Kimberly Ward Manning, voice, power & living really real
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Calling back your authenticity

Have you seen those videos on the internet where animals kept in captivity for their whole lives are released into the wildness of a grassy pasture? At first, the animal is afraid to leave its cage. Then slowly, slowly, it emerges, sniffing the air, feeling the grass under its paws. Tentative, reluctant, until its memory of who it is begins to return. And when it connects with its true nature, it begins to frolic in its freedom.

This is a metaphor for calling back your authenticity.

Many of us spend our lives in captivity. A loveless marriage, a job that depletes you, overbearing people and circumstances that encroach on your time and life force, are each forms of capture.

Your authentic self is Free. Loving. Creative. Unbound. Brilliant.

A life of captivity

You are an original. Authentic is your birthright. Staying really real is not easy. There are many ways that we lose our authenticity. Well-meaning folks like parents, caregivers, educators and spiritual advisors encourage women and girls to follow roles, behave in certain ways, be certain things.  Violence, abuse, bullying, peer pressure, and more, can silence a woman’s true voice and betray her authentic self even further.

Instead of feeling free, you feel helpless, mute, alone, starved.

There is a way out.

You must remember your authentic self.

It is time

You are ready to retrieve your true self. Connect with your brilliance, your creativity, your freedom. It is time to remember that you are Love from Love.

Dear One, call back your authenticity.

Remember your really real.

In the Sleeping Beauty story, it is not the kiss of the Prince that wakes the princess from her sleep. The hundred year spell has expired and it is simply time. She would have awakened regardless; the Prince’s kiss the brothers Grimm and Disney added to the ancient tale. (Oh the damage that this belief perpetuates. For another post…)

No one else was required to free her from captivity. It was simply her time to wake up.

Dear One, it is your time to wake from an inauthentic life.


The process of calling back your authenticity is one of undoing. It is a rolling back, a peeling off. As you remove the layers that obscure your true self, you may feel a yearning, a pushing forward of your really real. You are leaving the cage and about to step out into freedom.

The process is a birthing – a re-birthing – of your true nature.

Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature,
a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity,
and ageless knowing.
–Clarissa Pinkola Estes

This is your true self, the authentic self. Call it back. The world needs authentic women like never before. It is time.

Another Way to Practice Authenticity

If you’ve been reading my work for any length of time you may know how I love to mine real life for gems that can help others (and myself) wake up to their authentic self. Yoga class is a particularly rich place for learnings and this week’s class gave me some (w)holy words that I’d like to share.

Let me start on the mat…

It’s Sunday morning and yoga class is packed. Everyone is seated on their mats and as the class begins, our teacher says we’re going to do something different today. Instead of going through the class pose to pose like most yoga classes, we’re going to start with the first pose and keep doing it (over and over) until everyone becomes comfortable with it. Then, we will move on.

List-based learning

When we’re learning, we typically move from topic to topic, skill set to skill set. Just like in high school moving subject class to subject class, we tend to do the same thing when we’re learning to be more authentic. We have a list of exercises or meditations or books, and we move from one to the other.

In my authenticity practice, my list might look like this: meditate and journal in the early a.m., spend time in creativity, maintain boundaries kindly, work on my book (for me, this is an exercise in using my authentic voice), go to Pilates or yoga.

Working your list isn’t a bad way to learn.

It’s one way.

Another way to learn

It’s a very Eastern approach to practice a basic skill over and over in order to gain mastery. I saw this when my son studied Tae Kwon Do as a young boy when the black belts practiced basic movements right alongside the white-belted newbies, with the Buddhist monks and nuns I’ve met, and Sunday in my yoga class. Even an expert will continue to study and practice a basic skill over and over. The premise is that there is always more to learn as we continue toward mastery.

Pablo Casals the brilliant cellist said it well when someone asked him why he continued to practice into his 80s and 90s: “I think I’m making progress.
I think I see some improvement

Taking time to explore all the nuances of a learning while focusing on it exclusively helps us to gain mastery of that skill.

Mastery requires time, attention and discipline. With mastery, a skill becomes embodied in our being.

Lessons from yoga class

Just as Surendran finished delivery of how our yoga class would unfold, in the quiet of my mind I groaned. I wanted my practice to run sleekly through the list of poses, so I could glide through the difficult ones and relax into the ones that I can do well. What if the first pose was something that I didn’t like? What if it wasn’t one of my best poses?

I laughed at myself (with loving awareness) as I realized that this was also a metaphor for learning to be really real.

There are things that come easy, while other learnings are more challenging.

We are works in progress.

The practice of becoming really real

A practice is training. There is no one right way and what works for some, may not work for another. However, if your practice isn’t moving you forward, your practice is not helpful.

You must find what works for you.

Sometimes, you need to dump your list and focus deeply on one learning until it becomes so comfortable for you, it becomes yours.

Like in my yoga class. (BTW, we did that first pose for 20 minutes of an hour-long class.)

A practice also involves discipline. Kind, compassionate discipline. Beating yourself (or anyone else) up isn’t discipline. It’s abuse. Be kind.

When it comes to the practice of moving more into your authentic self, it can be very challenging to learn a new skill or rid yourself of an outmoded belief. You can make a list of what you need to move closer to your really real and work that list. Or, you can pick one thing and focus on that so deeply that it becomes comfortable, yours. It’s your decision.

Coaching challenge: What skill or belief will you investigate, add or subtract to your life to move you more fully in the direction of your authentic self? Begin today.

