The Rise to Authenticity

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Why does it take courage?


“I’ve been doing something that gives me great pleasure. I would like all of you to be able to say the same. It is such a marvel that when you take pleasure in doing something, things go so well.”Misao Jo

In the spring of 2000 we went to visit a friend in Japan and were invited to a weaving festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of Saori. At the time Saori had around a thousand weaving studios with about 10.000 participating weavers in Japan alone. The studios offer a space for people of varying mental and physical abilities to express their creativity at small beautifully crafted floor looms.

Saori weavers sell their work in high quality craft shops, at exhibitions or from their own studios. Their handwoven fabrics and products are highly sought after and provide an income for the weavers. These opportunities only exist because in 1970 one woman, her name is Misao Jo, had the idea to revolutionise weaving in Japan by going freestyle. Her philosophy was that mistakes in hand weaving shouldn’t be corrected since they capture the authentic expression of the weaver in the moment. She introduced a very simple technique of intuitive weaving, focussing much more on the process than on the end product. Soon she discovered that weaving could be fun and a great way of self-expression, as long as she didn’t try to imitate the flawless cloth produced by a factory.

Misao Jo’s idea was so radical in Japan because hand weaving is a traditional craft with very high standards. It can only be done by highly skilled professional weavers, and the end result is perfect. Against this backdrop Misao Jo’s weaving of wacky and colourful fabrics with threads hanging out in all the wrong places was a little embarrassing at first. 30 years later it had grown into a big movement, celebrated in Osaka by enthusiastic hand weavers, who had come from all over the world to honour Saori and its founder. Over a thousand people were gathered for the event, all dressed for the occasion in their own wild and wonderful handwoven clothes.

Every anniversary and annual event of Saori is a celebration of authenticity, creativity, freedom and empowerment. Each unique hand woven garment is a statement of individuality and a reminder of the courage of Misao Jo to follow her truth, throw off the shackles of tradition, and create a whole new world.


Why does it take courage?

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”Seneca (3 BC – 65 CE, Rome)

Being authentic should be the easiest and most natural thing to do; but it isn’t. It is difficult because we all start life as our parents. The discovery that we are actually a separate person only comes later, at which point it can already be hard to change.

Let me explain: As a small baby you don’t know the difference between yourself and your mother. You come into the world as part of her. Your birth marks the physical separation from the body that nurtured and protected you and made it possible for you to grow from a tiny cell into a human body of your own. The process of separation continues after birth, not just at the physical level but also at all other levels of Consciousness.

In the early stages of childhood we are completely dependent on our parents, it feels like we are part of them and they are part of us. There is an emotional oneness, which is part of our reality, and we totally identify with it. Of course it can’t last. We have to grow up and become independent individuals. Pulling away from our parents is a gradual and often sticky affair. The discovery of our own separate authentic individuality inevitably means that we have to leave something behind that we identified with before. We have to reject those parts like an old skin.

Growing into our own authenticity can feel like rejecting our parents or other people close to us. It can even feel like cutting off a part of ourselves, which is scary and uncomfortable. Others involved may also resist our efforts to become our authentic Self. Misao Jo’s family for instance may have said to her something like “Why can’t you weave a perfect cloth like all the other proper weavers? Handwoven fabrics full of mistakes – what a nonsense!” If they were too polite to say it, someone in her circles might have thought something along those lines.

We are not only affected by the words and actions of other people, their thoughts and feelings can hold us back too. And sometimes it’s our own thoughts and feelings in relation to what they might think or how someone might feel… There is a whole invisible web of threads, woven by our own Consciousness, carrying us, holding us, going right through us…

It takes courage to be authentic because it means being prepared to go it alone if necessary. The word authentic comes from the Greek authentikos, and it literally means having done it yourself. In the process of rising to authenticity you may lose the support of your family and friends, you may be treated like an outcast, you may be ridiculed and have to withstand the tides of intense self-doubt and inner turmoil.

Now some of Misao’s sons, grandchildren and other family members are involved in Saori, which has grown into a very successful organisation. Everyone in the family is very proud of her and in admiration of what she has achieved and hails her as a role model. I bet it wasn’t always that way.

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