For (or Against) Authenticity?

For (or Against) Authenticity?

The first duty in life is to be as artificial as possible.
What the second duty is, no one has as yet discovered.

~Oscar Wilde

 As a facilitator, teacher, and leader in the Authentic Relating movement, you might be surprised to know that I often question the actual concept and practice of Authenticity. And a timely article by Bo Winegard over at Quillette asked some of the deeper philosophical issues around this word: 

Winegard argues that Authenticity is not a noble or even attainable ideal and that it is impossible to be authentic because there is no fundamental way to remove ourselves from our embedded cultural conditioning. He concludes his short essay with: 

But to be human is to be artificial. And to contend that it is inauthentic to conform to one’s culture and to strive to suppress and overcome one’s natural tendencies is like contending that it is inauthentic for a mockingbird to imitate the song of another species. Paradoxically, the most authentic thing we can do is strive to transcend ourselves and become what we are not.

 I have always struggled with the word and the practice itself. Sometimes when speaking vulnerably and passionately, others may comment and appreciate what they perceive as authenticity. However, as I reflect internally, I question: “Was any of what I said original, authentic, genuine, or was that a product of my history, culture, and unconscious and borrowed words and ideas?”  I think, in some ways, that what I am actually practicing, facilitating, embodying, and teaching is the practice of congruous or congruent relating. The meaning of congruous is similar to that of accordant: agreeing; conforming; harmonious, or exhibiting harmony of parts.

I’ve always liked the word accordant, as its etymology is something like ‘with heart, be of one heart, bring heart to heart.’

Unfortunately, ‘Congruent Relating’ doesn’t sound very appealing – so I continue to search for the word or concept that represents this embodied, present-moment relational practice.

And a problem with authenticity is that it doesn’t always make a better person. I have often argued controversially that our 45th president is a highly authentic human being, and something that many people appreciate about him. Winegard gives the following hypothesis:

Suppose we are comparing the behavior of Thomas and John, two people who are, for whatever combination of reasons, both full of hatred and envy. But while Thomas struggles to contain his rage, his competitiveness, and his jealousy, John does not. After years of hard work, Thomas has built a successful company and become a revered businessman who provides hundreds of jobs to a once-impoverished community. He attends church and is kind to everyone, despite his seething resentment. John, on the other hand, is unemployed and constantly bickers with others. He frequents bars and brawls to relieve his rage. But he does not lie—he is candid about his contempt for everyone. The champion of authenticity appears to be committed to claiming that John should be celebrated whereas Thomas should be condemned.

  • What do you think we should call this embodied, present-moment relational practice?
  • How do you relate to the concepts of authenticity and congruence? 
  • Can we avoid being artificial and inauthentic?

Time Management for Mortals

I recently listened to a series on the Waking Up App called Time Management for Mortals, which was a delightful listen and timely for me as time and my relationship to it has been an exploration ever since I entered into Zen Buddhism and is currently very alive for me as I juggle multiple businesses, relationships, goals, pleasures, responsibilities that many of us in modern society do.

What I loved about this series is that it is not yet another lesson in making yourself more efficient by learning how to simultaneously brew your espresso and blend your green smoothy while getting through messages in your inbox. Instead, the series focuses on time itself, inviting us to reframe our relationship with it. Do we have time, or are we time? The author, Oliver Burkeman, references the monumental works of Martin Heidegger (Being and Time) and Zen Master Eihei Dogen (Time-Being) and quotes several modern thinkers.

A primary concept in the series is of accepting our own finitude and escaping the efficiency trap. The efficiency trap is the hidden belief that if you get so many things done, you will finally be free to start living life. Accepting our finitude is realizing we do not have endless time – a mere 4,000 weeks if we’re lucky enough to live our entire life expectancy. And a key concept with finitude is that when we move forward with a decision, we implicitly acknowledge that we are saying no to countless alternative lives. The root of the word deciding is cutting away– literally slicing away alternative life paths, similar to the words homicide and suicide. We are all in the position of Robert Frost’s legendary Road Not Taken, choosing between two paths in the woods, only we cannot know which path will be better, and even staying at the fork and not choosing is a form of a decision. As humans, we don’t like this situation. We tend to do all we can to not consciously participate and be compelled to choose at so many moments in the day, thereby acknowledging all those unlived lives and sacrificing some options for others. I want to start a successful business and be in solitary meditation retreats for months of the year. Yet, my finitude, and inability to be in two places at once, forces me to choose.

