Who are you at a deep-down level when all of the roles you play are taken out of the equation? Who are you when all of the labels that the world gives you are peeled off?
I have been asking myself this question for a few weeks now, in the interest of setting and refining my intentions in this new season that the recent equinox has sparked.
It’s not easy to define my Self without using descriptors like daughter, mother, wife, friend, niece, aunt, writer, music lover, trail runner, yoga student, avid reader, and beach-craving boater. These qualifiers do provide some level of insight into where I find purpose and meaning, but they don’t get at the root essence that makes up my Self with a capital S (a.k.a. my REAL authentic Self).
Who am I, for REAL, if I can’t use those go-to identifiers above to define things?
A Closer Look at the REAL Self
In a world in which impermanence and uncertainty are the new norms, it is important that we get in touch with our authentic Self. Our REAL Self acts as our anchor and our constant amidst the evolution and revolution that is always occurring. When we are connected to it in REAL ways, we tap into our power to create the reality of our choosing.
The quest to know the Self involves adequately and accurately finishing this statement: “I am _______.”
Learning to recognize, access, and cultivate our “I Am(s)” helps us discover and enhance the key components of our non-physical spiritual foundation. When we have clarity and resolve around the unique make-up of our true being, we build an unwavering port that maintains peace and wellness even in the wake of the unpredictable surges and storms that life has a way of whipping up.
Careers, homes, people, and hobbies come and go. Our relationships, our interests, and pretty much everything else about our lives can (and likely will) change more than once over the course of a lifetime. Who we are at the deepest soul-based level, however, is the internal element which should never change based on external circumstances. Ever.
Our REAL Self is the center of our being, and it is the invisible yet poignant place from which the highest of our intentions spring forth.
All in all, pretty important stuff.
Need REAL Motivation to Embark on the Search?
Though the intricacies of your REAL Self are magically and mysteriously complex, the path to unearthing and illuminating them need not be complicated or burdensome.
It can be fun and intriguing to discover your Self in a new way and to form a REAL bond with your inner guru.
- Exploring and examining your authentic Self sheds light on what you value and how/where you find meaning. Awareness of these things will inform the choices you make and the directions you decide to go in.
- Defining your “I Am (s)” offers insight into your purpose and passions. Knowing what fuels your fire and makes you tick at a raw deep-seated level aids you in forming robust and targeted life intentions.
- Cultivating and expanding a rich relationship with your Self provides opportunities to develop your ability to genuinely connect with others. All forms and expressions of love start from within.
- The path to REAL ease and joy will be easier to walk if you are crystal clear on who you are at a heart and soul level. It will be much simpler to manifest peace and satisfaction in your life if you know your core values and understand what drives you.
REAL Authentic Approaches: Looking Inward & Outward
It is unfortunate that we are rarely encouraged to uncover our authentic Self, especially after we enter the traditional school system. People certainly urge us to think about what we want to be, but they are typically looking for a response that is tied to a profession or a life role (not one that reflects what we want to become at a core, sacred, inner-sanctum type level).
It is up to us to ask these more profound questions of ourselves. It is up to us to give ourselves permission to prioritize the time and space we will require to search for the answers to those questions.
The happy news is that once you do decide to embark on the adventure of REAL Self-discovery, there are many imaginative and restorative methods to support your cause! Check out the 10 approaches below, all of which are working REAL well for me.
Make Space for Safe Introspection: Retreat & Reflect
Take Breathing Breaks & Therapeutic Time-Outs
Block off daily calendar slots for silence, solitude, and stillness. Yep, I did write daily. Commit to reserving 5-10 minutes (more if you can!!) of quiet alone time once each morning, once each afternoon, and once each evening. You don’t have to make a big production out of these pauses and “peace pockets” of time! Use solo drive time, shower/bathroom time, or quiet meal time if you can’t seem to bake it in any other way. If you can carve out a special place to pause, or break away from the daily routine and change up the environment, do it. In any case, pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise when you are not moving, not talking, and unencumbered by life’s noise. Some of what surfaces may be uncomfortable at first, but all emotions and thoughts will be useful and telling. If you need some additional guidance when it comes to integrating silence, solitude, and stillness into your daily routine, sign up for my live April 14 workshop!
Go on Rest Retreats
Schedule weekly, monthly, and annual time away from the busyness and noise of the daily grind. Set aside at least one evening or one half of a weekend day each week for restorative R&R (rest and relaxation). For some, this may mean reading or writing by candlelight with a cup of tea and soft music, for others it may mean taking a peaceful walk through the forest. To each his own! BUT…in all cases, whatever you engage in should involve very little stimulation, no strenuous activity, little to no talking, and a calm atmosphere. Make an effort to also do this for yourself one full day each month, or take a page from my book and go away by your Self for an overnight or a weekend get-away. You would be amazed what 24-48 hours of solitary down time will do for the soul.
Make room for Meditation
There is no right or wrong way to meditate, so fear not! There is also no shame in perusing the internet for handy resources. I personally prefer guided meditation, and there are plenty of free apps to try. My go-to is typically YouTube. Whichever method you choose, make it your intention to do this at least 10-15 minutes/day. I recommend layering meditation into one or more of your daily breathing breaks or therapeutic time-outs. My latest meditation fix is Oprah’s and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Guided Meditation Series on Gratitude & Grace – the two team up to offer ~20 minutes of deep mediation/per day, and it has been wonderful so far.
