“If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”
~ Dogen (1200-1253)
Japanese Zen patriarch
I don’t presume to know what “The Truth” is, for I agree with the postmodernist view that there is no such thing as objective truth, a truth independent of the observer. As quantum physics demonstrates, the very act of observing something, alters it, and so you cannot objectively experience or know anything. Moreover in the unity of the quantum soup of existence, nothing exists separate from me or objective to me.
Yet elsewhere I have written of the love of truth as one of the skills which enable personal authenticity (see Some Psychological Skills Which Enable Authentic Living) So seemingly I am suggesting that there is a truth with which our authenticity comports. And I am. But where might we find it?
Perhaps we can agree that nothing exists, except the present moment, the now, this instant which seemingly persists eternally. The past does not exist, except in thought. Tell me about your past, and you speak nothing but a string of thoughts being spun instant by instant in the present. The future too is nothing but fantasy experienced now. There never has been a time that you did not experience yourself other than in the now. So if we are to search for the truth, seemingly it must be found as Dogen suggests, ‘right where I am’ – here, Now.
And the Now, what is it? It is our experiencing as it is in the present moment. Interestingly, the dictionary defines truth “as the true or actual state of a matter” and “conformity with fact or reality”. Yes! our truth is the actual state of our thoughts, feelings, sensations – the reality of our experience as it is in the Now.
If presently I feel joyous, sad, fearful, angry, surprised, anxious, trusting, etc., that is my experience, my truth. If presently I think this or that, agree or disagree, doubt or believe, accept or judge, am willing or not, that is my experience, my truth. If presently I am bouncing with energy, tired, ill, comfortable, uncomfortable, etc., that is my truth, experience. My truth may change or not, from moment to moment. It is a revelation unfolding instant by instant, not a fixed state.
Of course, my truth and your truth will be different, for we experience the present differently. Authenticity asks that I live in accord with my truth and you live in accord with yours; that neither of us be burdened by the presumed obligation to live in accord with the dictates of supposed truths experienced by or asserted by others.
The American existential psychologist, James Bugental, defined authenticity in this manner: “A person is authentic in that degree to which his being in the world is unqualifiedly in accord with the givenness of his own nature and of the world.” Given that our natures and the world can only be experienced presently, authenticity then is living in unqualified accord with the truth of our own experience as it is in the present moment.
That’s my experience, my truth, what’s yours?
Michael Nagel LLC MA CI CHT
Whole Person Counseling
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