A Homemade 13-Step Program For Living An Authentic Life

By Tanya Markul

We commence this program with a few words by Mr. Timothy Leary:

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. 

For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator.

But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others…” 

Scary beginnings, sad endings and all the meaningful stuff in between.

I’m thinking about getting out. I’m antsy and have itchy feet. I’m gonna do it. But it takes time, right? I mean, I can’t just up and go, change or do—or can I? Can you? May I?

For me it’s not really about getting away or going on some worldly exploration, at least not right now. I, as I stand tea cup in hand, want to go deeper into the experience of an authentic life—right now in these shoes, or better yet… in bare feet.

So, what’s the formula? How I do I put this secret into practice?

I’m up for anything. A new dance step. A more confident voice. I’ll even brush my teeth with my less dominant hand while sending sentiments of love to all the lefties of the world.

I’m ready to detoxify, love-ify, sanctify, practice, apply and fulfil with a conscientious and diligent attitude—the padawan’s ageless steps for living an authentic life.

Are you with me?

A 3-part pre-rebellious protocol writing prompt—”write” now:
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid anymore?
How would my body feel if I woke up vulnerable and brave?
What does it mean to stop giving unnecessary f*cks?

I recognise the loop, I’ve just been going round and round and round.

I’m sure you’ve heard many  broken records declaring that’s the reason why I’m doing this or why I can’t do that. However, I’ve realised that the real question is: can you hear your own broken-record-speech?

How do I turn it off? It’s hurting my ears! 

Once I heard my own quadrupled platinum recorded compilation of what ifs, buts, ands, and incessant blame—that plays without batteries or electricity—I found that all signs lead back to one place.

It all circles back like a boomerang to: Me.

I’ve also recognised that my self-depleting album comes with a range of multiple-choice reactions:

A) I’ll secretly deny it resort to fantasy delusions
B) I’ll vomit in my mouth and turn-on self-deprecating behaviour
C) I won’t know what to do about it so I’ll procrastinate and do nothing — enters: mind-numbing self-medication

Who’s in charge of the life preservers?

The good news is, there’s actually a fourth option:

D) Figure It Out*. 

*You have to really, really want it—to figure it out, that is. This step isn’t based on a sign, wish or hope, it’s a claiming, naming and putting your singular cosmic mission into courageous action.

R.I.P. Old Self. You Served a Great Purpose.

As much as I love original recipes, formulas and programs, I often find that along the way, and after much experimentation, failures, tantrums and tears, I have to write my own. In a way, I believe that all of the illuminated books, teachers, scholars, gurus and Universal Principles want us to do just that. Through their own sharing of wisdom, experience, and love, they want me, you and us to discover our own…

Dance with me?

Here is my personal 13-step program for living an authentic life.

Step ONE: Do You.

Have no apologies for who you are. If you fit in, great. Perhaps you found your tribe. If you don’t fit in, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you feel like the people around you aren’t speaking your language, perhaps it’s time to explore new flocks. Be brave and true to who you are—wearing unnecessary masks just to fit in or avoid facing the reality of YOU can make life feel hopeless and imprisoned!

Even in a crowd of faces, it’s easy to feel lonely if we aren’t being ourselves and if the people around us don’t appreciate who we are.

Take back your right to be you in front of everyone and in every situation. When you are yourself, you not only invite others to do the same, but you become a bright watch tower for the people you’d wish would find you.

Nature is authentic, and when you step into your own, you create shockwaves of harmony with everyone and everything around you—including the trees, the bees, house keys and fleas. So, do you, boo. Do you, and send the message out that it’s OK to be you.

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~John Muir

Step TWO: Let Wildness In.

Stepping into the wilderness does wonders to the vibrational energy of our bodies and our nervous systems. There’s a subtle reassurance that everything you need to know, you already know and everything you don’t know may eventually be revealed in time without struggle and without desperation.

Mother nature also wraps her moonlight, bark and leaves around our bodies ensuring our hearts that we can feel absolutely safe not understanding the mysteries that can’t be understood.