We hang back from making choices, partly to hang on to perfect fantasies that could only be damaged by making a choice and bringing them into reality. To not feel the discomfort of being limited, we cling to the feeling of control by keeping our options open. By staying in procrastination or commitment phobia, it’s easier never to start that business, to begin the novel, get married or start the family, because not starting on these things, we can allow multiple timelines to coexist in a kind of reverie.

Burkeman goes on to express how exercising your decision muscle is a way of fully entering reality and surrendering your fantasies of perfect projects and relationships. Instead, you get a commitment to imperfect action, in reality, right now.

There are many other concepts explored – Burkman contrasts FOMO (Fear of missing out), which comes from the overwhelm of events and activities presented to us through social media, and offers an alternative view of JOMO (Joy of missing out). FOMO is like worrying that you won’t be able to make 2+2=5 when our options and choices are always greater than our capacity to participate in them. Therefore missing out isn’t something to regret but is what makes life juicy and gives more weight to what we do choose.

I could go on and on, but I encourage you to listen for yourself. Burkeman explores several other aspects of our relationship to time – distraction, planning, patience, shared time, and our cosmic insignificance.

And to close: 

It’s not cruel that our lives aren’t longer. On the contrary, it’s a staggering, stupendous bonus that we get any time on the planet as conscious creatures at all.

You can listen to an excerpt of the series here:

And find the entire series on Waking Up:

What Happens in a Men’s Retreat?

Last week, I was the lead assistant at a Men’s Retreat called Ascending the Sacred Mountain, led by Christopher Sunyata. It was an honor and a gift to assist this workshop after years of preparation by participating in and leading many men’s and couples’ workshops.

Throughout the week, staff at the event center where our retreat was hosted mentioned that they had no idea what we were doing together, in contrast to the usual women’s yoga groups that pass through the same venue. I also receive similar questions from people in my life. One friend even wondered what the benefit of a retreat with the same gender was. Why wouldn’t teachings on meditation, purpose, sex, and death be of benefit to all people regardless of their gender?

Why are men spending time with men seen as confusing or threatening?

It’s my strong opinion that everyone benefits when men spend time with men in a container of growth, introspection, and reflection. Every retreat I have been part of has been unique. Some focus on giving men space to learn to speak their emotions and feelings safely. Others focus on spiritual development through meditation and enlightenment practices. Finally, there can be a focus on relating to women,  finding one’s purpose, and many other permutations.

One of Christopher’s gifts is that he is very attuned to the needs of the men in the current group, and there is no prescripted curriculum. Instead, each evening our staff would meet and brainstorm and plan the following day based on the current state of the men in the retreat. I won’t speak to the specifics of any exercises because the element of surprise and novelty for the men participating is essential. However, there are several key areas that we work with:

Posture, Breath, and Presence:

Most men are unaware that their trustability in the world, whether with a potential intimate partner or business partner- is rooted in their posture, breath, and presence. What happens when they are unaware of their body, breathing shallowly, and their head is pushed forward such that their ears are no longer over their shoulders? I’ve witnessed men being ‘tuned up’ by teachers and the other students – simple things like rolling shoulders back, bringing their ears over their shoulds, and having their weight balanced over their feet suddenly appear to be a completely new man, and rated as much more trustable.


Many men hold an incredible amount of tension in their bodies. This can create health and sexual performance problems, which is not a comfortable way to be in the world. Working with men to open their hips, relax their breath, release body tension, and move and live more freely. This is often achieved through slow, relaxing yoga sequences.

Death and Purpose:

Being present with our mortality and impending death is a way to become immediately present, whether with a lover, our families, or alone. A relationship to death can bring our true purpose into the light and prevent continued procrastination and distraction.

