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What does it mean to be authentic?

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year – authentic – has a number of meanings. As I reflect on the year past and look to the future, one definition stands out.

authentic | adjective | au·​then·​tic | true to one's own personality, spirit or character

As Shakespeare famously wrote, “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely Players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Inscribed inside the Temple at Delphi is “Gnothi Seauton” which means, Know Thyself.

The Sufi poet Rumi said, “Yesterday, I was clever and wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise and decided to change myself”.

Even the word person comes from the Latin root, “persona” which translates to actor’s mask.

Who are we and what does it mean to be authentic?

Brene Brown thinks authenticity is realized with vulnerability, as most who suffer are doing so because of a feeling of shame and worthlessness. Stripping off the armor we display so readily on social media, in cosmetic dermatology offices, and in the stories that make up the framework of our very existence is a start.

So many of us struggle with this, as is illustrated by the finding that over 20% of the population of our country reports feeling chronically lonely and socially isolated. This perception is more common among younger people than older Americans.

To be at our best, we must focus on the present moment. The great scientist Albert Einstein tells us that space and time are really just one thing - spacetime - and that the past, present and future don’t really exist.

Only the present truly exists.

However, most of the time we are focused on our regrets of the past and our fears of the future and thus, do not focus on the wonder of the present.

Steve Jobs said in his Stanford University address in 2005 that he looked in the mirror and asked himself, “If this is my last day, would I be doing the same thing?” Because if you ask that question for enough days, someday you will be right.

Taking time to be present and to appreciate the wonder and beauty in every little thing is an opportunity that we all have, but most don’t recognize. Treat each moment as if it is special and it becomes so.

How can we be true to our spirit?

Another word for our spirit is love. The most cutting-edge science tells us that although our world appears to be made up of many, our universe is really only one single thing. We learn this though work in quantum physics called entanglement.

In fact, three scientists won the Nobel Prize this year for their work in this area. Experiments show that if we take a pair of matched electrons or photons and separate them at any distance and time, when one is activated, the other activates in an opposite configuration, immediately.

Faster than the speed of light.

The conclusion from these studies is that everything is really always connected to every other thing, no matter how separate they appear.

All the universe is connected as a single whole.

Each of us is all and always connected. This is our authentic self. Facets of a single diamond.

Our spirit seeks the love inside and to reconnect to this oneness.

The result is an unending desire for genuine human engagement and reconnection to our authentic selves.

Remember, the strongest attribute of people who live long and well is the strength of their relationships and connection to others, to purpose and to hope.

Connecting to our authentic selves.

To love each other as we love ourselves.

This is the Golden Rule, the basis of all the world’s religions.

Since we are part of a single whole, we only receive what we give. Service to others and abundant mindsets of hope and gratitude are part of our spirits.

The poet and polymath Rabindranath Tagore said, “I dreamt that life is joy. I awakened and realized that life is service. I acted, and behold, service is joy.” Service to others is among the highest callings. Mother Teresa said, “Don’t count numbers. Help every person and start with the one closest to you.”

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

By reconnecting to our spirit, to our authenticity and to love is the basis of who we really are and brings meaning and purpose to our lives and to our communities.

By being true to our authentic self, we naturally love, serve and inspire others. We heal ourselves to heal the world.

In the new year, I encourage us all to embrace our infinite authentic self and spread love, joy and hope to everyone. Starting with ourselves and then to our communities, state, country and world.

Shakespeare said, “To thyself be true”.

Thank you each for making our community shine.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful and happy holiday and a healthy, abundant and prosperous new year.