Authenticity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being authentic.

It may have to do with my beautiful circle of friends growing once again as I slowly meet more of ‘my people’ by living more like how I feel inside, regardless of what other people’s opinions, judgments, or expectations are. It’s amazing what you attract when you like who you’ve become and know that the right people will love you and stick beside you, the wrong ones will eventually drift away.

It may have to do with realizing the toll my recent employment took on me and being able to reflect on how down it made me – the lesson being that I do not want to ever feel that way again about a job.

It may have to do with the added free time I have had to actually slow down and enjoy life a bit while I am off – not to say it has been a walk in the park to not FREAK OUT about not having a clear direction set out for this next chapter, but Michael and my Tuesday day adventures have been pretty fantastic and plentiful.

One of our many adventures <3

One of our many adventures ❤

It may be my unquenchable thirst to learn, to see more than what we are provided easily in today’s western culture when it comes to news, health, way of life – this bubble we’ve grown accustomed to because it’s comfortable and familiar, filled with distractions from what life is supposed to be. As I grow, my soul desires to be more self-sustaining in all areas of physical life and the knowledge to do so is just as accessible, if you just look for it. There are big plans for greenhouses, chickens, a bit of land and a tiny house for Michael and I.

Whatever the trigger, I feel as though our society is losing their authenticity. I feel as though too many people are acting, playing a role, presenting something they do not authentically feel to the world. Too many people worried about how their lives look, and not enough concerned with how they feel at the end of the day. Bigger houses, newer cars, the latest phone, more money, more things, less love, less touch, less authenticity.

I felt this way when I over-heard antidotes from two young women at a local coffee shop, of the strategic moves being made to secure a second, third and fourth date – covering off the silly things they were pretending to like or be interested in to seem more attractive to the potential mate. I found myself wondering if that is really how some people find a life-partner, or if I’d stumbled upon a more (thankfully) rare breed of singleton. Would it not be more advantageous – if the goal truly is to shack up with a life-mate – to be purely authentic from the get-go?! Okay, okay, maybe not allll of the crazy cards at once, but at the very least being straight about who you are, what your interests are, where you came from, where you’re going, where your heart lies and having the confidence to know that you’ll be okay whether or not the stranger across from you likes it or not. Wouldn’t you rather the person who loves you for life know YOU, all of you, the dark and the light in you? I don’t know if I could trust a love that didn’t know and accept the whole package. I feel we need more authentic love.

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I felt this way during an interview where the interviewer seemed surprised at how many questions I had prepared. I let him know that I prepare for all of my interviews by making a list of all the details that are important for me to make a good decision in where to invest my time and talent. It opened a conversation about the shocking number of candidates that they have interviewed that did not understand it is as important to interview the company you’re applying to as much as they interview you; it helps to ensure the company matches your requirements as well or it will be a waste of both the company and employee’s time. I know I am a good self-advocate that can land a job by selling my skill set and experience, however I know first-hand the importance of being authentic in your work and wanting to make the best decision for your life goals. You give up so much of your life to your work, I believe you should somewhat love your life’s work. I feel we need more authentic work.

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I felt this way when I began to get more involved in the Moksha Yoga Cambridge community and had multiple ‘aha’ moments with the beautiful souls I have met there. The ‘aha’ of my soul as I recognized so much of myself – my true self – in them. That second family feel that reminds you that you’re not alone in the desires you have for the world, your communities, your family, friends. It made me realize that by living more authentically and searching for those outlets that feed my soul, I have in turn started to attract the kinds of people, opportunities and lifestyle I have been craving my whole life. It also made me realize how rare it is to find what I have found, that many people will never allow themselves to be open enough, vulnerable enough, and authentic enough to let who and what is meant for you, find you. I feel we need more authentic lives.

Amen!

I feel if we all followed our hearts a little more, learned to trust the universe a little more, searched for knowledge a little more, and especially lived a little more authentically, there would be a lot more fulfilled and happy souls in this world.

~ Toni

Hug a terrorist

In high school, I clearly remember being taught that Canada is this beautiful land, full of different cultures and people, and that everyone added their heritage and history to our tapestry, making Canada a unique mosaic of people. And in the next breath, of course, we were taught that America, our southern neighbour, was a melting pot, where people’s histories and heritages were obliterated in a steamrolling of assimilation.

