Choosing Truth: Living an Authentic Lifeby Harriette Cole
The bestselling author of How to Be delivers an/i>/i>/i>
What does it mean to be "real" today? In a world where "truth" is a relative concept, is it possible to live an honorable life? Where half-truths and relentless spin are the rule, is honesty really the best policy? Yes, says Harriette Cole, and in Choosing Truth, she shows us why.
The bestselling author of How to Be delivers an inspiring, one-of-a-kind prescription for revitalizing your daily routine, overcoming the habit of self-delusion, and living an authentic life. Choosing Truth is not simply about being honest with the people in your personal and professional life; it's about being true to yourself.
Writing with extraordinary candor about her own life quest, Cole invites you to take an eye-opening, introspective journey. Addressing every facet of life in which truth is essential -- from cultivating an active spiritual life, to finding healthy, fulfilling relationships, to facing your deepest fears and listening to (and heeding) your inner voice -- Cole maps a clear path toward personal transformation. Drawing on compelling and fascinating anecdotes about the challenges, setbacks, and triumphs that have marked her own life and the lives of others, she shows you how to translate good intentions into right action and what you risk if you do not.
Cole believes that self-inquiry in the form of journaling is an important key to unlocking the treasures of wisdom and clarity that lie within you. Each chapter ends with a revealing glimpse of Cole's own journal and a series of instructions and questions to guide you to a deeper understanding of your Self.
Choosing Truth is an essential tool in the pursuit of a meaningful and honorable life, one lived artfully and with compassion toward ourselves and others.
- Simon & Schuster
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- 7.70(w) x 9.52(h) x 0.97(d)
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Keep a Journal
It's important for you to understand something right away: the process of choosing Truth in your life can be simple, but that certainly does not mean that it will be easy -- at least not all the time. Chances are you already know this, at least intellectually. But since we are just starting out, I want to reinforce a point that will resurface again and again throughout this book. Choosing Truth requires a tremendous and consistent amount of your own personal effort and willingness. You must be willing to look at all aspects of your life anew. You must have the courage to see what is before you, even if its impact could change the course of your life entirely. In order to stand firmly planted in the space of your own Truth, you must also be willing to let go of all that stands in your way. The good news is that you're not expected to change your whole life right this minute. Instead, the intention for you to hold is that you will make the commitment to approach your life with fresh eyes, be willing to look at what is before you as if it's the first time you ever saw it, listen to and follow your inner wisdom, and live your life with the complete consent of your entire being.
One of the greatest joys you may ever experience is learning how to choose your own Truth. Being able to live in Truth is liberating because there are no preconceived notions, patterns, or biases clouding your vision. Finding yourself living in the space of your own Truth can feel like gliding through the clear blue sky just as a kite does in a brisk summer wind.
To support you on this great adventure, you can adopt the daily practice of journaling. This is an effective and gentle means of identifying your own Truth. Like the Dear Diary books of your youth, your journal can become your best friend and companion. On a daily basis (or as frequently as possible), take a few minutes to write down your experiences and give yourself the gift of personal honesty. You can write about whatever has come up for you that day, and this may lead to threads that link together patterns of thought and behavior in your life. As you write, you will find layer upon layer of your former beliefs and understandings about yourself first become apparent and then fall away. Over time, you may gain the ability to see your true Self emerge, free of the clutter of any false concepts that you may have previously been clutching.
When you are tackling uncomfortable topics, journaling can support you. For instance, if someone has approached you with criticism during the day, take some quiet time and examine that situation when you write. What did the person actually say to you? Is there any Truth in what was said? Can you see what your role was in the situation? How might you rectify it in the future, either by addressing the person or by changing your behavior? What is the lesson that you need to learn? This process works even if you were the one doing the accusing. Even if you feel that you were appropriate in calling someone out for a mistake, ask yourself what your role was in creating the situation. What might you have done to help alleviate the tension? Did you handle the critical moment in a supportive, uplifting way? What can you learn to take with you into the future? Exploring your life on paper is a key way to unlocking the treasures of wisdom and clarity that reside within your own being.
