When we talk about things, a lot of times we talk in black and white examples, in extremes, using these as symbols for the concepts we are trying to convey.  Like all politicians are corrupt and all aid organizations are altruistic and successful and all scientists are single-minded and socially inept.  These are generalizations and extreme caricatures of people, but they have become symbols that we recognize so make communication at least quicker, if not clearer and more coherent.  However, nothing is truly black and white, the extremes are exactly that and all the other 98% of everything lies between them, and communication about reality might take more time, but it’s endlessly more fruitful and enlightening if we at least try for it.

Spiritual paths, callings, authentic lives…all of these things have their own extremes as well and all have developed their own symbols in our cultures and languages.  There is the hermit in the desert living in rags eating bugs and meditating day and night on God, there’s the shaman or medicine man using arcane objects to heal imagined sickness, there are the monks that spend all their lives searching for the answers to koans and riddle the meaning of the universe so they can transcend it.  The wise man on the mountain, the searcher that seeks enlightenment only to be sent off by the wise man to go battle some other bad thing in order to find out that he already knew his answers all along and he was asking the wrong questions.  The list goes on and on and on.

And because these examples are extreme, because they have become symbols, most people don’t associate them with regular life, don’t associate the role models they offer, the processes they describe as having anything to do with daily life, and so ignore them out of hand when thinking about their own spirituality.  Which, in my personal opinion, is one reason why Joseph Campbell’s work has such popular appeal.  He translated the myths and symbols and structure of these things into language that people could understand, took the extremes and made them understandable to the 98% and pointed out how these are just ways of understanding the life of the 98% and made them usable.

My clients often struggle with the gap between the symbols and their real lives.  They seek an authentic life, to have their real lives in sync with their spiritual calling, with their souls.  But many of them want that to happen without any effort on their part, like a gift from a faery godmother.  Or they want it to happen without having to spend too much energy or without anything in their lives having to change, especially how they think and act.  Which I understand.  I think at one time or another we all had to hit that wall and realize that part (not all) of the issue was how we were doing things or thinking about things and that it had to change.  And that change is difficult.  Living an authentic life is not all flowers and bonbons.  It’s like anything else in life.  It’s work and fun and struggle and reward and as we get used to it the effort is part of the fun as well.  And like any skill set, with practice it gets easier.

So when you think about having or living an authentic life, stop and notice how you are thinking about it.  Is it just ‘happening’ to you like winning the lottery?  Does it happen without you taking any steps to achieve it?  Is it in some future time period not connected with now?  If so, then you might want to spend some time rethinking all of that.  Because everything is connected, you can’t get what you don’t even try for, and there is no time like the present to begin moving towards the life you want and deserve.  And no, you don’t have to be a hermit and eat bugs in order to achieve it…unless you want to.  I’m not judging.  😉