It might be true. And it might be false. The reality, though, is that these are polarizing ideas and they leave little room for exception. There is proof of racism and the demand for assimilation here in Canada, perpetuated even by our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who is demanding Muslim women not be allowed to wear a niqab during citizenship ceremonies. And there is proof of acceptance and ‘mosaic’ behaviour from our American neighbours, like the conversation-igniting campaign that Starbucks tried to tackle with their #RaceTogether scrawls on cups.

Regardless of where we live, what nationality we are currently claiming as ours, or how we choose to identify ourselves, we all have the same thing in common: we are all human. And this fact, again, regardless of anything else, is the most important and often the least remembered piece of any country’s puzzle.

A young Muslim woman, Assma Galuta, is trying to tackle the gap between reality and perception when it comes to race. She runs a YouTube channel where she posts filmed social experiments she has conducted. Her experiments challenge what people ‘know’ or ‘say’ about the Muslim faith and people, and what is real. Her focus is the universal commonality: we are all human.

In her first experiment, she asked people to finish her poster where she had written, “I am a Muslim, so that makes me…” She herself had put “kind” and “terrorist,” both terms that had been used to describe Assma in the past. Then, she stands on the street, asking people to write what they think a Muslim is.

The result is heartwarming – everyone who takes the time to write on her poster, leaves words of positivity and humanity. And most of them apologize for the word ‘terrorist’. It’s a nice story and a good news item for Canadians…at least, for a handful of Torontonians. The truth, is, though, she has been called a terrorist. She has experienced what she calls, Islamophobia, and hate directed at her because of her dress, her religion and her belief system. The reason for the experiment still exists – people mistreat people who are different, who act differently, who aren’t like them, instead of treating them as they really are: human.

In her second experiment, Assma blindfolds a Muslim man, Mustafa Malwa, complete with brown skin and beard, and puts two signs beside him. One reads: “I am a Muslim. I am labelled as a terrorist.” The other reads: “I trust you. Do you trust me? Give me a hug.”

Again, the response is hopeful – people walk up to him and hug him – men, women, other Muslims, white people, black people, HUMAN people. And it’s a shining ray of light in the dark days of young, black, unarmed men getting shot without provocation, of mosques getting vandalized, and of Jewish cemeteries getting defaced.

But, of course, this is not everyone. Not every person hugs him. Not every person will trust him. Not everyone can look at him and not see a terrorist.

And this is not a small thing.

It is in the way that the media handles violent attacks, labeling some terrorist and others not. Looking for mental illness and reason behind a murder of 149 people instead of looking for a religious political slant on a horrific plane crash because the pilot who downed the plane was white.

It is in the way we handle any difference, reacting in fear when we see a line of people waiting for a bus simply because they all have a different colour of face than we do. Being suspicious of someone because their skin is darker and their hair is longer and their outfit is something we’d never wear. Judging people simply because of their appearance, their religious affiliation, their beliefs, and their ancestry.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. So what can we do? How can we combat stereotyping, and culture-phobia, and hate speech? How can we stop perpetuating false ideas about other religions, other cultures, other ethnicities?

I would like to propose a social experiment. I won’t record it and I won’t post it. It won’t go viral online with millions of views and hits on YouTube. But I’d still like to give it a go, because I’m unsure what else I can do, as a privileged white woman living in Southern Ontario.

Assma Galuta's favourite quote.

Assma Galuta’s favourite quote.

I’d like to challenge you to see every person you come across as human. Not as black or brown or white or pink or purple or blue. Not as fat or gay or ugly or gorgeous or thin or fit or heterosexual. Not as a stranger or a friend or a neighbour or a fellow shopper. But as human. Notice their human-ness, what makes them the same as you, what makes them a person, what gives them the right to have all the necessities of life and the right to live it fully. Notice their breath, their heartbeat, their movement, their presence. Notice them. Notice other human beings. And focus on that piece of the melting pot or the mosaic or the country that you’re in. Stop noticing the difference and start embracing, and in some instances, literally hugging, the humans around you. Because they are just like you.

