Being authentic - what does that really mean?

Photo: © Chris Wakiki

Being authentic - what does that really mean? Working with a the forms Authentic Movement and Contact Improvisation through so many years of practice and teaching, I often hear the question from my participants and long term students "what does it mean to be truly authentic?". It's a tough question to answer, simply because it is such big question, but I can share my experience, my practice and my insights.

I think authenticity is almost as big of a word as enlightenment. Enlightenment is a concept that is claimed by different religions and spiritual masters. Practicing tibetan Buddhismus myself for more than ten years, I can only sense what may be an idea of what enlightenment might be like. Being authentic on the other hand is something that I know and recognize very well. For me authenticity often "happens" in moments of surprise, reflexive or paradoxical behavior, where the head is too slow and I simply react. Sometimes I recognize my authenticity, when I feel a surge of energy rushing through my body without exactly knowing where it comes from. But also in moments when I don't think about anything else but what am I doing. So enlightened moments may somehow be connected to authentic moments.

The percentage rate of my authenticity is higher while I am dancing than in my "real life". Even though these two aspects have merged closer and closer together so I don't separate them as much anymore. Still, when I move, sound, touch, dance I feel alive, awake and yes more authentic, than when I am grocery shopping. Being authentic to me has about as many different qualities as the sky and the formation of the clouds. I change all the time and so does my level of authentic expression and sensations. Sometimes Authenticity shows up as being more introverted and reflective, sometimes more dramatically outward, louder.

In many aspects of my life I have had to learn to become more authentic in the sense of being more honest to what I am really feeling. For me this is mostly in the case of of a conflict, becoming more self assured, standing up for my rights, the rights of my children, my self worth, for respectful behavior and equality. Listening to and following my inner truth can mean upsetting somebody or even loosing somebody, because they don't agree or understand. Authenticity has consequences.

I once had a surprisingly clear moment of realization abut authenticity during a Rosen Method training. In the Rosen training practitioners aim to find a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to become most efficient in breathing and moving. This is where I realized that at this meeting point, at the moment of full relaxation and alert awareness we are also in a state of full authenticity, ideally like in a contact dance or an authentic movement session.

So I don't have an answer to the question "what does it mean to be truly authentic?", but is if we all put our experiences together, if we continue practicing day by day, if we witness ourselves and each other without judgement, we all get a good sense of what it might be...