One of my circles keeps in touch by email and a monthly conference call. We rotate leadership and each leader suggests a topic for our check-in. This month a circle sister from Canada suggested we focus on the word authenticity and what it means to each of us. The sharing was both deep and diverse. Becoming conscious of our authentic self is no less than a revolution of the soul. It requires a commitment to go against a deep habitual groove of contorting ourselves to fit the pressures of the need for approval from others.
When I gave it some thought I was reminded how, as a child, I formed the habit of seeking the approval of my siblings. I grew up the third child of four. I learned to blend in with my older siblings for self-preservation and in order to be included in all the exciting things they were doing. My sister is 3 years older, my older brother is 1 year older and my little brother was 2 years younger than me. We were a tribe with all the hierarchies and privileges that go along with that.
My sister and I shared a bedroom. She had a particular flair for fashion and I was grateful she took it on herself to be my dresser. Each day before school she’d either lay out what I was to wear or critique what I picked out for myself. The downside of her largesse was that it wasn’t until I was well into my 40s that I started to begin to develop a style that was authentically mine.
Since my older brother and I were so close in age I was able to lean on him to speak for me. I’ve been told that we even had our own language and that my parents and grandparents thought I might be handicapped in some way because, for many years, I didn’t speak at all. Again, it wasn’t until much later in life that I began to develop my authentic voice.
It took me quite a long time to start to understand and become conscious of my true nature and to begin to live more fully in accordance with it. The habit of pleasing others was a life strategy that was deeply grooved in me. The only nickname I ever had as a child was “mouse.” I think it was because I kept myself small and close to the ground.
The development of a different pathway began for me when I started working in circles with friends of the heart who shared the mutual commitment to support one another in the fullness of our “true selves.” It’s meeting with others in conscious circle work that has influenced me most deeply in becoming conscious of my authentic voice, preferences, and values.
Early on in my circle work I remember certain moments when something would suddenly come bubbling out of me. Initially, I would feel a rumbling of insight start to form deep in my gut. It would begin as a sort of tension and it was scary. The vibration would become a compulsion and try as I might to swallow the words this rumbling could not be denied and soon they were flowing out in a torrent like magma pouring out of an erupting volcano.
In those early days of circle work my friends would be astounded by the mouse who was transforming into a lioness. Hopefully, I’ve learned to temper this voice since those early roars. Rather than being ostracized by the circle, my passion and pronouncements were both welcomed and appreciated. Circle was a safe space in which to practice and trust this newfound presence of being. Just as a baby looks to us for feedback when she/he takes those first few independent steps, the circle served as this encouraging witness to these first utterances of my authentic voice. I began to recognize a unity within me: my heart, my mind, my psyche were aligned in this expression of my authentic voice.
It’s my experience that when we are truly authentic to our own deep selves we are in a state of pure joy. It must be akin to what a surfer feels when riding the power of a wave. More than ever, we need this kind of authentic speaking and listening from the heart. All of creation needs our unique contribution in this great turning of an age.
For more information about starting and maintaining a circle for yourself go to www.millionthcircle.org to find guidelines, principles, and articles.
By Justine Willis Toms