Authenticity is the ‘real’ you – your heart and soul – the essence of who you are. It’s when you have the ability to flow with your emotions, be congruent, live in the present moment and therefore be open to respond to life’s opportunities with balance between your head and your heart.
You know when you are being authentic, it’s simple – you FEEL GOOD!!
When I was a teenager, I can remember my Mum saying to me ‘Just be yourself’, when I was worried about going into a new or strange situation. I used to think ‘But which self is that? The one who answers the telephone, the one who I need to be when visiting Great Aunt, the one I am at college, the one I am at home or the one I am with my ponies?? Which was the ‘real’ me?’ I longed to be my self – the same ‘me in all situations; if only I was good enough to be myself!!
Here was the clue. I believed that I needed to behave appropriately to different situations, to be accepted, to gain approval, to be my best. This is a conditioned sense of ‘self’. Our ‘authentic self’ is the one hidden beneath all the ‘masks’, all the layers of conditioning and limiting belief patterns. And so how do we access our authenticity? In the words of Lao-Tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
My journey to authenticity began during my studies in Life Coaching. I began to learn what was important to me and what I valued in my life. I began to recognise that my beliefs were simply thoughts that I’d continued to think for a long time. Some were useful and some were detrimental to my health, wellbeing and happiness. I also learnt that as I brought the limiting belief patterns into the light they lost their power over me and new, more helpful beliefs could take their place.
This was often a liberating experience, but sometimes the celebration came after the anger I felt as I realised that I’d limited myself for so many years!!
Over time I learned to accept my past limitations as I learnt that these old beliefs were survival patterns that had kept me safe as a child. I could then be grateful for what I’d achieved and let go of the past, which always left me feeling lighter and more joyful. I began to question all my beliefs – quite a sobering experience – at the then tender age of 45!!
When I planned to sell the Riding Centre that I’d built and run for 14 years a new wave of vulnerability hit me. I had come to know the Rosie who had a successful riding centre and was well known in the area and I accepted her as ‘me’. But who was I under this mask? I wanted to find out.
I continued my journey of self awareness and personal development as I studied, learned and practised Reiki, Radionics and Hypnotherapy. I worked as a Freelance Riding Instructor and what I noticed was that I loved teaching. I was most joyful when I was in the company of horses and their owners – in a mutual learning environment and relationship. I was totally ‘myself’ in these situations. I noted it down!
In November 2006 a new horse came into my life, who was to lead me to the next step of my journey into authenticity, Jack. Looking back it’s hard to believe that I bought Jack. He wasn’t the horse that I truly wanted at that time, he wasn’t fit and ready to go, and I knew it would take time. Now I realise that behind this decision was another limiting belief – “I won’t find a horse that will do everything I want it to do, I’ll have to make it”.
The fittening process was one that I was very familiar with and over the ensuing months Jack grew in strength and condition; he looked a picture of health. However, what I hadn’t noticed, under the mask of his lack of fitness, was his level of fear and unpredictability, particularly when he was left alone. As he grew fitter and stronger he could spook more rapidly and soon my confidence turned to fear and our relationship started to deteriorate. But why??
What I didn’t realise at the time but which became clear later, was that I didn’t honour my ‘fear’ when it arose. I continued to act confident, as I was so used to doing. However, this left me in a state of prolonged alertness and Jack could literally feel my fear and that added to his own insecurities.
After our fall in September 2008 I knew that I had to face my fear. I either had to sell Jack to someone with more confidence and feel a fraud for the rest of my life, or I had to admit to myself, to Jack and to the world that I was frightened of him. On some level, I knew that the latter was the path that I had to take, and however painful, was the path to set me free. Once I could honour my fear I could keep myself safe and begin to build a relationship based on honesty and trust. Whilst recuperating from my fall I read the notes that I’d been given months earlier by an Animal Communicator. Holly Davies had told me about Linda Kohanov, an author and co-founder of Epona Equestrian Services.
I found the Epona Equestrian Services website www.eponaquest.com from which I located a facilitator in the UK and within 2 months I attended a private session in the Epona Approach of Equine Facilitated Learning with Angela Dunning www.equinereflections.co.uk. Within 3 months I had started on the EASE Programme and in March 2010 I qualified as an Epona Approved Facilitator.
The Epona Approach teaches the Emotional Message Chart as written by Linda Kohanov in her book, Riding Between the Worlds. Horses are masters of emotional agility. They communicate through their emotions. For example, if they are in a field and suddenly a piece of loose paper flies into the hedge they may be frightened. They feel their fear, they run to the other end of the field, they turn to inspect the new intrusion and when they recognise it to be safe, they go back to grazing.
The biggest impact of the Epona approach on my life has been learning about emotions as information to guide and support my daily life. I feel more calm, content and more alive. Throughout my life I’d become a master at suppressing my emotions. I grew up not wanting to be a ‘cry baby’ and bottled up my tears, even though I knew I often felt better after a good cry. I suppressed my anger, not realising that it had a simple message about the need to set a boundary. Unfortunately when the boundary continued to be violated my anger often turned into outbursts of rage or sarcastic condemnations, followed by the inevitable feelings of guilt and shame for acting so offensively.
I was so used to suppressing my feelings that learning to feel my emotions in their purest form has been the biggest challenge. However, it has also been the greatest reward to the future happiness my life. With the understanding that the emotion has to offer me I can now take appropriate action to allow my body to return to its original state.
As I embrace a whole range of emotions in their purest form my life is much richer. As I have begun to honour what I truly feel, free of old survival patterns I have been able to do more of what I want to do, I’ve had fun trying new things and I’m open to new opportunities. I’m more able to trust my own instincts and I don’t have to rely on the approval of others.
Of equal importance to my personal growth was what I learned about being congruent; by this I mean acting in the same way as I was feeling. This was when I learned that all the time I thought I was fooling Jack by acting confident, he knew that I was fearful, and that was partly causing him to over react to certain situations. I can now honestly say that I finally know how to ‘Just be Myself’!
To complete the triad of what’s important to be the ‘real’ you is the ability to respond in the present moment. This is achieved when we can see each situation as if it is happening for the first time with the innocence of a child, free of any limiting thoughts and beliefs. I think that this is a job of a lifetime. Since horses live in the moment they are great teachers of this concept, whether we are just in their presence or whether we are working with them on the ground or riding them. They teach us how to ‘go with the flow’ and how to embrace not knowing what’s going to happen next. Over time this allows us to enjoy the present moment more fully.
Accessing authenticity brings a greater sense of calm, contentment, joy and happiness into life. Life becomes more about the journey on our way to reaching our potential and our greatest achievements. The added benefit is that as each of us feel more joy and contentment in our lives it ripples out to all those around us, and impacts all our relationships with human and animal beings.