Living in integrity is living an authentic life, and living an authentic life is living in integrity. For me, authenticity and integrity are interchangeable and inextricably linked. Authenticity – integrity – is the foundation of my life. A few of the components of this way of being are: joy, peace, love, compassion, gentleness, strength, energy, vitality, serenity. The question of how I live in authenticity and integrity helps me "empty the trash" of what I do not want in my life. This question helps me be vitally conscious of what I am outpicturing in my life. If I don’t like the picture, I change the film I’m putting into my vision center! I alone am "response-able" for doing my best for my life!

Answering how do I live in authenticity and integrity means far more to me than just going through the motions! I deeply care about the gift of life I’ve been given. I don’t just go through the motions of anything. I don’t care how hard it gets at times. That’s not the point. The point is the message underneath the difficulties. I believe in the principle of love. I believe we are the heartbeat of this principle in manifestation. I want to live my life as a manifestation that I understand and value this principle. Living from a loving expressiveness is my gift back to the presence of life that has given me my life.

For me, living an authentic life is the cornerstone of a joy-filled life. Living an authentic life honors the spirit of the divine in me, as me. Nothing brings me more joy than honoring this divine presence in me. I honor this presence in me. I recognize my oneness with this principle in all its many expressions such as: love, joy, life, peace, grace, abundance, generosity! Recognizing my oneness with this principle of magnanimity means I won’t settle for the small stuff. I will treasure being cared for by the pulsating heart of the divine. I won’t live my life with a bushel basket over my heart and my head! I will live my life with my whole heart and soul! I will risk being rejected by others. I will risk being unconditionally loved! I will live joyfully present in each now moment!

Living an authentic life means honestly and caringly answering the deeply mystical questions, "Who am I? What is my purpose? What is my impact on others? What is someone else’s impact on me?" I’m learning some painful lessons about appearances not being what they seem. I’m learning how to quickly, respectfully disengage from unhealthy, draining situations. There’s a reason the doormat and the psychopath are pathological relationships with balance. There is no balance in these two mentalities! There is no authenticity. Both extremes of this psychological continuum are severely disconnected from their authenticity. Where there is authenticity, there is a deeply profound love. I don’t think we fully understand and value that yet as a society.

I am continually learning at deeper and deeper levels what it means to live my own authentic life. I am seeing better than ever that there are people who want to live their lives through me. This co-dependent kind of unhealthy relationship is never a blessing to the giver or the receiver! That is abundantly clear to me now! It is an enragingly suffocating, debilitating arrangement for both people. I want to live my own life. They must live their own life! We’ve each been given a precious gift, a natural vitality to cherish and to develop. I never want to lose sight of that truth. Keeping contact with that true vision is my gift back to the presence of life in me.

Since the 1980s, as a society we started to develop and understand a new definition of selfishness that I truly honor and take to heart. Partnership of any kind must be based on equality, not co-dependence! We must live our lives as though we understand and value being our own independent selves. We must understand that we bring to relationship our wholeness! We do not bring half a self waiting to be completed by anyone! To be healthy, happy, authentic and in integrity, it is vitally important that we recognize this basic truth! I do not believe it is possible to live a healthy life of any kind without recognizing this basic premise and value. It is not selfish to individually be all we can be! It is the very essence of an authentic life – a life of integrity, a life of joy, a life of peace!

I feel this basic premise has moved beyond a personal level into an organizational and international level of interaction. There’s still so much more work to be done, but we’re getting there. We’re learning to compassionately and unapologetically say "No!" to those who want us to dim our light, subvert our integrity, allow them to derail our and their spiritual growth process. We are saying, "I want to live my own life. I know you can live your own, too! I am not your life! You have your own!"

This respectful independence and interdependence is such an important spiritual, societal shift. It is so very important to understand and honor that caretaking and strength are not exclusive qualities of just one gender. Both women and men must be raised in a healthy culture that values creating whole beings! Caretaking does not mean abandoning the responsibility of developing our own lives. Strength does not mean bulldozing a culture or an individual into submission. It is imperative for a healthy society that we understand these basic truths of our humanity. We are spiritual beings sharing a human experience on this precious planet. We must live together in authenticity, in integrity! We must take up our own cloak and live as expressions of love, peace, joy, compassion, generosity equally recognizing our responsibility for self and others! We must release all the shadows of our past that in any way said it was socially acceptable to abuse ourselves and each other. That shadow came out of a seriously unbalanced, hierarchical, abusive structure that was a disservice to us all. The circle of our independence and shared interdependence is fragile and yet unbroken. It is our gift and our legacy!

One of the ways I am offering healing for this whole process is by teaching classes in personal empowerment and classes in embracing our shadows and reclaiming our lives. As we actively, consciously reclaim our lives, our integrity, our authenticity and our joy, we will release all that no longer serves our very highest good. We will reclaim our vision center for the awesome inspiration it truly is. We will see our love, joy and compassion, and we will share it authentically, naturally and amazingly to heal ourselves and each other. Blessings to us all as we live and love in peace and integrity! Namaste!

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Cathy Combs is a freelance writer and workshop architect specializing in personal empowerment and spiritual community leadership development. She lives in Kansas City, MO.

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