What comes to your mind when you hear the word integrity? A judge? Perhaps Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King?
Integrity has two definitions in the dictionary, one is: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. The second is: The state of being whole and undivided.
One Word= A Gateway
The first time I discovered this word I was in my late twenties and upon understanding it a whole new world had opened up to me. Suddenly there was a clear standard in how to be in the world I had no clue about up until then. I could finally put my finger on that thing that radiated from certain people that distinctly stood out to me. Most importantly, I realized I had been living, for the most part, the opposite of integrity.
Calling to Be Whole
“To be whole and undivided must feel good” I thought as I stared into the dictionary definition on my laptop screen. To be one person in one place and the same person in other places, was a different way to do things then I was used to.
I had grown up with secrets. Secrets that I saw as dark, dirty, ugly and strange. So many that it became second nature to hide all the time.
The Darkness Comes to the Surface
Situations would arise that triggered these painful secrets and threatened the aloof persona I maintained out in the world as a young adult. Trying to make intellectual sense of these painfully charged places in me (like the self help books encouraged at the time) felt like navigating a minefield maze that brought on feelings of hopelessness. This to me was playing with fire considering my history of depression.
Like a cosmic joke the more I tried to hide that ugliness, the more life situations triggered me. My relationship patterns made sure of that.
As I pushed aside the intellectual approach of “over analyzing my garbage” and instead continued to pursue my commitment to self care through mindful practices,
“nose to the grindstone” as I called it, things changed in ways that I could not express until another pivotal word came into my life… integration.
All My Warring Parts Call a Truce
Integration according To Dr. Siegel is what happens when different parts of ourselves work together harmoniously. This, influenced to the extent to which different parts of the brain connect and work in harmony.
A good demonstration of this is in the animated movie Inside Out. It depicts 5 of the 6 different basic human emotions based on the research of the famous American Psychologist Paul Ekman through adorable characters. When one of them named Joy finally accepts Sadness, they create a completely new, more complex inner reality in which they are combined in the memories of Riley, the girl they inhabit. This in contrast to Riley’s reality before where memories were solely joyful, sad, disgusted, worried or angry. Now there were combinations of emotions within one memory.
Dr. Siegel in this great video gives an explanation of this very thing through the lens of integration in the brain.
Clarity and Confirmation
The aha moment for me in understanding integration, was in that I finally could put a name to what had been happening to me. Through my continued and regular practices of meditation, chanting, and journaling (more specifically brain dumps), I had become more integrated.
I shared in another post how painful memories were no longer paralyzing and all consuming when I thought of them. It felt as though I had grown bigger then them and so was able to approach them when they arose, with a broader, more accepting perspective. My brain had changed for the better.
In time, without specifically intending it, the judgmental labels I placed on myself of “dark, dirty and strange” was replaced with the understanding that these were simply harmed parts of me still recovering. No different than anyone else on the planet.
It was ok, I was ok.
In time I felt more at ease in my own skin, at home with all the parts of me and comfortable with my place in the world.
Today I’m more present in my day to day life. Who I am with my friends is not very different from who I am when working, writing online or at home with my family. I’m not perfect, far from it! but my life, I can definitely say has more integrity today compared to a few years ago.
Science now backs up this experience. In fact, here is a great TED talk by the psychologist Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat called How Mindfulness Meditation Redefines Pain, Happiness & Satisfaction.
Awareness Replaces the Habit of Pushing the Pain Back Down
When we make time for these practices, although difficult at first, the aspects of ourselves that seem polarized start to become friends just like Joy and Sadness within Riley 🙂
From the inside out the world starts to become a friendlier place regardless of what occurs outside of us.
I have been enjoying a great podcast on this topic called Harvesting Happiness hosted by Lisa Cypers Kamen. At 48 minutes into it Dr. Siegel shares a wonderfully succinct explanation of integration in the brain and mind, two different things according to his research (so interesting!).
Beginning a practice of either may be difficult at first in our go, go, go society, but the benefits of pushing past one’s comfort zone to make room for contemplation and silence is well worth the discomfort as I’ve shared here.
Get Past Your Comfort Zone!
Here is a motivating post from a meditating friend of mine in the blogging world Pete Reece. In it he shares his journey with pushing past his comfort zones and the successes that have come of it in his encouraging blog called Thrive.
Many Paths to Integrity
In the next post I will share a specific and simple writing exercise that I have found very helpful in aligning my life to more deeper values, resulting in making this blog possible!
What place does integrity have in your life? Are there parts of you that are very polarized and at odds with each other? How does that show up in your life and more importantly what have you found helpful?
I’d love to know.
As always thank you so much for taking the time to stop by my online home. If you found this post helpful please take a second to share, comment or like. Until next time!