I would like to share with you The 5 Principles of Authentic Living, which represent nearly 50 years of self-study and self-expression.
The first led to self-realization based on direct experience; the second led to unfettered forms of actualizing that realization in the world.
These five principles comprise 10 simple words: two words per principle.
They are my scripture, the profoundly holy and profusely practical book I use to guide me along the pathless path of an authentic life. The value of this isn’t so much in the reading of it (10 words, after all, doesn’t take long), but in the doing of it.
The value of these 10 words is in direct proportion to the degree we embody them.
At the age of 11, I began questioning things, especially myself. Who the hell was I? What is truly going on here? What should I do, and how should I live? So, I began to wander in search of credible answers.
When I was 23, I found myself in India, where I walked into the ashram of Swami Muktananda to visit a friend—I thought for a few days. A few days became more than 10 years. Muktananda’s basic message and teaching was simply this: Meditate on your own Self. God dwells within you as you.
Easy enough, I thought. Find the truthful core of my own Self, speak to that inner God, and I’d know all the answers to all my questions. I began to meditate on my own Self. It wasn’t that easy. There was this little thing called “mind” which seemed to wreak all kinds of havoc with my simple plan of meditating on my Self and chatting with God.
Nonetheless, I persevered as best I could. 10 years went by. More years. Then and I don’t know exactly when it happened, I was taken by silence. My mind was no longer an impediment. Everything just settled. I can’t say how or why, because I truly do not know how or why.
I suddenly had my answers, but they were different from what I thought they would be. Instead of planting my flag on the summit of absolute truth and certainty, I found no mountain and non-answers, or anti-answers. My questions dissolved and then disappeared—and so did my confusion and anxiety about life. So did I, in a certain way.
I can’t write more about what I found. I’m not that brave or foolish. I can, however, tell you where I found everything I was looking for: The five Principles of Authentic Living.
You see, over the years, my teacher’s simple “Meditate on your own Self” became these five principles and God and Self became an authentic life. The principles reflect how I continued to explore the inside while expressing on the outside.
With these five principles I found the fulfillment of my search for self-knowledge, for meaning and truth, for my place in the world. These five principles revealed the answers and they continue to illuminate my path, moment by moment, effortlessly and flawlessly.
I am never lost or confused. I always know where to go and what to do, just as I know when to be still and do nothing.
With these five principles as my mentors, I know how to live authentically. I am able to remain awake and alert and keenly aware of life from the inside out, and from the outside in. I know how to tap into and touch the very core of my inner creative consciousness and power, and I know how to express the many facets of that core in unique and enlivening ways.
Today, I live within the nuclear emptiness of these principles; they are my default posture in life.
I am convinced that we each have within our own self the blueprint for living authentically, for discovering from within our self our own deeply personal and truthful responses to Who am I? and How shall I live?
These 10 words are not a prescription for what but how. I cannot tell you who you are, what to want or what to believe, where to go and what to do, or what is real.
Even if I could, I’d say that for the sake of authenticity you ought to find out for yourself. I will, however, tell you that my own search for “self-realization,” for a truthful and heartfelt life, came to fruition in these 10 words.
Over the years, I have been told that my spoken and written words have touched the lives of many people, and that many are the better for it. And I will tell you that all my words and actions have come from within the creative and expressive hub of these five principles set out in 10 words.
The contributions I’ve made to people in my professional roles—as author, organizational consultant, leadership adviser, self-awareness teacher, public speaking guru, spiritual activist, and life mentor—flow from these 10 words.
Virtually every issue I’ve helped clarify, every problem I’ve helped solve, every condition I’ve helped improve, every insight I’ve helped generate—whether for myself or with individuals, couples, groups, teams, companies—has originated in one or more of these 10 words. These 10 words, these five principles, serve me well. They are the source of my knowing, feeling, and acting.
If you live with any doubt, confusion, or conflict about who you are and how you should live, these ten words may likewise be a gateway for you to live authentically, to live the life that only you can live.
In this regard, I feel that we all share a common purpose: to tell the truth of our authentic self without fear, and to live this truth with as much energy as we might like to muster. This is how we become a blessing to our self, and to others: to tell the truth that only we can tell. This is living authentically, and in this we are each best suited to know what to say, what to do, how to live.
We know. We come in knowing. We can never completely forget, though sometimes we might need a reminder. I certainly did.
The 5 Principles of Authentic Living
1. Be Present
Be Present means to not be defined or determined by the thoughtstream—the constant flow of thoughts, images, beliefs, and emotions. Be Present is the blessing we need in order to experience our self and the world directly, unmediated by the content of the thoughtstream.
2. Pay Attention
Pay Attention means to notice what we’re doing in real time. It means to notice the effects we produce. It means to notice everything that’s happening—inside and out—while it’s happening, in real time.
3. Listen Deeply
Listen Deeply means to hear the constant stream of wordless clarity that comes from beneath the surface of the thoughtstream. The silence beneath the thoughtstream is a language of insight.
Speak Truthfully is how we bring what is inside, outside; how we mark the world with our presence. This is how we announce and represent our authentic self to others and how we are heard and known by them. Speak Truthfully reveals, rather than conceals, our authentic self, purpose, intentions, and motives; it shows the strength of our spine and quality of our character.
5. Act Creatively
Insight without action is delusion. When the great Sir Lawrence Olivier was asked where he learned his acting technique, he laughed and said it wasn’t learned but developed and refined over countless moments of inspiration, experimentation, risk, and creativity.
Authentic acting, as in action, and authentic living are one and the same. Many, if not most, people on various paths of self-knowledge neglect this; they discount action. I don’t. It’s where and how we demonstrate the truth of our insight and attainment. Speaking about bullfighting is very different from being in the ring with the bull!