We all have the ability to be genuine: to be open, honest, present, available and kind. It may seem that being genuine requires a great effort, but in truth, being genuine and living an authentic life are very reachable goals, because we’re already there! It’s just that we’re so busy with everything else, we may simply have forgotten how to be more authentic and give our natural goodness free rein to express itself. And when it comes to reconnecting with our authenticity, meditation is a powerful ally.

1) What does it mean to be genuine?

Being genuine is about being true to your best self. We all have conflicting emotions and ideas vying for attention. Some of them lead to well-being and the greater good; others lead to distress and disappointment—for us and for those around us. Genuineness is the ability to simply be with what we’re feeling and thinking, without falling into extremes of either acting our emotions out or suppressing them. Don’t confuse genuineness with the false spontaneity of indulging in whatever comes to mind. Gently noticing our mind’s tug-of-war allows us to opt for the best reactions and decisions according to our best selves. For example, when we suddenly find ourselves angry at our child or the state of the world, we feel the energy rise and let it be, just for a moment or two. We don’t deny we’re angry nor pretend we’re sanguine. That moment of reflection is the birth of genuineness. Sound challenging? Read on . . .

2) How the qualities of genuineness express themselves

Pausing within that mysterious moment without reacting is just the beginning. What comes next is where it gets interesting: attentiveness to others, eagerness to help, recognition and acceptance of where we’re at the present and a willingness to use our creativity to search for viable solutions instead of allowing our emotions to run the show. Genuineness is communicable (in a good way); genuine people connect easily with others. There’s less judgment and more curiosity. At the same time, genuine people speak truth to power and often put their energy into righting wrongs. You don’t need to go out and save the world, but you can save the situation around you, one moment at a time.

3) What’s the relationship between meditation and authenticity?

At its core, meditation is about being aware in the present moment without judgment or expectations. The object of our awareness can be our breath, thoughts, physical sensations, emotions, ideas, a sound, whatever. This process of meditative observation can be very calming: we realize that the active part of our mind can go about its usual creative busy-ness without our necessarily having to get involved. We have the option to sit back, relax, and watch the show, so to speak. As we become increasingly conscious of our same-old same-old patterns, we’re also increasingly conscious of something else: a fundamental, quiet goodness that nourishes the spirit.

By quieting the mind through authentic meditation, we reveal our own genuine qualities of the heart. This is our authentic self; meditation never created it; it simply gave us the space to rediscover it. Once we’re in touch with our genuineness, our meditation continues to nurture it. The only effort required is commitment to a regular practice.

4) How do we know when we’re being authentic?

Through our meditation practice, we develop the ability to recognize our emotions and habits in real time. The result is that when we’re off-kilter, when we’re tempted to give in to unskillful tendencies or make a decision that may end up causing harm, our “Spidey sense” tingles. In the beginning, we might just ignore this insight, out of habit or impulse. But once we’ve seen ourselves in the mirror, we can’t deny it. Gradually we learn to trust our intuition. Truly, this clarity has always been part of us, but we’ve spent so much time burying it with our busy-ness it seems like a new-found discovery. Gradually, by being genuine in meditation, our authenticity and goodness can shine in our everyday lives: at home, at school, at work, in society and so on. This gives us confidence—not the puffed-up kind, but genuine confidence, because we know we can trust our best instincts.

5) How does genuineness inform success?

The answer to this begins with another question: how do you define success? Authenticity and genuineness receive a lot less fanfare than material success, fame and titles. But some renegades consider that success mostly has to do with being one’s genuine best self. This includes an affinity for the challenges of unplanned-for situations, a natural openness to other points of view, excellent judgment without the need to be judgmental, and a desire to be of benefit.

It so happens that these are the very qualities that support material success as well. If you have these qualities and you want to be a great teacher, well, odds are you’ll be a great teacher—or entrepreneur, inventor, house parent, athlete, or whatever occupational goal you’ve set for yourself. And a happy human being as well.