Sex and Relationships:

Sexuality and relating to partners and families are big themes for men. Therefore, understanding the basics of masculine and feminine polarity and how to communicate through their bodies and words maintains this polarity for attracting the partner a man seeks or enriching sexual experiences and intimacy in a current relationship.

Meditation and Enlightenment Practices:

The capacity to sit comfortably and deeply inquire into who we are and why we are here is deeply connected to masculine presence and growth. Therefore, offering men meditation techniques, helping them find a comfortable physical posture, and exploring silence together is a critical part of any men’s retreat I’m participating in.


I recently heard that in our 20s, men tend to have a similar size or even more extensive friend networks than women. By our 40s, this plummets, and men often find themselves with very few male friends outside of those they work with. Discovering that other men are seeking to live a more fulfilling life, men that have similar struggles and pains is deeply healing.


The above sections are a very rough outline of what happens – there is so much more. So many men are broken today – for a variety of reasons. The sheer act of taking a week of their lives and investing in themselves in the company of other men is a process towards becoming more whole, embracing all parts of themselves, and becoming better human beings that can serve their partners, their families, and their companies and their societies.

To conclude, I want to share one of the more touching moments of this past retreat. On the fourth day, I led the men on a walk through the woods to the neighboring retreat center, the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram. This day auspiciously fell on the new moon, the most masculine day of the lunar cycle. At the ashram, the men participated in a fire ceremony, paying homage to the Mother and offering a part of ourselves to be relinquished at her feet. After the formal ceremony, as we were offered delicious chai dahl, a woman who also attended the ceremony approached our group. Visibly shaking, she bowed and expressed deep gratitude towards our group of men. Then, in a very devotional tone, she shared how much it impacted her to see a group of men transforming themselves, and she saw our work as a beautiful gift to the world. Many of us felt very validated and honored at that moment.

Thank you, Christopher

Thank you, all the men who participated

Thank you, all of the men who pioneered this work

Thank you, all of the men doing this work

Thank you, to everyone supporting this work.

Already Dead

Two weeks ago, I developed a persistent dry cough. It feels all too familiar to the one that began three years ago that led me down a path to Stage III Lymphoma with a 10cm tumor in my chest.

My procrastination around getting a two-year post-chemo scan now seems like a bad idea. So I scheduled it for next week. Although blood work yesterday showed no anomalies, the most apparent cause is a form of heartburn from drinking too much coffee and having an acidic diet the past month.

I am not worried and wish you not to be either. I will update you all after the scan.

Last week, during a men’s retreat, as my cough progressed and exacerbated, the mantra, already dead, began appearing in my awareness. It has remained a close companion ever since. The cough would appear simultaneously with already dead, which I began perceiving as a gift and reminder of my mortality as we explored the interrelated topics of sex, purpose, love, and death.

The contemplation it offered was this: Would I be living my life any differently if I knew I had a tumor in my chest or not? Should I be? I realize there is always a tension between living fully in the moment and living with the belief that we may live X number of years and preparing for them. Focusing on the former, you become a hedonist, potentially becoming broke and unhealthy while having a hell of a time. In the latter, you are constantly preparing for a future that may or may not come, not fully living. We must navigate a middle path for ourselves.

I’m alive now, as I assume you are if you’re reading this. I can feel my breath and my heart beating. At some ‘now’ in the future, tumor or not, you and I will experience a final moment, our heart will stop, and we’ll take our last breath. As I contemplate nonexistence, my body cold and still, I no longer think about the money I have or don’t have, the accumulation of experiences, or the excitement of those not had yet. Instead, I ponder, who did I love, and did I love them enough? Did I give my deepest gifts? Did I offer myself fully?

David Deida says in Blue Truth:

A life lived well embraces death by feeling open, from heart to all, in every moment. Wide open, you can offer without holding back, you can receive without pushing away. Wide open, heart to all, you are openness, unseparate from this entire open moment. Every part of the moment comes and goes as openness.

Your lover’s embrace: sweet, full, already loosening. Every moment is miraculous and disappearing. Every experience, profound and empty, both.

Life lived for the sake of experience is a half-life, tense, insecure, lonely, and unfulfilled. Your experience cannot fulfill you because as soon as it comes it is already gone, a thin wisp, the tail end of hope, receding out of reach.