How can you tell that you are Choosing Truth? Although there are endless sources of support that you can seek and that may be of help, they cannot single-handedly provide the ultimate answers for your life. The answers to your life's puzzle lie within you.
Back in the eighties, when I was going through a rough period, I was fortunate to have a small network of friends who offered me a lot of support. One friend was especially patient and compassionate. Jesse would listen to me drone on and on about my problems. Month after month, without judgment, he was there for me, and yet nothing changed in my situation. One day, he sat me down and very lovingly said, "Harriette, I think we should stop talking about this." I looked at him, crestfallen, and he continued, "I love you, and I want to be here for you, but I think you have to find the answers to these questions on your own." At first I was angry with him. How could he reject me at the very moment when I needed him the most? Was he really my friend, or had I just believed something that wasn't actually true?
After a few days passed, I calmed down. Instead of continuing to pick up the phone and connect to the other sources of support that were part of my spiritual network -- which, by the way, was what I was aching to do -- I sat still. It was then that I understood that Jesse was right. From that point on, I became more focused on my journals, writing endlessly with the intention of discovering a clear way out of my challenges. I was no longer a burden on my friends, and I created the space so that I could begin to see what the mirror of my life was showing me. I could read it through my own words.
I marveled that although I was unhappy, my life seemed fabulous on the outside. At that time, I was a successful magazine editor with what looked like a picture-perfect life, yet on the inside, things were not so cozy. I wrote about all of it in my journal: my fears, my dreams, my apprehensions, and my triumphs. Nearly every word I wrote was in lowercase letters. (I suppose I fancied myself a modern-day e. e. cummings.) For the most part, I reserved one word for capitalizing: Self. Actually, I wrote this word two ways. I had it in my mind that the small self was the one that I was trapped in at that time. It was telling me that I could not be as great as I envisioned and had me stuck in this pit of loneliness. Even as I felt stuck, I held out for the capital Self. My heart was crying out to assure me that deep within my own being resided a powerful, confident Self who had the capacity to override the feelings of smallness and compromise that were crippling me. I believed that this Self would indeed rise up and take charge. The only question was, "When?" It took a few years before my inner Truth came bursting forth. Yet the flames of that inner awakening were ignited during that time through my own introspection.
I was lucky; my life's transformation had begun. But that's not always the case. Often we receive advice from people that specifically addresses our issues. Sometimes the advice is perfectly on the money, and we are able to accept it. Other times, even the most brilliant advice falls on deaf ears. No matter how sweet the presentation or how perfect the presenter, it doesn't necessarily make it any easier to swallow. Has this ever happened to you? Think about it: Do you remember a time when you asked a friend for advice? Then after you got it, you didn't believe the friend or recognize the Truth through the person's reflection of it to you. How many times has a loved one or even a stranger revealed something to you about your personality or your life, especially when it was regarding an aspect that needed attention or change, and you brushed the person off -- possibly with an attitude to boot?
If this has happened to you more than once, don't beat yourself up. It is hard to accept criticism, no matter how well intentioned the person doing the offering happens to be. The knee-jerk response that many of us have is to consider the adviser's words or actions as an attack and to retaliate instinctually, seeking out ways to demean the "attacker." That behavior needs to end. In its place, we have to choose to change the way we respond to what's before us. This can start with how we face that which we see about ourselves. Just as I did, you can turn away from the listeners and naysayers toward yourself.
Exploring your life on paper is a key way to unlocking the treasures of wisdom and clarity that reside within your own being. Following is a prescription for recording and protecting your experiences:
Select a time of day when you want to write. It could be in the morning after your daily meditation or at night before bed. Some people choose to write at lunchtime when they have a quiet pause in the day.
