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How to Be a Genuine Fake

Hiking to the Enchantments in the Cascade Range in Washington (July 2010).

Authenticity is a rare thing. You know it when you see. In people. In art. In music. In cuisine. In the environment. The real-deal stands out because it doesn’t try to be real. It just is. I notice this with people all the time. Authentic folks stand out without trying to stand out, they are so rare nowadays. There is a great quote that I heard many years ago that captures this notion:

Who you are speaks so loudly I can hardly hear a word you are saying.

Being authentic is incredibly simple, but not easy. It is simple because it does not require you to do anything. It is hard because it does require the non-doing of many things. We are programmed to pretend. From a young age we learn that being ourselves is not OK. It isn’t appropriate to dance around the floor of the temple or the church. It isn’t appropriate to wear flashy clothes to school. It isn’t appropriate to cut your hair like a mohawk. It is isn’t appropriate to eat dessert first. There are so many things we are told are not appropriate.

As a result we learn how to be a genuine fake and get very good at it. We learn not to rock the boat. We learn how to fit in and do what we are told. We learn how to judge ourselves as good or bad based on the expectations of others, and this in turn helps us be even better and the fakery. We become very good actors.

There are many problems with being good actors. Acting, even for the most highly skilled actor or actress, takes an enormous amount of energy. Being someone who you are not is a net energy drain. All the thoughts, words and deeds that must be done come at a cost. In fact, it’s a double-whammy. Not only does it take energy to act, it also takes energy to repress who you really are, your authentic self.

A great meditation teacher taught me that meditation is an act of non-doing. If you think meditation is tough, it isn’t because it requires you to do something tough, because there is no doing involved! In fact, the more you sit still and force your mind to focus on only one thing (or nothing), the more tiring meditation will become. Therefore, the best way to meditate is to make it effortless. Sit down, and just notice what you notice. If your mind wanders let it wander and notice it wandering. Continue the practice of noticing and you will begin unwind the Gordian knot of effort that is keeping you all wound up! Meditation must be effortless, it is the only way.

Authenticity happens, it isn’t something you do.

In the same way, trying to be authentic is a massive energetic drain. Authenticity happens, it isn’t something you do. The best way to be a genuine fake it to ignore this fact and continue doing what you are told and fitting into how you think you should be. Another great way to entrap yourself and others is to get caught up in double-binds about how to live your life. This means you come to believe that you must “try to be sincere” or “you must always love him” or “you must only tell the truth”, etc. These statements are double-binds because they require forced thinking and agreement to an impossible outcome. These beliefs make it impossible to be authentic. As ridiculous as it seems to read these statements, people live their lives according to these rules and don’t even know it. You become a first-class genuine fake when you force things to happen. When you speak what you think you should speak instead of what is true. When you act out of concern for the future or the past vs the present.

I stumbled upon these mountain goats during my hike in the Enchantments. Getting into nature and observing animals in their wild state is a great way to stay connected to the here and now.

If you are tired of being a genuine fake, the good news is that the way out is far simpler than the what got you there – but it may not be easy depending on your past conditioning and mindsetĀ  (though it may quite trivial if you believe it to be so). It comes back to aligning thoughts, words and actions based on what is really happening, not what is expected of you or what you think about the past or the future. In the truth of the now, there can only be authenticity, for fakery relies on the mind, and the mind operates in the past/future and not the present. In the present there is only awareness which lies behind the mind. This is the only truth.