live your authentic life. an interview with susanne dannenberg

Can you share a bit about yourself?

I have been a daughter, sister, woman, survivor, lover, mother, wife, student and social worker. Then I realized a few years ago, after my last adult child had left home, that I am none of those things. Driven by some unconscious force, I stripped myself naked of all these roles and my identification with them, and started to ask myself: “Who am I….Who am I really?”

How do you define authenticity?

Being aware of who you really are and living your life’s purpose from a place of inner truth, without ego identifications, attachments and resistance to what IS.

This was the beginning of my conscious journey towards authenticity. However, just when I thought I had found my truth, I had also become attached to who I thought would be my life partner and I was identified with my newfound role as an art teacher. That is when the Divine ‘kicked me in the head” again, and this time the kick seemed even harder than any time before in my life. It came in the form of a huge heartbreak, along with the loss of that partner of seven years, my beloved pets and plants. And as if this wasn’t enough, that same higher force, as mentioned earlier, made me choose to leave my friends, students and home town of 25 years as well.

In my newly adopted town and apartment, in the middle of winter, where I didn’t know a soul, I retreated into a partly self-imposed ‘exile’. Without having to care for another living being now, I had only me, myself and meditation. Whether I liked it or not, it forced me into stillness and awareness. Awareness of all I thought and felt; all I judged, resisted and wished for to be different. The pain, sadness and suffering was so great that it cracked me wide open and led me into the darkest and deepest place within myself; some call it the dark night of the soul. There I sat with life’s ‘imperfections’ and my own projections, while going even deeper into self-inquiry and meditating on the question: “Who am I?”

How does your current career and soulful journey reflect your authentic self?

I found my authentic self in that darkness and stillness, and by giving up my ego-identified or personal self. That is when I realized that I am not my thoughts and feelings and that not everything relates to ‘me’. Once I realized that there isn’t a personal or separate self, I was able to be more intimately present. It is in that presence that I find my own truth or authenticity one moment at a time; a Divine energy that flows through me, that transcendents time and space, and that I see as light and feel as love; a universal kind of love that is bigger than me or any persons, and That connects me to all there IS, ….and I am That; we all are That.

An experience that led me to this awareness of “no separate self” happened this year, while in the midst of my deepest sadness and despair:
“I was meditating on “Who am I?” and was repeating the question as a mantra to myself over and over again, when suddenly, I became aware of being energy. As this energy, I ‘travelled’ within an instant hundreds of miles and was able to brush ever so gently against my beloved ex-partner’s hair and face. He was not aware of my presence, but I was at peace with that and was filled with LOVE towards him and all there is.”
This was a very visceral experience and words can’t really describe it. I have not had a re-occurence of this event and if there would be a recipe for truth or authenticity, it no longer would be authenticity or That. However, by gratefully honouring what Is in the moment, I am connecting with That what I am. That guides me towards my soul’s purpose in this life time, which is me expressing my Self through visual art and facilitating for others to express themselves authentically through art, specifically through the intuitive painting process.
Who inspires and motivates you to continue your path to being your authentic self?

I am inspired by each vast moment. I am inspired by others who live their truth by facing their fears and taking risks. I am inspired by those who live a life of service for love and peace, such as Amma and the Dalai Lama.

How do you ensure that you maintain your own authenticity, when often it can be a struggle?
By being grateful for what I have and being at peace with what is. That includes me being okay with my fears, judgements and ‘imperfections’ as they guide me on my soul’s journey to being truth, love and peace.

For people struggling to find their own authenticity, what advice can you offer?

The only way out of darkness is through it, and there you will find the light and your true Self, which are One and the same. You can’t experience light without the darkness, and all you seek is already within you. Awareness, truth and authenticity are not found outside of yourself. Relationships with family, lovers and teachers only reflect back to you what is already inside you. So, dig deep ~ embrace all there is within you, without judgment, control and resistance. Trust your inner voice and heart, and go for your dreams by following your truth and passion one moment or step at a time!

If you had to use one word to sum up your year, what word would that be and why?

Re-awakening ~ to my soul’s inner wisdom and truth; to all there IS in each moment and into infinity. This is reflected in my art and teaching, which is about truly honouring what is within each one of us, as expressed through Intuitive Painting.
Lastly, where can we find you in the web-o-sphere?

You can find out about the Intuitive Painting process and my workshops on: artaccess.ca

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