Persona or Authentic Self?


Answering the question “who are you?” can take us a long way on the spiritual journey in distinguishing our personas from our authentic self. The personas are masks we wear to allow us to function in specific situations. They aren’t necessarily a bad thing, if they represent healthy behavior and we recognize them as personas.

In his book, “Conscious Living,” Gay Hendricks writes “The problem of successful people is that their ‘good’ masks work really well.” Often our masks that “work really well” can begin to be confused with our essence or our authentic self. Then our masks can become traps where we are now living for the persona rather than our authentic expression.

No matter how successful we are as a public speaker, a teacher, an accountant, a salesperson, an actor, an athlete, a mother, or a father, it is not who we are. It is a role we are playing, that while drawing on our authentic expression, is only a small part of who we are.

Often as spiritual teachers we invite participants in classes and workshops to sit face-to-face as one participant asks the other “who are you?” then asks the question again and again after the one responding answers. We typically see that the first answers are more about our personas or the roles we play – mother, father, husband, wife, hiker, dancer. As we continue to answer the question, the answers go deeper and begin to transcend personas. Ultimately, we start to come into the realization that I am divine, I am a unique way that divinity is expressing, or something more along the lines of our essence that exists regardless of situation or circumstance.

When we become overly identified with our personas we can lose touch with our authentic selves, and as a result become disconnected from our happiness and fulfillment. Amid great success, there can still be a sense of emptiness and a degree of low self-esteem.

The remedy is to begin reclaiming our essence. We can use that simple question, “who are you?” We can do it in a journal or with a partner. The question is more important than the answers. There is not an ultimate, final, definitive answer to the question. Rather, the question is a practice that takes us deeper and deeper into ourselves, expanding our awareness of the distinction between our personas and our essence.

By continuously feeling into and contemplating what is true and changeless about us, we expand into connection with our deeper, more authentic selves, and give our authentic expression greater outlet, regardless of the role or activity.

When we feel connected to our divinity, our essence, then fulfillment is natural, regardless of external circumstances. When we are not connected to our essence, no amount of external success or recognition is fulfilling.

Meditation as a spiritual practice is also a great aid in connecting us to our essence because it creates more spaciousness within us whereby we see ourselves and the world in greater clarity. A simple breathing meditation will do, where we sit in stillness and keep bringing our attention back to the breath as the mind tends to wander.

A spiritual teacher once said, “If you have time, meditate for 15 minutes a day. If you don’t have time, meditate for 30 minutes a day.” There is great wisdom in this humorous phrase, and yet it is less important how long you meditate each day than it is that you are consistent in meditating daily. If you take one minute each day to get still, pay attention to the breath, and tune in to your inner being, it will be helpful. And the amount of time spent in meditation is likely to expand on its own with practice.

The invitation this day is to contemplate “Who am I?” “What is my essence?” And then to live in the question as it continues to bring greater light and clarity.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory has an upcoming online class based on Gay Hendricks’ book “Conscious Living.” Click here for more information.

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