3. Finding Authenticity
With all due respect to our brethren in the animal kingdom, theres no question that human beings sit atop the earthly hierarchy. After all, its not as if ants developed the space shuttle or a leopard penned Macbeth or northern birds text-message each other about their final Florida destination. While it would be nice to sit back, thump our chests, and extol the any virtues of mind and body, the true human experience that which serves as one foundation or being beautiful happens not necessarily because were smarter. It happens because were deeper. That, folks, begs a pretty big question: Where does the being in human being come from? Lets think of being as existing on three levels ranging from automatic, instinctual actions to highly developed spiritual and contemplative ones. Who we are and that we feel represent a highly fluid meshing of multiple forces in all three of the following levels:
Level 1: Automatic being. The most primitive of the levels, this one is essentially categorized by our animal within. We hungry, we eat. We tired, we sleep. We tingle, we make babies. Simply, the emotional center in your brain decides how you feel, and your mental motherboard tells you not to overthink. Just act.
Level 2: Educated being. If level 1 is primal, then level 2 is cultural or social. We learn how to feel or behave in certain situations and then act accordingly. Much of these actions are based on routines of how weve learned to do things (such as how we argue or how we drive to work using the same path) and arent instinctual. Here, our brains take the information we receive, process it for a moment (but just fora moment), and move on.
Level 3: Authentic being. This third level is what separates man from meerkat. It involves the uniquely human capacity to enlarge our attention, to contemplate the big picture, and to be open-minded enough to think beyond primal instincts and learned, habitual behaviors. Perhaps the best way to describe this level is through the image of a wheel with a hub and spokes. In essence, authenticity happens when you can shift your thinking to realize that youre not the hub in the center of the wheel but are connected to the center at all times, and the world works together elegantly. Youre just one of many nodes in a highly interconnected world of relationships. Most of our lives are spent driven by external factors and motivators (striving for that pay raise, promotion, or Hummer limo) as opposed to intrinsic ones with a higher ideal (a love of the work you do and your purpose). So to find our true, authentic self and be happy about what we find, we must know how we exist in relationship to other things specifically to other people and to the world at large (one of the reasons why finding and being a good buddy are so important). When we break through the instincts and the habits, we break through a level of superficiality that many people typically tend to live with. And thats when we break through to a deeper experience in life. This takes some time, some practice, and some energy; in fact, our brains can dramatically increase their energy consumption levels when we focus. Since the brain consumes 20 to 25 percent of our calories when were at rest, augmenting its activity can be an important change in the status quo.