficial and limited. I am an American. I am a Minnesotan. I am white collar or blue-collar worker. I am (insert race). I am (insert religion). It is endless...just an accumulation of things we happen to be and not really our true self. We should honor these characteristics, but we should not seek our identities in these things.

Some practices say this is all simply an illusion. It is not an illusion. I am male. There is no denying it. You need to accept your forms and what goes on within you. I am a man, but I don't have to gain a sense of self or identity from this fact. But for simplicity, it often is easier to just say "we are not this."

We must learn to look at ourselves deeply and find out who we really are, if we are to be authentic. Sometimes you hear of this happening when people are on their deathbed. Their fabricated selves drop away and they realize who they really are. I am not what I own, my identity does not come from the car I drive, I am not my name, I am not my occupation, etc. Suddenly, in the moment, they almost glow as they realize their true self.

Meditation on the question, "Who am I?" -- or on your own death -- could bring many rewards.

Integrity means being integrated -- being whole. We are so fragmented and broken up that we must piece ourselves together before to will have any integrity. We repress and/or run away from so many aspects of ourselves. Jung called this our shadow. He asked people, "Would you rather be good or be whole?" We want to appear "good" so much that we break off and hide any aspects that are not considered good. This creates opposing wills within us. That is why, when we decide to do something (diet, exercise, meditation), we often don't do it. Excuses not to do it come up or we allow ourselves to be pulled away to do something else.

G.I. Gurdjieff and P. Ouspensky called this the many I(s). One "I" always will want to tell the truth or be loving. Something happens in the external world and another "I" take over and lies or is cruel because of the situation. One "I" will hear a secret and promise to keep it, and other "I" will tell. There is an inner conflict raging within us. This is the lack of integrity -- fighting with yourself, inner fragmentation. We are our own worse enemy because we lack integrity of self.

Another aspect we often repress, run away from or cling to is our past. We do not accept our past and let it go. We hide from ourselves what we did or what happened to us. We remember good times and get stuck trying to go backward when we can only go forward. We like beating ourselves up over what happened in the past and rehashing old wounds. Part of our fragmentation comes from this unaccepted past. The past is what makes us who we are and we should not make it a burden.

Mindfulness (being in the present moment) will allow us to see our divisions and false selves. To be in the present -- to be mindful -- means to just be. We just are. In this "be-ing," we can look deeply at ourselves and see our own divisions and conflict. We can accept our forms and reach beyond them for our true selves.

Mindfulness -- being in the present moment -- holds the key to integration and authenticity. It is the secret within most spiritual practices.

Eric Putkonen
Printed in Edge Life Magazine Online - January 2006
Copyright � 2006 Eric Putkonen. All rights reserved.

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