Take a new course in life

The Courage to be Yourself


Here’s a little truism—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life!

Simple, right? I think even the cynics among us might agree with that statement. How about, You are much more than your memories, thoughts, and feelings? Now, do I hear a little murmur of dissent out there?  Well, how about in here, when I contemplate this point myself?

I was trained to revere the scientific method, to be intellectually rigorous, accept no assumptions that were not proven. I was schooled to see personality as the result of a combination of organic and learned processes; you need chemical and electrical balances in your precious brain to properly record the learned patterns of your psychological history. Nature and Nurture. My studies repeatedly stated that our consciousness was conditional and conditioned; a formula of sorts where the left side of the equation—inputs—resulted in the right side of the equation—outputs.

I was taught that the basis of our existence as human beings was definable by measurable variables, from the amount of serotonin and dopamine in the brain to the results on psychological tests. The wisdom of the day held that we each had a measurable, though not predictable, personality which either fit into a socially defined norm or fell into psychopathology; in other words, you are sane or crazy.

There are visionaries in the field of psychology who hint that there is something better than norms that we might attain. Two terms for this concept of development are self-actualization and individuation. Both of those terms certainly harken to a sense that each person might navigate their thoughts, feelings, memories, traumas, interpersonal expressions, and behavioral patterns to a point where they are expressing themselves without being edited by defense mechanisms or projecting their internal demons to external reality. A person could be him or herself, a balance of ego and superego, flexible and nimble.

What if beyond self-actualization and individuation there was another type of BEING? Something that was not measurable by personality tests, that might even transcend time and space and break the laws of Newtonian physics if need be? The scientist in me just lifts his arms in the air and shrugs—this is the realm of religion, isn’t it? If you can’t run a study to prove something with a degree of validity, within the parameters of probability theory, well then, it just isn’t an accurate assertion. It is merely subjective, wishful thinking.

Probability theory is a topic of interest here. The Placebo effect is compared to measure the physical effectiveness of drugs—a drug must be more effective than our suggestible mind (wow there is a blog for you). In the same way, scientists compare an outcome to probability tables to validate that experimental results are significant. Probability tables are more accurate with larger sample sizes, if you have a study with a population of several thousand and 99.99% have a characteristic, that’s obviously a trend. Scientifically there is something “significant” happening in that situation and the study author might claim experimental proof. This is good science and worth intellectual consideration. However, let us keep in mind that what is proven is a hypothesis not a “fact.” We are not creating facts with experimental tests—rather, science is in the process of polishing, to a sheen, its educated guesses. Good information, if you truly understand the study limitations, but not worthy of religious faith. Yet we limit our world to the scientific facts every day. Talk about the realms of religion!

Let’s go back to my first assertion—you are completely unique, and only you can express what you’ve learned in life.

Wow, you are a sample size of ONE! Nothing statistically significant there.

Yet, we all know that nobody else has lived our life path, nor can anybody else express what we have learned on that path—nobody but ourselves.

Why do we believe that subjective evidence is less true than statistical bogies? Do we buy into the numbers game played by science against chance? What if the sense of BEING has characteristics that are not captured in studies because we have no instrument to measure it? It then figuratively falls off the radar, it becomes anecdotal and fanciful. We might be tempted to disregard its validity or relinquish our intellectual rigor and get all touchy-feely.

I think we need to understand the personal validity of our own experience.

Where I live, at Sunrise Ranch, we have been discussing the courage to break out of our personal notion of a limited life—to be one’s SELF. Sometimes our limitations are drilled into us by the shame and doubt that inform our sense of self. These are the result of personal subconscious “experiments” with our world that did not go so well. Shame and doubt are short hand for “self-editing.”

In our living laboratory, in the present moment, we get to experience the unique responses we have to every sense object, thought moment, and feeling tone that we encounter in our world. This includes seeing our self-imposed limitations. We CAN learn to wake up and view our existence with appreciative inquiry, wanting to know more of who we really might “be.” AND the spark of brilliance in any observer is merely the tip of the iceberg of the BEING we have within us. There is such immeasurable information available to the creative mind!

We need the courage to look at the funny creature we have become—the sinner and the saint, the genius and the dolt—in the relativity of our life path. We need to listen to that deep truth within us that spawns enlightened thinking. We need the courage to see the uniqueness we are and not be dulled into the trance of accepting the theories of who we are as the realities of who we are.

Let’s keep testing our theories of consciousness, culture, quantum reality and the origin of the universe, with all the instruments that science can invent. But how about spending some time walking into our own undiscovered country within, looking at the unbounded creativity of that BEING which is a mere hint of our self-awareness? Let’s allow all the feelings that cannot be put into categories flood us and take us further into the mystery of the deeper sense of consciousness.

I want to continue to have the curiosity to explore myself, own myself with my own absurd and wondrous limitations, and my haunting possibility for limitlessness! The experiences of an awakened mind and heart are not theories.


-Atom Terpening


Atom Terpening has over 30 years of experience as a software and database developer and project manager in the healthcare and non-profit, association-management industries. Most recently he worked as the Corporate Information Offi cer of a company, CMI, that manages membership and events for non-profit health care associations. Atom is a proud father of two grown children and a new granddaughter named Ziggy, and he has spent most of his adult life developing a practice of awakened consciousness through mindfulness, heartfulness and appreciation for the miracle of life.




One Response to The Courage to be Yourself

  1. Atom
    Currently working on not accepting the theories (as pronounced by myself and others) of who I am as the reality of who I am. Oh the freedom that has afforded me…Thank you for the good read. I shall re read.

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