Use a beautifully bound book that is both visually appealing and secure, so that pages will not fall out. Select a book that is small enough for you to carry with you so you can travel with it. Alternatively, you can assign one journal for travel and another for home.
Date and describe your point of entry. I write the time, date, and location of my entry, as well as my overall state of mind before starting. This paints a picture for me of the environment that is supporting my writing and helps me to remember my state when I review my thoughts later.
Express yourself in whatever creative ways show themselves. You may want to draw or sketch images that capture ideas that come to mind. Sometimes I can't find words that convey the essence of what's happening for me. Instead of leaving a blank page, I let my pen follow its own course. Remarkable miniature works of art have emerged in those moments.
Dare to tell the full story. Whatever is going on deserves to be shared in its entirety when you are sharing it with your Self.
Be free. This is your opportunity to pour forth your own inspiration from your soul. Let the words, thoughts, and feelings flow from your core uncensored.
Protect your journal. In order to trust that this can be the repository for your deepest contemplations, you have to take care of your journal. Keep it in a place where no one else will read it. Have a particular location where you store filled journals for later perusal. (I have a provision written in my will for what should be done with my journals and writings.)
Carve out time to review your journal entries so that you can track your life's evolution. I recommend reviewing your journals frequently -- once a week at first, so you notice your progress -- and quarterly to get an overview.
The most important thing you can do for your personal growth is to be honest with yourself. So often we fear what our honest words will mean to others. What about what those very same words mean to us? I remember my therapist telling me that I had developed the fine art of diplomacy so effectively that I was being too diplomatic with myself. He urged me to take a giant leap of faith and step out of my shell so that I could better see what lay before me. At first, this was tough. For starters, I didn't understand what he meant. But, even after I understood, I found it impossible to take the action needed. For me, diplomacy had unknowingly become a shield that didn't allow me to see accurately either my vulnerabilities or strengths. Once I became willing to let my guard down, at least in my journal and in my therapy sessions, I began to see the issues that I was actually facing. After that, with a huge dose of prayer and grace, I was able to push past some old stuff that had kept me stuck for years.
What is your Achilles heel? What is standing in the way of your seeing and living your Truth? Your active practice of self-inquiry will help to answer these questions. This is a primary function of your journal. You will engage in an ongoing dialogue with your highest Self, probing into the deepest regions of your own thinking and feeling. Journaling is a powerful practice for both novices and longtime practitioners. May it bring you the clarity and focus that you deserve.
I am writing to you today to express my love and gratitude to you. I am so happy that you have decided to embark upon this journey of self-exploration with me. My intention is to be vigilant and gentle in my honesty. My goal is to discover the Truth about who I am and how I can live an honest and fulfilling life in the here and now.
I love you,
Now is the time to begin your inner exploration. Use your journal as an essential tool for processing the facets of inner learning that will take place:
Record your intention for your journal. What do you intend to accomplish by engaging in the active pursuit of writing about your thoughts, words, and deeds?
Use your journal space now to focus on your reasons for embarking on this journey. Be as clear and specific as you can to sharpen your own understanding of the value of Choosing Truth at this time in your life.
Talk to yourself lovingly. That's why I call myself Dearest Friend. I know that what I want most in life is to be loved and that love starts with what I offer to myself. As I write, I am writing to that gentle, loving spirit who is my very Self.
Find your voice. Discover your Self by writing to that precious one within.
Copyright © 2003 by Profundities, Inc.
Meet the Author
Harriette Cole is the author of Jumping the Broom: The African-American Wedding Planner; the Jumping the Broom Wedding Workbook; How to Be: Contemporary Etiquette for African Americans; Coming Together: Celebrations for African American Families; and Choosing Truth: Living an Authentic Life. She is the owner of profundities, inc., a life-coaching and image development production company, where she has worked with stars such as platinum-selling recording artists Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, and Mary J. Blige. Cole writes a New York Daily News nationally syndicated advice column titled Sense & Sensitivity. She lives in Harlem in New York City with her family.
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