~ Julia

Craving silence

I have to chuckle at the irony of my choice in topic for this post as it seems there has been a lot of silence from me lately here on the blog.

I refuse to complain and wallow, so I will not rehash the current, lasting WAY longer than I wished difficult patch I have hit in life. I will get through, as I always do.

Missing my blogging outlet got me thinking of the other fundamental activity that I have so dearly missed – silence.

Or rather, the act of sitting, reveling and centering myself in silence.

Tews Falls, Ontario

Tews Falls, Ontario

Some people wrestle with it, just can’t stop themselves from filling the gaps, the blanks, the pauses. They crave the noise, the distractions, the interruptions. It is as though they struggle with a subconscious fear of facing the quiet. I find that as I grow, mature and evolve, this is where I have began to thrive. I’ve realized there is a certain level of self-awareness that comes from being able to be absolutely still, quiet, in the moment, right where you are, without worrying about finding something to keep busy or become consumed by.

Being at peace with the quiet is even more rewarding when you are able to do so with another person. I had a hyper aware moment of this recently – driving down the 401, returning from a trip to Windsor, I could not help but note just how at ease I was with the silence between myself and my travel companion. I did not for one minute of that almost three hour trek home worry about what to say next to make the moments seem full, or feel the pressure to entertain someone else with banter. It was just them and me, the whir of the tires on the pavement and the shared love of the albums rolling through the iPod set on shuffle.

The trick that my generation – well the majority of North Americans in general, really – just cannot get right is that the quiet is where the fullness is found. The stillness is where the relief is found. Much like the rest in a piece of music that hits you at just the right moment, the pauses hold the golden moments.

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It has been easy for me to notice the  importance of silence recently. With my insane-o schedule, overwhelming, constant connection through technology, constantly being on and stress levels through the roof, the ache and nostalgia for the quiet has been sneaking up on me and getting stronger as these weeks carry and continue to pile on. The desire to spend time alone, or at least to enjoy simplistic moments together with those I consciously choose to spend my limited time with, has only gotten stronger.

It has recently had me forcing Michael to get in the car and drive over an hour to Grimsby so I could sit in silence at the edge of the escarpment for an hour. It has recently had me sounding like my father, complaining of the noise of the world blaring through the ‘idiot box’ when Michael instinctively flicks it on a minute after he walks in the door, while I have been home for over two hours alone, taking in the silence. It has recently had me crawling out of my skin, itching for my centre, wishing the warmer weather hadn’t gone so quickly, taking the beauty of the summer and fall with it.

Grimsby, Ontario overlooking Lake Ontario

Grimsby, Ontario overlooking Lake Ontario

I find I am better able to work through problems that are plaguing me when I am able to turn off, shut down and disconnect. I don’t even necessarily have to spend a moment thinking about the issue directly, and when I return to the somewhat unsettling state of modern ‘reality’ I am better prepared to deal with the conundrum because I took pause. I am better prepared to take on the every day hustle and bustle with a little more patience than normal.

I guess you could count this practice as a form of meditation, a time to spend with just myself. My desire to unplug I feel can only be explained by my rural upbringing, however it could also be chalked up to my ever growing distaste for our society’s ever so “evolved” lifestyle – limiting the time we spend completing and participating in the truly important things in life, and maximizing the time we spend at the office, or on our devices or staring at the TV. Even as I write this now, Michael is plugged into his iPhone, playing a game, with the television on in the background while I am curled up with a dog on my lap and laptop on my dog, trying to get this post out, before I a) lose the idea all together or b) get caught with my proverbial blog post-pants around my ankles and not have anything written come Tuesday morning.

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As the incredibly talented (read: sexy), incredibly enlightened (read: great voice), incredibly wise (read: very handsome) Tim McGraw once crooned, “what I wouldn’t give for a slow down, don’t ya know?

~Toni

*Update: Since the writing of this post my prayers have been answered and what I am trusting to be the new and correct direction for me has been revealed, allowing for plenty of stillness and silence.  I’ll fill you in more in the coming weeks; however, in the meantime, if you’re looking for someone to complete some freelance marketing work, I’m your girl! Contact me here via the comments and I will be sure to email you shortly. ~ Toni