From birth till death is just a blink of the eye, so it is very important to gain clarity. Old people always say how fast life goes and young people never listen. People just get swept up into the momentum of conditioned life with various desires without even truly understanding what they want or if what they are told to want is worthy. One should at the very least take some time to examine what is important to them, and see if how one is moving in life reflects those priorities. Many times people on their deathbed not only have regrets, but also clarity about what was truly meaningful (and often the regret is of not giving more time/importance to what was truly meaningful). Therefore, a good exercise in properly examining one's life and priorities is to bring forth the presence of death which breaks momentum and gives perspective. If one is completely earnest in the practice, then one should feel like they are dying, and from this view life should be regarded. This practice is good not only for helping one gain clarity about priority, but also in stripping away other voices of influence. While the notion of an "authentic self" cannot stand in the face of reality (and indeed the voices of others are entangled in notions of self), there is an authentic voice and/or expression which is effortlessly present with deep integrity. For most, their treasured uniqueness isn't very unique, but rather a collection of conditioning via biology, parents, and culture (with even the apparent struggle against or rebellion being influenced and within a conditioned paradigm). When we strip bare various notions of self, we also strip away the various influences. When speaking about meaning (and what in one's life is truly meaningful), it is important not to mistake sentiment for wisdom, as the function of conditioning is to give emotional and reinforced response. Your family, your job, your country, these are all meaningless. This is not to say that one cannot demonstrate or discover great meaning through them, but that they have no inherent meaning in themselves. The previous sentence is certainly a qualifier that pacifies the sentimental response, and most people tend to think they are not most people, but for most people those aspects remain meaningless. This is because all those aspects are tied and given importance via a non-existent self, and also because of labeling (labeling is an important aspect of conditioning whereby a collection of sounds (words) which are without meaning or substance in themselves are given great emotional import/meaning.). If your father or daughter is hurt or killed, it is a great tragedy effecting you, but if it happens to someone else's family, then you don't much care. Partial cannot co-exist with the pervasive. If through the medium of family, one discovers a pervasive love that is impartial, then family can be said to have meaning (although the label would still be without inherent meaning). The exercise with death should also show one that one's family will go (or you'll go from them). Not only will one be separated, but one will be useless to help them (until one is impartial). Culture is another form of conditioning which gives people large blind spots. There are aspects of life that if pointed out one would say "of course" because thats just the way it is. While unseen, these factors largely influence not only how people move in the world, but also what they give value to. It is very instructive to encounter a different culture to expose one's own blind spots and areas of life that were never questioned. Interestingly, it is very easy as an outsider to see the hangups and unquestioned aspects in a different culture. As the world shrinks, there is also a general culture which is unquestioned like religion. This would be hard to define, but it is like the general canvas of a painting. Even people who disagree vehemently are painting on the same canvas, just on different edges, as they all acknowledge certain assumptions. However, one looking to find true authenticity need to burn down even the canvas upon which various views dwell. While those adhering to more conventional models may take offense at their family, job, and culture being called meaningless, the conventional model via conditioning always seeks to define meaning or meaninglessness. For example, if there is a get together with friends or family and you miss it, only to be asked 'why didn't you come?" If one says "I had to work", then this is final and the matter is dropped. However, if one says "i was meditating" or "i was resting" etc., then this will not be seen as a good excuse. The reason for this, is that one is given meaning and the other not (and work culture is a vast area of identity conditioned via indoctrination, propaganda, and is a huge blind spot which layers other areas of culture). Now lets say that one did indeed attend this get together, and one gets to talking to someone there. One is asked "what are you up to?", and the reply is "i've been studying philosophy", which makes the person ask "where?" If one says, "at the University of So- and So", then this will have meaning, but if one says "you know, just at my house in my free time", then this will get an eye roll. This is because the culture defined meaning. So getting back to the matter of one examining and determining how to move in life and what is one's priorities, the tangent which demonstrated the various means of influence is important because those voices need to be striped. To apprehend the authentic, one need to recognize influence, and when something arises to see :"that is my mother speaking", "that is america or india speaking", or "that is just an assumption or hearsay", then clarity dawns. One should even strip clear of all spiritual notions that one has. Often, one hears something and it may resonate, but if its not experienced or realized, then it just remains a concept or can even be an obstruction. With experiment, if the researcher already has notions of the result, then this pollutes the findings. If something is true or truly realized, then it will be there. If something needs to be reinforced or affirmed, then it is not worth keeping. Throw everything into the fires and see what remains. Even genuine realizations needs to be refined in those fires. One seeking truth should never be afraid of being exposed, one should take real joy in it, as it is how one grows. After examining how one wants to live and move (based on seeing what one has as their true priority), then one will move with real confident and persistence. One's determinations should be actionable, and should be written down. People make the mistake of thinking certain aspirations are not actionable just because they may be internal. For example, maybe after doing the practice one determines that love is one's biggest priority. This should not be left as some kind of abstraction. One could determine that since it is a big priority that they will sit 20 mins everyday to cultivate it and make it expansive. With practice, one could resolve to move with an expansive heart in all encounters of life. It is interesting to note that the conventional model would suggest an action like going to feed people at a shelter or something like that. While this would certainly be a good action, hidden underneath this model is the view that love isn't something real, that is is just a sentiment (therefore the only real thing would be to participate in materiality). One may determine through the practice some very practical changes to make like moving to another location or visiting somewhere. One may even see that they need to leave a relationship or stop hanging out with some friends. Clarity may dictate additions or subtractions, however when there is clarity, then actions follow smoothly. Too often, people don't progress or mature properly because they are not clear. There are too many competing voices. Lack of integrity is primarily due to two factors, lack of clarity and not admitting errors (a future topic). Hopefully this meandering post helps with the former. Even for one not spiritually inclined, it is certainly worth a few minutes to examine how to most authentically move in one's life. Otherwise, we are just pushed to the grave via signposts of parents, school, work, relationship, old age, sickness, and death. Just move death up a few places, and see if a new perspective is gained.