Authenticity is like Modern Art

Several years ago I attended a lecture at a Buddhist Center given by a famous artist. Doris, a painter whose work hangs in public and private collections, was speaking about Modern Art and its connection to Buddhism. One of her key points was why she felt many people have an aversion to modern art versus more traditional art.

She shared photos of Old Master paintings, realistic, understandable, relatable, and then photos of her own work – Modern art — organic, unbound by the frame, open to interpretation.

Doris’s premise was that Modern Art is like groundlessness, a Buddhist concept that speaks to the shifting sands of life. Groundlessness is unsettling to people. It reminds us of the surprising nature of life, the chaos inherent in the human existence. Hence, she continued, when people see abstract Modern Art, it brings forward that visceral feeling of having no ground under our feet. Many of us don’t like that.

A messy business

Authenticity can be a messy business. Like Modern Art, an authentic life is organic: flowing and ebbing, rising and falling, finding the nooks and crannies of what’s really real for you.

Authenticity is a journey, not a destination.

Our lives are like lumps of clay that we work with our hands and our hearts, pulling off bits and adding more in places. We are works in progress, never really done, always learning and growing (we hope). Making art is messy.

Authenticity is freedom

Look at a landscape painting and it makes sense. There’s a horizon line, a foreground, often it’s done in perspective so it appears that you’re looking through the lens of a camera at a real place. Modern art often floats on the canvas, or in the air, and may not be bound by the edges of a frame.

Living really real is freeing.

Your authentic self is boundless. You choose the boundaries for your life, the colors, the texture, even the subject matter (read more about that here).

Living really real is freedom.

Your life, a work of art

Creating and living an authentic life is connecting to the essence of who you are at your core. That essence is unique to you. What you bring forward and how you manifest your really real is your decision.

You can learn from the masters, like Doris, Picasso or Cassat. However, to live in authenticity – really real – you need to choose your own colors, your own canvas (or hell, maybe you don’t even want a canvas because your really real is more sculpture than painting!), your own technique…

Your life is a work of art. Put on your smock and get making your life authentic.

An Authenticity Manifesto

There’s a lot of talk lately about authenticity, but what does it really mean? And how does it apply to where the rubber meets the road in your life? I’ve wanted to pen a manifesto for authenticity and give it away. Here’s my stab at it, which will, rightfully so, morph and grow.

A Manifesto for Authenticity

Know who I am. Truly.

Move always and often in the direction of my True Self.

Create from Love, with Love.

See the best in everyone, including myself.

Forge Right Relationships.

Create good boundaries. Maintain them.

Do work that lifts me. Lifting the world is a result.

Be Happy.

May you use everything to move toward your True Self. Designing a life that integrates with your authentic self is a bold way of being. I invite you to use this Manifesto for Authenticity and make it your own.

The transformation of the world happens one person at a time. Your true self is truly needed. I so appreciate you being on this journey with me!

Muse, light shiner, ass kicker

Recently I attended the ballet. I saw work by one of my authenticity mentors, choreographer Twyla Tharp. From my seat, and in the span of about forty minutes, I was inspired and jolted by her work, The Upper Room (music by Phillip Glass). The experience left me transformed.

I left the theater with ideas for my work, a renewed call to add more dance to my exercise routine, and a fresh way of seeing, hearing and perceiving.

Authenticity mentors

I consider Ms. Tharp one of my authenticity mentors. I have plenty of others, like Frida Kahlo, Mother Theresa, my grandmothers and HH Dalai Lama. Authenticity mentors are people who embody themselves and their lives wholeheartedly and are examples, chosen by you, of what it means (for you) to be really real.

They may have a strong identity, a sturdy moral compass or a unique way of being, and you connect with them, seeing them as a mentor. Your authenticity mentors may be your coach, your rabbi, a teacher or advisor. They may be an artist, a writer or an organic farmer. They may be living or dead.

Authenticity mentors help keep you true to yourself.

The roles of authenticity mentors

While you may derive myriad benefits from your authenticity mentors, I’ve found the following functions of mentors to be especially important:

Authenticity mentor as muse.

In Greek mythology, muses are goddesses of inspiration. In modern life, we think that muses inspire artists and writers, but the truth is that anyone can be moved and motivated by a muse.

Your authenticity mentor/s may inspire you to design a new product, try a new recipe or volunteer for a cause. Inspiration comes from the Latin, inspirare, which means “to breathe into.”

Where are you receiving the gift of breath from your authenticity mentors?

Authenticity mentor as light shiner.

When you’ve lost your way, landed at the bottom or are staring at the darkness, an authenticity mentor is an angel with a flashlight. They can direct your vision to what you’ve been unable to see, like a lighthouse or a laser.

Where are you obscured by darkness and who can shine a light for you?

Authenticity mentor as ass kicker.

I’m not a proponent of forceful motivation, preferring a gentler, more loving approach. However, a kick in the keister can be delivered lovingly and may be the perfect thing to get you back on track to your really real.

In the role of ass kicker, your authenticity mentor can help dislodge you from a funk, spark your energy (and imagination) or move your procrastination into action.

Where are you needing a boost?

Leading by being

Authenticity is something that is naturally attractive. It is the truth of that person. Our authenticity mentors serve us simply by being uniquely, authentically themselves. Their beingness is a form of leadership for living really real. They help us in our journey to our true self.

Who are your authenticity mentors? How do they support you as your true self?

P.S.: The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is one of the best books ever. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a CPA, a poet, a painter or a marketing maven, this book is indispensable for living life in an authentic, creative way.