Author takes readers on journey to authenticity

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 10, 2003

Ever feel like you are two persons: the phony you and the real you? Have the pressures of conforming to the expectations of others, or fatigue from running the rat race, robbed you of self-respect and meaning in your life? Are you forgetting the unique person you are meant to be?

All of us struggle with the temptation to be something we're not, to lose sight of what we truly are. And when we fail, the cost can be devastating.

Cochrane author and balanced-living guru David Irvine knows what that struggle's all about. He's been there, done that. And a few years ago, he made a conscious choice to do something about it.

He set out on a quest for authenticity, and now he invites us to join him in that quest through the pages of his just-published third book, Becoming Real: Journey to Authenticity.

Many of us have come to know David through his 1997 book Simple Living In a Complex World: Balancing Life's Achievements. But in the years following the writing of that book, David became increasingly uncomfortable with the prospect that one's achievements can come at the expense of one's true self – that doing can supplant being.

This awareness started growing in him way back in the 1980s when, in his private practice as a psychotherapist, he experienced burnout through failure to be true to himself. As a helping professional, he became "driven to help from an unacknowledged and thus unmanaged hunger to be needed," he writes in Becoming Real.

"Toward the end of my work as a therapist in the late 1980s, I suffered from all of the symptoms that I was trying to resolve in others: irritability, insomnia, a lack of patience, a reliance on rules, an inability to concentrate, excessive anxiety, and cynicism."

Becoming Real provides an intimate, candid look at David's own search for authenticity. By allowing himself to be vulnerable on the pages of this book, he has charted a course for releasing authenticity within the rest of us, a course that will help the reader discern the difference between soul and role.

"Authenticity asks you to get to the heart of what your life is meant to be about," David writes. The book presents four tasks for arriving at authentic living: find your center; nourish community; build strong character; and seek your calling.

Centering is central to everything else in the book. In his own experience of centering, David writes, a daily half-hour quiet time is essential. How does he use that time?

"I generally have a balance between meditating – quieting and focusing my mind while relaxing my body – and praying – listening to the still small voice of God guiding me and supporting me," he says.

About seeking one's calling, David stresses the importance of passion, something I myself hope to deal with at length in future columns.

"Passion is the deep, abiding voice within us that informs us of the blueprint of our lives," he writes.

"Passion is the energy that can sustain you in discouragement; it can nourish a depleted spirit and be a friend that gives confidence in the face of insecurity. Passion will move you to divine presence because when you are passionate, you are completely present."

Becoming Real is a book that walks its talk. It is a role model for how I hope my own writing will develop. Drawing from many spiritual traditions, it places David's story within the wisdom of the ages and calls its readers to renewed life that is full, meaningful and deeply satisfying. It is, as David says, a book to help all of us answer the question, "Who am I, really?"

In my case, Becoming Real has led me to reflect anew on words engraved on the inside of my wife's and my wedding bands – a perpetual reminder of my own call to authenticity: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."

David's final chapter begins with one of my all-time favorite quotes: "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." This book is a candle that will bring light and life to many.

Becoming Real is available locally in Cochrane at Bentleys Books and Westlands Bookstore, and in Calgary at Self Connection Books and Logos Bookstore.

© 2003 Warren Harbeck

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