Digging for Your Authentic Self: Charting Your North Star

Setting a long-term intention is like setting the compass of our heart. No matter how rough the storms, how difficult the terrain, even if we have to backtrack around obstacles, our direction is clear.” Jack Kornfield

If you prefer to listen

In Digging for Your Authentic Self: What’s Important, we distinguished between what we were told was important and what really is essential. That helped us see where we may be out of alignment.  I may have insinuated that we need to throw out what others have said is important.  But upon reflection, I see that I don’t have to throw them away, just need to reprioritize them. See where the messages of what’s important encouraged me to ignore my true self and become a chameleon. See where they ate away at my sense of identity and purpose.  Often people’s biggest regret, when they are dying, is that they did not live true to themselves.  They lived to other people’s expectations, not really what truly mattered.

The problem is that we speed through life, not giving ourselves a chance to feel our hearts.  We don’t create space to truly see ourselves until the rug gets pulled out from under us. That is why we are taking the time to explore what our hearts say. To chart the direction of our life, our North Star.

“Our sense of self has more depth than ideas we have about ourselves. The ideas about self are like the part of the iceberg above the waterline, while the sense of ourselves, always running in the background, is underneath the waterline – this is where a lot of the action is.” Rick Hanson

In my meditation teacher training, I was given the gift of space to honestly look at myself, set my heart’s direction, and how I wanted to live my life.  Something my authentic self could commit to regardless of what other people expected or other external circumstances. It allowed me to see that what was once critical was no longer quite as important, but it was still a driving force in my life. I needed to define my North Star instead of trying to reach someone else’s. While North Starts may change with time, usually they are long term.

Here are some examples of North Stars that focus externally:

  • Michelle Obama is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity.
  • Nelson Mandela wants to liberate all people from the bondage of poverty, suffering, and discrimination.

Mine is not so lofty. And it is more internal than external. My overarching desire at this point in my life is belonging. I want to feel connected. I wrote this aspiration in 2018, and it still rings true today.

Take off the mask of doing and knowing. Have the courage to open myself to uncertainty, suffering, and impermanence. In doing so, I will find true intimacy. Know that I have loving awareness in me that I can draw on.

The whole point of your North Star is to help you make skillful decisions in each moment. By moving toward your North Star, you bring more happiness to yourself and others. You may feel more comfortable taking risks because you have a beacon to hone in on if you get off track.

Reflection

You may choose to close your eyes to contemplate what is crucial to you.  Reflect on your aspiration, the overarching desire for your life.  Here are some questions to reflect on.

  • What’s the most important thing?
  • How do you want to grow in your life? 
  • What would make your life more of what you want it to be? 
  • What makes your heart sing?
  • And what weighs it down?
  • By what should I set my life’s course?

After you have reflected for a moment, get something to jot down your thoughts. Set a timer for three minutes and speed write. That is just right down everything that comes to mind. You can edit it later. Note: you need to keep asking the question to get down below the water level where all the action is.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Now that you have some ideas about your North Star, see if you can find someone to talk about it with. It is OK that you don’t have it fully formed.  Talking about it will help you. Carve out more time to reflect and fine tune your North Star.

Our North Star helps us to be all that we can be.  It is not about being different from who we are.  It is uncovering our innate potential, the fullness, and truth of who we are. The North Star is not another item on our To-Do list; it is a way to live our lives. A guide, so we don’t get thrown off course. It allows us to align ourselves when we might act unskillfully and instead move towards more skillful actions.

Mean-spirited Roadhouses by Rumi
"Gamble everything for love,
if you're a true human being.
If not, leave this gathering.
Half-heartedness doesn't reach into majesty.
You set out to find God, but then you keep stopping for long periods at mean-spirited roadhouses.
Don't wait any longer. Dive in the ocean, leave, and let the sea be you. 
Silent, absent, walking an empty road, all praise."

Have the intention to reflect on your North Start every day for the next month. The more you reflect on it, the easier it will be to bring up when you need a guide. Remember, neurons that fire together wire together and where attention goes, energy flows.

In the next session we will talk about intentions, your laundry list of things that guide you to your North Star.