Ungrasped, this moment of life burgeons free and bright. Surrendering wide, breathing deeply, offering your heart, you are birthed open as this moment. Death is permission to open freely as love.

What am I, what are you doing with this very moment of life? Does the contemplation that death is near permit you to open freely as love? What would change for you if you knew you would cease to exist in one year, two years, or five years?

Our Politics Don’t Have to Be This Toxic

If you really knew me, you would know that I enjoy following politics, although I rarely speak about my views in public. Recently I shared a past voting choice as part of a vulnerability exercise and was actually laughed at and ridiculed by the ‘conscious’ group that I was in. Ouch.

The following is a great essay on the stranglehold that the two-party system has on our politics. My favorite line in the essay is:

𝗜𝘁’𝘀 𝗔𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗼𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝗽𝗼𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗶𝘇𝗲𝗱, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗔𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲.

Studies show that the silent majority (sometimes called the exhausted majority) of which you are likely a part, represents up to 80% of our population. This silent majority does not resonate with the Progressive Activists or the Devoted Conservatives that dominate our media. (See the Hidden Tribes Report)

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt said,” the worst number of political parties to have in a country is one, but the second-worst number is two.” The two-party system is inherently social destabilizing.

We desperately need election reform and many (myself included) agree that ranked-choice-voting would be the first step. I’m highly pessimistic that anything will change soon as the elites that control both parties will continue to do everything in their power, to stay in power.

Read the article here:

How Wealthy Are You?

Recently a tweet from entrepreneur Sahil Bloom caught my attention. He examines overall wealth and explains how the sole pursuit of financial wealth can rob you of the others. I agree with him and have been living my life in a way that emphasizes non-financial wealth. If you really knew me, you would know I have not received a W-2 or 1099 since 2009 and have supported myself by teaching yoga, facilitating workshops, managing investments, and living humbly.

Financial wealth is an alluring benchmark for success. Net Worth = Assets – Liabilities and offers a simple scoreboard for success. People assume financial wealth creates happiness – but a critical point known for decades is that while net worth and income are scientifically correlated with happiness—it is only up to a baseline level that’s most likely lower than you think. In the US, that number is approximately $75,000 per year, with many variables based on geography and other factors. Read more about the famous 2010 Princeton Study here. Once you are above this baseline, you get no more incremental happiness. Sahil posits:  If your goal is happiness or a good life:

(1) Focus on getting above this baseline

(2) Focus on other drivers of happiness

To summarize, there are five types of wealth:

• Financial (money)

• Social (relationships)

• Physical (health)

• Mental (health, spirituality)

• Time (freedom)

Social Wealth consists of meaningful relationships. Sahil’s advice, which I like, is to build a T-shaped web of connectivity, which is both broad and deep. This means cultivating deep relationships but also embracing weaker and more broad ties. This has been my primary focus over the past few years – and I feel incredibly wealthy. I’ve tied this wealth to my career passions (facilitating groups), so it is constantly growing.

Physical Wealth is possibly the most critical but under-appreciated type of wealth as it’s essential to enjoy the other forms of wealth fully. Exercise, sleep, and nutrition are key. I feel this is an area I neglected the past couple of years since my cancer diagnosis. This month I signed up for Orangetheory Fitness, which offers one-hour high-intensity training classes, and it feels delicious to feel strong and fit again. When asked what my fitness goal was, I said, To feel and look good naked, a line borrowed from the classic movie American Beauty.

Mental Wealth includes mental health, wisdom, mindfulness, spirituality, and faith. This is a vast category, one I may have personally separated mental and spiritual into separate wealth categories, but let’s roll with it. Mental fitness is treating your brain like a muscle, flexing it through learning, reading, writing, conversing, etc. Best to do this daily! And the spiritual component can be met in several ways – through the formal or informal practice of deepening one’s relationship to ones one spirit and the world that lies beyond the physical. This, for me, was my primary pursuit for much of the past decade, and its pursuit and accumulation of wealth is one of the main reasons I was able to get through my cancer diagnosis so quickly and psychologically unscathed.