Jump on the Journal Bandwagon
Converse with your Self through reflective journaling and creative expression. Create a customized collection of cut-out words and images from your newspapers, magazines, books, and printed internet articles (these do not all have to be terms and pictures that are tied to psychology, wellness, or spirituality…whatever resonates and speaks to you will fit the bill). Randomly choose one from your bag and use it as a journal prompt. Note and describe the thoughts and feelings that come up as you gaze at the word or image. If the creative prompts conjure scenes or scenarios in your mind’s eye, record the details using the filter of all 6 senses (the 6th being your intuitive, gut-level sensations).
Experiment with “Music Musing”
I love music, so I integrate it into my wellness and development routines as much as possible! Listen to either a favorite song or one that is not familiar to you, and record your interpretation of the lyrical meaning and how it might apply to your journey. Note the emotions, responses, and thoughts that the song’s rhythm and words inspire within you, and reflect on what all of that might be saying about your core Self. The way music speaks to an individual is often a soul-based facet of life. Start with Avicii’s Wake Me Up!
Design a Life List
Author of the The List, Yuval Abramovitz, calls this an “urban meditation.” Look at your life from a distance and also through the eyes of the child you once were. Remember what you dreamed of becoming during those magical younger years? With that youthful vision in mind, examine what feels right now as well as what may still be missing or need tweaking. Create a list of the dreams and goals still left to manifest (avoid the limiting thoughts!) and of improvements to implement, and make a plan to achieve those in a new way (applying the knowledge you have gained so far in life). What mattered to you as a child will give you significant insight into what is meaningful for you at a soul level. When we are in child-mind mode, void of fear and filled with wonderment and a sense of endless possibility, we are most in tune with our higher Self.
Create a Gratitude List or Blessing Brief
We hear this approach suggested often, and there is a good reason for that! When we take pauses to purposefully ponder what we are thankful for (both in terms of gratitude for what we do have and for what we don’t have) and acknowledge the good that is already flowing through our lives, we boost our vibration to a heightened level that is more closely aligned with that of our higher self (a.k.a., our authentic being).
Make Space for Extropection: Step Outside of Your Self
Make “Mindful Observation” Your New Mantra
Get into third party observation mode, and begin to notice your reactions to certain situations, environments, circumstances, people, and comments. Non-attachment (very different from detachment) can be a helpful tool when we want to objectively analyze our own behavior and thinking. Pay attention to the positive and adverse reactions that you have, as both types can reveal insights about your true purpose, passion, and preferences. Let go of judgement and think of yourself as a scientist studying a new organism. Watch and learn!
Court & Date Your Self
Try new things. Visit new places. Go out on solo dates – just you, your Self, and you. Do whatever takes you outside of your “box” and forces you to exit your comfort zone. When the walls of familiarity and habit are removed, the REAL Self has a better chance of emerging. The added element of solitude can enhance the process further. If you had recently met a new friend or started dating a new person, what kinds of stuff might you be inspired to do? Think of your Self as that new interest or buddy, and do those things!
Mix Things Up with Movement
Physical movement gets you outside of your mind, into your body, and more closely in touch with the raw and vulnerable side of your Self (that soft and unprotected space filled with revelations about the REAL you). I like to think of the body as the bridge between the mind and the soul center. Move with the intention to focus only on the bodily feelings and sensations that pop up, but make a mental note of the thoughts that do creep in when you are in motion (including the specific actions and exercises that spark those thoughts). Experiment with new ways of moving and reflect on how you feel when engaging in each of them.
REAL Neutrality: Look for Your Self in the Middle
Chances are that you won’t find your REAL authentic Self on the rigid and breakable edges of life where the black and white dynamics grow. Rather, you will likely spot your true Self hanging out in the center of all that is, playing somewhere in the gray areas of life where neutrality, flexibility, and pliancy reside.
The neutral zone, as I like to call one of my new favorite spaces, is that sweet spot of copacetic flow where I have the easiest time connecting with myself these days. It isn’t always easy to find that zone; but in the moments when I am blessed and awake enough to find that middle ground, that’s where I Am. I literally meet my Self in the middle, where the either/or concepts like right/wrong, good/bad, and easy/hard are overshadowed by a sense of imperfect perfection.
Sometimes I catch glimpses of my core Self on my yoga mat, or in the woods that I like to run through, or while meditating or reading something that deeply resonates with me. She peeks her head around the corner and gives me winks and smiles during those times when my mind and mental chatter are either turned down or shut off. She finds it easier to get my attention when I am vulnerable and open.
In nature, in solitude, in sweaty physical bliss, in mindful silence, in the spaces where I engage in new and creative activities…these are the places I tend to synch up and interact with her. I am enjoying getting to know the beautiful and powerful Self that lives deep beneath my skin and transcends the labels and limitations that my society and my ego like to stick on me.
Getting to know her for REAL is requiring resolve, courage, and commitment; but something tells me she’s well worth the effort.
Authenticity is a constant letting go of who you think you should be, and instead embracing who you truly are. ~Neel van Lierop
And that, my friends, is the REAL tea.
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K.T. Wilson is a health and wellness blogger dedicated to helping people discover and harness their personal power to create balanced lives of joy and ease. She resides in Harford County, MD, with her husband and two daughters, and is currently writing a book on the benefits of REAL living.