A lesson in Authenticity, or why I discontinued the Happiness series.

posted in: Articles | 5

omniwonder - Rikky Maas

As I was doing research for the article on the second Foundation of Happiness, living in the present moment, I was dreading writing it more and more, until realized I couldn’t do it. Why?! It turned out to be a valuable lesson in authenticity.

First of all, living in the present moment is not something utterly simplistic to explain. Imagine you and your friend are looking through a window, and you’re trying to explain that he should look at the window, not through it. You’re trying to make him see the subtle reflection in the glass. But it seems so obvious to focus on the scenery through the glass, that it takes quite a bit of sophisticated rhetorics to make you friend see what you mean. And even if you explain it clearly, your friend will not have the sudden and complete change of perspective if he doesn’t shift his focus, too.

This is the type of explanation needed for living in the present moment. It’s not for no reason many wise people spent their whole lives working on it, write entire books explaining it, and get the help of a coach or teacher to fully grasp it. Yes, I can superficially talk about how you’re wasting your life when all you worry about is the future, but I’m not such a master with words that a 700-word blog post will give you insight into what it truly feels like to be present.

Also, I don’t want my site to be about boiling down difficult metaphysical concepts into ‘5 things you need to do to wake up happy’-types of blog posts. I believe these concepts are difficult to grasp for a reason, for thinking about them is like trying to wrap your head around a koan. The process itself is what it’s about, and shortcuts aren’t helpful. For example, one of the things that helped me immensely with understanding that there only is an eternal now was McTaggart’s philosophy on the Unreality of Time. Reading this still blows my mind every time.

“The future is a concept, it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as tomorrow. There never will be, because time is always now. That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only present, only an eternal now.” – Alan Watts

The problem is that we don’t feel this eternal now. Why? Because we’re thinking. We constantly have a train of thoughts in our heads, as if we’re talking to ourselves or narrating our experiences. As Alan Watts puts it: “If we are talking all of the time, we never hear what anyone else has to say. In the same way, if we are talking to ourselves all the time, we are never listening, we have nothing to think about other than thoughts, and are never in relationship with reality”.

Instead of adding more thoughts to your busy mind, I want to take you along, and actually show you what it means to be present. I want to experiment with various explanations on you, I want to provide you with different perspectives, and I want to guide you into actually feeling the non-existence of time. What I wrote to go out last Monday didn’t do any of that. It was the first article since I launched omniwonder that I wasn’t passionate about sharing. So I decided to keep silent.

But.. what now? I promised my readers a series on my personal foundations of happiness. Gratitude was doable, but now I just give up? I tell them I can’t do it after all!? How can I make sure that they know that in coaching my clients do achieve this deeper understanding? I could illustrate the process, but then again, the whole point is that I specifically tailor my approach in detail…

I felt bad about it, and if there’s one thing I like to do with negative feelings is investigating them. I want to know why I feel the way I feel, so that a shitty situation is at least a valuable lesson. Why did this article make me feel inauthentic? So what does it mean to be authentic? And how do we find out when we’re not?

A great way of figuring this out is asking yourself why you’re doing something. In positive moments, this trick is often used to define your goals and to streamline your mission. When you’re feeling resistance to something, it is a great tool to find out if you’re being authentic by doing it.

When I decided to leave home and start living life on my own terms, the question that helped me keep going was ‘Why?’

‘Why am I doing […]?’ With everything I did, I asked myself why. Often, the answers reveal all you need to know about whether to keep doing it or not. It’s important to keep asking this question until you’re truly at the core. Sometimes an answer may be ‘I act such and such to help him’, but the true answer is ‘I act this way because I want him to like me’.

I realized that with coming up with the Happiness series, I wasn’t writing for myself anymore. Instead of writing down the teachings I’ve been passionate about for so long and I’m now helping my clients with, I started thinking from my reader’s perspective. What would they like to see? What would they think is helpful to read about? The answer to ‘Why am I writing this?’ became ‘because I want my readers to like me’. This is why it didn’t feel authentic.

And if I know one thing, it’s that being authentic takes courage.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brené Brown

So, here I am, admitting my mistake, and apologizing for discontinuing the series. But not just that. I’m also writing this today from a place of courage, and with that I’m making a promise, both to you and to myself. From now on my writing will be authentic again. It will be about the thoughts and feelings that keep me up at night. It will be about the ideas and arguments that changed my life. It will be about the explanations and musings that I’m passionate about sharing with you.

I’m happy to be back. ♥

5 Responses

  1. Amy
    | Reply

    Rikky, I really appreciate your honesty and ability to share this process with your readers. By being authentic and true to ourselves, we make room for others to do the same. Thanks for your courage to share it here with us.

  2. Steve Foster
    | Reply

    Much honesty and courage in what you’ve written. For gifted people, needing high ethical and emotional honesty (and the two intertwine, I believe), there can also be perfectionist self-criticism,
    so please don’t be hard on yourself. As you point out, authenticity is about choices and making them freely, and uncovering (if necessary) underlying motivations. I believe We can also be butterflies,
    experiencing the omni-wonder of life you clearly see, and not simply analytical engines, or tossed and turned by the harried circumstances we were raised or born in. We are the glass of the windows we look through, but we’re also part of the world–we can learn to see ourselves more clearly as well as the beauty of being alive–especially in the living moments of our lives, our choices. You already know all of this and so much more. Whatever you choose to write and create will be good and welcomed, I hope. Thank you,
    Steve

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Dear Steve, thank you for you kind and insightful words! You are very right on the ethical and emotional perfectionism, it’s often a drive for me — but not always the best one. It’s such a freedom to let go and feel encouraged to write about the beauty in life again! thank you again 🙂

  3. Sem
    | Reply

    Beautiful!

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