authenticity, transparency and naughtiness

Despite an ever-growing interest in living more sustainably, authentically and lovingly, it seems as if those with the greatest commitment to working for the common good are suffering under a new puritanism, where the focus appears to have become more about ‘becoming pure’ than ‘being truthful.’

 Further

as the lines between our personal and professional lives become increasingly blurred, and we rely more and more upon social media to maintain our connections, the avenues for open and authentic dialog seem to be shrinking.

While George Bernard Shaw may have claimed my reputation grew with every failure my personal experience is that despite a growing desire for greater authenticity in our private and public discourse people are frequently fickle and generally not quite so forgiving – except, perhaps, in retrospect.

It’s because of this that many of my friends and colleagues whose income is largely tied to their public personas often find themselves speaking to their greatest challenges, frustrations and failures historically – where the lens of irony and humour can be more easily applied – rather than in the moments that would be of most benefit to themselves, their colleagues and the world at large.

While I believe that open dialog is a requirement for a mature and high-functioning human society, I’ve experienced first hand – and on more than one occasion – the consequences of sharing my challenges with my community. I mistakenly presumed that all those with an interest in serving the common good were capable, due to their compassionate motivation for the plight of others, to consistently treat their partners on this journey with a similar regard.

I was wrong – and while these experiences were both dismaying and disappointing, it’s a failing of my own as well.

Existing social channels – facebook in particular – are woefully inadequate for  engaging in supportive, open and authentic dialog as a community.

The language of ‘friend’ is misleading and, despite the ability to segment our connections into groups, a combination of in-person and online interactions can often confer an unwarranted depth of intimacy to relationships that represent a combination of family, friends, professional colleagues, clients and passing acquaintances.

I’ve both experienced and witnessed the polar extremes of responding to this homogenization of our networks – on the one hand, burying at worst or diluting at best, on the other, communicating with reckless disregard for the consequences. One of my closest friends, when we were in the presence of such an experience of (contextual) ‘over-sharing’ would frequently remark ‘wrong group of friends’.

Before we communicate with others, however, it’s in our communication with ourselves that the greatest benefit – and frequently the greatest harm – is to be realised. It’s in our identification with our beliefs about ourselves that we become trapped, and while we live in a world that appears to champion authenticity, it seems to be more interested in the sanitised and historical recounting of struggle than it is in the confused, conflicted and un-charismatic emoting that frequently accompanies our experiences in the moment.

Adversity has always been our greatest teacher. When stories of adversity are buried, however – especially when they’re representative of a conflict between our values and our actions – we not only suffer as individuals, we suffer as a society as well. Telling the truth provides a space for others to do the same, yet where do we do this when there is such a riotous confusion in our social dynamic?

Gibran says in The Prophet:

 … when the shadow fades and is no more, the light that lingers becomes a shadow to another light. And thus your freedom when it loses its fetters becomes itself the fetter of a greater freedom.

naughtiyogi – a new project we’re preparing to launch – was created in order to subvert the internal and social dialogue of how we should be so we can celebrate who we really are.

Originally conceived as a home exclusively for refugees from the world of modern spirituality, it quickly became clear to me that there was a need for a space where we could meet, simply, as humans; where we could leave behind our social and professional roles and dive into this exploration of what it is to be human together. Where the price of entry was simply one’s willingness to be naked, to be student and teacher both, to hold space together, to explore without risk of censure our deeper, truer nature.

We do what we do because of some frequently unknown and unnameable impulse to contribute to the creation of a more loving world; yet along the way, we’ve developed a faux morality that interferes with the spirit of exploration required to discover greater and more foundational truths. While many of us may have begun this journey as artists and scientists, moved by the spirit of enquiry, we have permitted a creeping dogmatism to supplant our role as shamans, protagonists and edge-riders.

naughtiyogi provides a space that reminds us of just how dangerous it can be when moralistic frameworks are applied to any form of practise that has, at it’s core, the intention of liberating us from suffering.

I don’t believe that any one person or any one path holds they keys to resolving the universal challenges we are facing as a species. I do believe, however, that if those of us who are interested in finding better quality questions can’t find a place where we can engage in truthful dialogue then we are becoming trapped in our own social and philosophical silos. Further, if we can’t re-introduce some sense of levity – which seems so essential when we are faced with the universal suffering we feel motivated in some way to alleviate – then we are missing a phenomenal opportunity to explore new notions of family unbounded by traditional definitions.

naughtiyogi is, above all else, a playground. You might trip, you might stumble, someone might knock over your sandcastle or nick your lunch, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t come back day after day to play.

We invite you to kick off your shoes, roll up your sleeves and get dirty with us.

Comments 4

  1. Hi Cameron, 🙂

    i read your post, and i understand where you’re coming from. i personally am not feeling a resonance with the concept of a “platform” for open dialogue, though i don’t know what a ‘platform’ means anymore.

    i went through the phase of trying to envision this magical salve that can be everything to everyone, conveniently all at once.

    now i’ve moved on and acknowledged that it’s really ME that is trying to find a space where i can be open and authentic with my peers, and perhaps it’s better to demonstrate what that looks like, and maybe be an inspiration to others to find their own way to do the same.

    in terms of me building “The Platform” that does it, i’m not interested.

    if what you’re looking for is a ‘place online where you can be you,’ then perhaps consider picking a few close friends/colleagues/collaborators/co-conspirators, ask them if they want to form a “mastermind” group together, where you choose a day/time each week where you can hop on a google video hangout together and share your thoughts, fears, aspirations, goals, and get some feedback, and call a spade a spade.

    for me, i’ve found my ego has gotten in the way a lot, where the things that i am trying to provide for myself suddenly become this other thing to ‘save the world.’

    when it comes down to it, i can’t save anything if i’m not first saving myself.

    i’ve really been scaling back on everything, and asking myself what kind of self-care i need to engage in FOR ME to be happy.

    the whole “think global, act local” thing is getting a new meaning for me.

    no technology platform is going to provide any solution that’s meaningful at the human level, to me.

    we can choose to be open with the people who deserve and can appreciate that kind of authenticity.

    everyone else can go figure out how to heal in the way that works best for them, as all of us are trying to do.