Time Wealth is interesting – when you’re young, you’re a time billionaire, and many of us forget to realize this precious asset until it’s too late. Sahil says to Treat time as your ultimate currency—it’s all you have, and you can never get it back. So NEVER let the pursuit of financial wealth rob you of your time wealth.

I’m curious what you, dear reader, make of these distinctions. I notice Sahil does not discuss sexuality, as is the usual mainstream trend. I’ve been pondering if I would make a separate category or acknowledge it as part of mental, physical, and social wealth. Thanks for reading!

𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝘆

I am pondering the word independence today, on a personal level. What exactly does it mean to be independent, and is it something to strive toward?

Last night I participated in a relational practice called T-Group: where the focus is on noticing present-moment experience, owning that experience, and then expressing it in a small group container. It’s a rich, illuminating, often uncomfortable, but frequently nourishing practice. When done well, it celebrates and acknowledges our impact on each other and gives one permission to make explicit the more hidden and unrevealed aspects of our relational field (attraction/frustration/judgment/care/appreciation/etc/etc.)

In both groups I participated in last night, the group’s attention fell on me at different moments – and a collective noticing that 𝐾𝑒𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑖𝑠 ℎ𝑜𝑙𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑠𝑜𝑚𝑒𝑡ℎ𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑏𝑎𝑐𝑘 was expressed. In one group, a friend described how she notices wearing a shell when interacting with me, that in her experience, is her meeting my protectors and walls. Another person expressed 𝑎 𝑑𝑒𝑠𝑖𝑟𝑒 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑒𝑒 𝐾𝑒𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑐𝑟𝑎𝑐𝑘𝑒𝑑 𝑜𝑝𝑒𝑛.

After reflecting on these moments and 𝑚𝑎𝑛𝑦 like them in the past, what arises in me is the reminder of the importance of the subtle, nuanced calibration of dependence/independence in relationship. And the necessity of fine-tuning the needle between being impactable and sovereign. When questioned and prodded last night, I felt several contradictory feelings. First, some shame around a story I have that I overprotect myself, keep my cards close, and don’t reveal for fear of being vulnerable and powerless. Then there is the other side of me that experiences those interactions with anger and frustration, coming from the part that feels annoyed that someone cannot accept that I’m sovereign and independent and doesn’t react to everything said or done in my vicinity.

AND I know the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

It feels really f’ing good when someone deeply sees and notices me and our relational space attunes me to more fundamental aspects of my being. It also feels good not to be expected to be anything other than what I am at any given moment.

Time to get outside and into the creek (with a friend 🤣 ).

What is your relationship to the polarity of dependence & independence?

Incubating and Creating

** Overdue update! In late April, I left Mazunte, Mexico, and spent a beautiful month in Portugal visiting a lover in Lisbon and exploring the country’s northern half on a solo backpack. While there is a lot to say about my time in Portugal, what is most alive is what is happening now in Boulder. In early June, I returned to the US and rented a room in a beautiful home with a close friend, my first permanent-ish home since spending the last two years at my Zen Monastery and then abroad.

I have been thrust back into community and activity in a way that has validated my decision to relocate and live here again, a place I have not entirely resided in since 2009 when I packed up after 8-years of corporate ‘do as you are supposed to do life,’ sold all of my possessions and traveled to Asia.

Last week, I co-led two workshops called | OPEN | – Authentic Relating Meets Sexuality that were so popular that we will offer a third one next Saturday that is also nearly sold out two days after announcing it. This is the fruit of a long-developing bond with the incredible human, Michaela Smail.

THIS beautiful, fierce, devotional, and focused woman has evoked a creative spark in me as I have never experienced before! I feel confident to explore, offer and create in the rich, edgy, controversial space my life has followed:  intimacy, sexuality, consciousness, and communication. Our recent collaboration convinced me that my path is collaborative, and planning a company, a movement, or a dynasty together is so enlivening! She inspires me personally and professionally to realize and actualize creating and birthing something in the world: a task that I have been hiding from and fearful of until now, preferring to play it safe and avoid potential humiliation or failure. It’s been an honor and privilege to facilitate and create alongside this legendary human.

This is just the beginning. I hope to see you at the next one! Are you in? It’s time to | OPEN |