The wilderness strips us of competition and comparison and invites us into a state of peaceful awe. It also offers a reflection of our individual relationship with life versus being just a mere part of the human race.

If you want wisdom, power and to live free, take for the forest and visit your tree.

There’s a hole that fits your shape in this life, find it and dive in. Give yourself permission to be messy, wild and more of you.

“When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are.”
~Bernard Jaffe, I Heart Huckabees

Step THREE: Hear the Voices.

Open up to your life’s purpose and your heart’s deepest desires by listening to the voices inside of you. There’s a lot of dialogue going on—some incessant, some nonsensical—but if we learn to listen more sincerely, we’ll discover that a deeper, all-knowing conversation is happening. It takes practice to hear this guidance as it takes practice to hear your heart’s desire, to trust your gut and to listen to your intuition.

Pay attention to the whisper and the serendipitous moments that remind you of what’s important to you. Keep listening and keep following the signs. You have the ability to live a life that’s true to who you are and a life that you really want.

Listen like your life depends on it.

Because maybe it does.

Background from white paper texture.

Step FOUR: Take the damn risk already.

Make choices that put yourself first—above everything and everyone else, even those you love and cherish the most. If you don’t take care of yourself, if you don’t do what is best for you, your relationships will eventually suffer. Trust in the fact that doing what is best for you is best for everyone even if it doesn’t feel like it at first.

Sometimes sacrifices have to made. People will get hurt and there will be losses, but the rewards gained from following your heart are absolutely everything in comparison, and it serves everyone.

Do something difficult for no other reason than you like to do it.

Step FIVE: Believe.

The supreme secret formula: Believe in yourself and people will believe in you.

Don’t give up due to predefined perceptions and limitations of yourself. Don’t give up because of the perceived effort. Millions of people give up before they even get started. They fail to realise their potential and give up as soon as they reach the first hurdle. Why? They don’t believe in themselves.

The only difference between abundance and lack thereof is following through. Give yourself permission to master your personal alchemy and the transformation back to you.

If you don’t believe in yourself you will end up throwing away your creativity and ideas. On the other hand, if you believe in yourself, you will no matter the outcome, find success even in what you perceive as the greatest of losses.

Step SIX: Use your body and love who and what you are.

It’s never been about the symmetry of your face or your body. It’s about the light that shines from within.

Have you ever witnessed a person that has been in a tragic, body deforming accident who has come out stronger, more compassionate and yes, even more beautiful? Their light shines so bright that after just a few minutes, you don’t see their asymmetry anymore, you simply feel and connect with their light.

If you see yourself as mere looks, if you believe your worth is merely skin deep, others will see you and judge you the same. Aren’t you more than that? Remember, no matter what you do, your looks will eventually fade. What will remain is the fire that burns within. Stop smothering it with delusional judgements and superficial shape chasing. Stop holding yourself back from life because you don’t believe you look good enough.

Self-love Exercise:
Look in a mirror and tell yourself:
I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am enough.
Believe it.

Use your body in every way that you know how. Allow the intelligence of your vessel to reveal and share with you the secrets of the Universe—the secrets of You.

Step SEVEN: Defy your genetics.

Evolve from the base point you’ve been born into. Don’t allow the limitations of your parents or their parents deter you from your path. See it all as potential to evolve your bloodline, your genetic makeup, your life to a place where neither you, nor your ancestors, have ever gone before. YOU hold the torch.

If you are the black sheep of the family, be grateful. The path can be lonely, but know that you broke free. Celebrate this freedom.

You are the architect of your existence, “the captain of your soul”.

be too

Step EIGHT: Integrate into wholeness.

Accept all parts of your life. All parts. This is one of the deepest healing elixirs you can ever offer yourself. Allow it all to weave and braid together—your mind with body, your body with spirit and your entire being with all of the experiences of your life.

Accept your irrevocable wholeness.

When you accept what has been, what you thought was and what is, you loosen your grip on delusions, limitations and stale beliefs that hold you back. What’s left? Space. Space and room to expand into the shape you are naturally, wholly and fully with a deeper sense of truth, wisdom and compassion.

