Saturday, March 31, 2007

Authenticity

I said to my Zen teacher, "I have some issues going on that I know are related to trust. Can you help me?"

As we sat on our mats, facing each other in formal Zen style, he said, "Ah, yes, Katherine. Today is April 16. On May 16, you die. Knowing that, what will you say and do and think and be in the time you have remaining on this earth?"

I thanked him and did my little Zen bow, walked out of the room, and just about hyperventilated. I had granted a good measure of authority to my teacher, and his question took on the force of reality.

One month to live.

The pivot-point of my life, this moment evoked the courage I needed to leave my job with a major oil company and begin a new life.

The business world had never held any meaning for me. I'd been trying to make it fit who I was, but part of me knew it was more my mother's desire for me than my own. I stayed for fourteen years because I was afraid. I was single and in my head were my mother's dire warnings about being alone in the world without a good retirement plan! I held on to that job out of fear, fear of a future without it.

But in this moment, confronted with death, the future was now! I knew I must act from my heart.

So I did. I jumped off a cliff and went back to school. Seminary. My heart had the wisdom to know that in immersing myself in the study and the experience of the Divine, I would begin my journey toward the authentic me.

I believe that the deepest part of who we are holds something--an image? perhaps a spark?--of the Divine. And that 'something' is constantly speaking to us, whispering truth and nudging us toward what is authentic.

Now, thirteen years since that moment, I'm an ordained minister in a mainline denomination. I earned a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling. And I'm happily married. Each stage in my life since that pivot-point has had its difficulties, but I've learned that when I listen for those whispers and move where I'm nudged, I am never led astray. I am led to the authentic me.