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Venessa – as someone who’s spent a great deal of time navigating the online worlds, your response certainly carries some weight.

      There’s a few things to speak to here, and I’m reposting my comments from FB so that they reach a wider audience

      1. this is an experiment; like all experiments, we do have an idea of what success looks like – using social technologies to facilitate some degree of increased social cohesion; as an experiment, we are less concerned with success or failure than we are with the experiment itself; we’ll try it out and we’ll see what happens

      2. the motivation for this came as a consequence of observing increased shame and guilt within those people working for the common good; internalised shame and guilt as a consequence of feeling out of alignment but not really having anywhere to open that up within a mutually supportive framework; open and authentic dialogue within our communities is the outcome, but the path to get there is messy. The ‘aha’ moment was when the John Friend yoga teacher scandal blew up – we were so disgusted with the way this was treated, and profoundly disappointed at the public shaming of this individual (this is not a comment on the relative merits of his actions, but on the violent manner in which he was publicly treated)

      3. this is neither about saving myself, nor about saving the world; it’s an experiment in using the tools we have available to us to see if we can find ways to engender greater authenticity; i do have close friends to have these sorts of conversations with, but most of them are not in my vicinity (i’m in Byron Bay – responses and likes to this stream on Facebook have come from Brisbane, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, LA, Sydney, Canberra, Costa Rica and somewhere in Ireland); I rely upon digital communications to maintain my relationships; I’m fortunate (or not) to have intimate and authentic relationships with people I may have met only once, or not at all – your self included

      4. the cross-over between my personal and professional lives is something most of my closest friends don’t seem to have to juggle like I do; while I can have great discussions with them about who i am and what’s going on for me in a personal sense, their eyes glaze over as soon as I start talking about the professional side of things; for some this is an issue, for others not

      5. If I could commit to a regular meeting with like-hearted folks, I would. But I can’t / won’t. It’s the nature of my life at the moment; I was feeling the lack of this sort of ongoing connection in quite a diminishing way a few months ago – now I’m out the other side and witnessing more and more people I know feeling disconnected and alone, despite being more connected than they’ve ever been before; I feel motivated to try something new in service to that (seemingly) growing need

      6. we’re looking for authenticity; we see a hyper-connected world in which people are frequently less connected than ever before; we see people struggling to fumble their way to clarity and not really having a community around them to support them in that; we see a demand for greater transparency, greater consistency between espoused values and values in action and greater openness – and simultaneously we see an unwillingness to hold space for each other in the messy process life often takes us through in our search for clarity

      7. like I said in my post, it’s a sandbox – I would feel foolish for not at least making the attempt to use these social tools toward some greater social good; that you and I are able to engage in this level of dialogue and to connect through IM, Skype and email is a testament to the value of the tools – I’m just curious to see if that sort of interaction scales; admittedly, maybe it won’t

  2. Hey Cameron
    I must say that I am intrigued by your experiment and keen to watch how this unfolds. My biggest wondering is how many people out there share you boldness and courage to go there in a public forum.

    The part of your post that resonated with me the most was the part about communicating with ourselves being of greatest importance. I would love for you to expand on that.
    Your comments too on shame and guilt are very interesting, and should not be underestimated.

    I also resonate with Vanessa’s comments – there is a lot of wisdom there. Having said that I don’t want to rain on your experimental parade.

    Not sure if it helps, but here is a post I wrote recently on vulnerability – http://ethicsfordoinggood.org/2012/08/09/walking-the-middle-path-the-limits-of-vulnerability/

    Go well Cameron, chat soon
    B

  3. what an interesting initiative Cameron. NaughtyYogi – being authentic, transparent and naughty!
    I am looking forward to seeing how this rolls out.

    I did love Benny’s article though. That there needs to be balance between vulnerability and guardedness, so that people don’t regret what they share; as you have recently experienced. This happens gradually as we learn to trust each person we share with.
    Yet the middle path is not all there is to it. A motivation to the greater good does help to give perspective to an inward journey, but to say … “because of some frequently unknown and unnameable impulse to contribute to the creation of a more loving world”; to me just sounds like a denial of what is deeper and meaningful.

    We are all learning to relate, to experience love and joy, to celebrate our humanness. Putting that into the context of relationships has been an ongoing journey for me, thanks to the lack of role models on my road. But really, what I have found to be known and nameable is the construct of family. Not blood relatives, but those who are loyal and responsive to the who and the how and the why.

    and so while I was looking to engage in a community such as this a few years ago, now I have a healthy suspicion as to its ability to be authentic.
    nevertheless, any contribution to the awareness of being authentic in a social context makes this experiment useful and purposeful. and it sure makes life a lot easier than learning these lessons from the implications of raising kids — with kids you can’t log off when you want to

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