Amen and aho.

Step NINE: Paint a spectrum of love for all.

Be kind and loving, without stepping in any bull shit. Be accepting of others—of what they want to create, what they want to be and what they envision. Remind them to do everything it takes not to fail.

Offer and support a new way of living, thinking, creating, even working—listen, and screw feeling threatened. Don’t be the reason someone feels like shit. Be the reason they shine.

And don’t forget that energy follows intention… have conversations that make you honest, smile and ponder. Offer solutions that bring you close to life versus farther away from it.

Step TEN: Take the time to do nothing.

Clear the slate. Erase the chalkboard. Wash it all clean. Reset. Stop. Stay. Don’t do anything. Just let everything be as it is. No matter how it is, no matter what your mind is screaming or what confusion you have in your life, for a few moments or as long as you can each day, let it be.

Connect with the earth. Feel her anchor and support. Feel grounded and calm. Then let go. Take a deep breath in. Exhale it all out. Drop into what it feels like to be free—free from all the masks you wear, all the roles you play and every single thing on you to-do list.

Doing nothing and sitting still, helps you recognize all the ways in which you don’t let go. Explore the profound, beautiful simplicity and subtlety of doing nothing… and all the challenges it endures.

In the most simple instruction from Andrew Cohen: take a seat, be still and don’t do anything.

In the words of The Beatles: Let it be.

Step ELEVEN: Seek connection versus perfection.

Living an authentic life stems from your ability to be self-aware and genuine in the ways in which you express, react, dance, share, create, listen, etc—in other words, how you connect with yourself and the world around you.

Authenticity also heightens from your ability to be aware of when you are being and/or reacting inauthentically.

Being authentic develops a connection with who you truly are, your real essence, and liberates you from the superficial pressures and expectations of always trying to be perfect.

Being authentic also strengthens your ability to manage obstacles, challenges and triggers in a super healthy way.

Step TWELVE: You already have everything you need to be you.

Clear away the small minded and limiting ideas of who you are that keep you bound and feeling small, hopeless, even unworthy. You already have everything—everything you need to be you. In the present moment, you have very clear goals. There is much to be done as you are right now.

Discover the clearing, discover the openness and the deepest part of your own Universe. Tap into your unlimited energy and passion to follow-through.

Step THIRTEEN: Transform your pain into soulful purpose.

How deep would you be willing to go in order to transform pain into purpose and into your own personal brand of beauty, magic, purpose and creativity? What if it were possible, no matter your circumstances, past, or storyline, to become truly blessed and nourished by the power of your darkness?

For most of us, our darkness has been synonymous with “stuckness”. It is something that has held us back, from feeling, loving, creating, experiencing, and expressing our gifts, voices and deepest truths.

All it takes is a little bit of courage and the willingness to look, feel and explore what exists beneath the surface of your self-limiting beliefs. Once you step outside of stagnation and into the direction of your heart’s wild and creative counsel, you’ll never ever look back.

As the torch bearer and hero of your life, it is your duty to journey straight to the pulse of your pain—no matter when or how its arrow pierced your heart, or how long its been passing through your DNA.

You’re the only one who can save and unleash the real you.

Living a life of authenticity is a path of personal evolution–and as with any journey, it’s up to you.

Thank you and I love you.

For more daily, refreshing, spiritual badass sass, join the herd of thug unicorns on Facebook and help us to transform struggle into sparkle. 

And for more self-study on this topic, Tanya recommends Yoga and the Quest for the True Self.

. . .

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  1. Your so friggin awesome…love you on fb

  2. love you! thank you for all you do & all your writing & sharing.

  3. Absolutely AMAZING & REFRESHING I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way and it’s amazing to have an Indepth look at how to embrace it!
    Thank you

  4. Pingback: A Yearn For The Unsaid Words Of My Father – The Urban Howl

  5. Karah Lin

    Tanya , I love your writing !!! Life is better when I hear you in the morning <3 Sending you big love .

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