art by Julia Watkins
As many of you who are attracted to the work that I do know, meaningful experiences are par for the course. Participants often experience self-acceptance, love, connectedness, healing, transcendence or a deeper understanding of a life issue. But if it doesn’t inform the way people live, what does it really matter.
The deepest transformation emerges from fully integrating our powerful personal experiences. It’s not the blissful experiences nor the uncomfortable states that ultimately change us, it is how we embody the information and allow it to inform our daily lives.
When I work with people to co-create personalized integration programs, the goal is to guide, support, inspire, and hold accountable a person’s intention to use the information and embody what had been realized. I like to think of it as a co-creation of a sacred commitment to themselves. This commitment builds fortitude and stability. In the beginning it takes practice, one step at a time. If you scowled or rolled your eyes at the last sentence, you are not alone. While the mind can definitely complain about the notion of discipline, it is one of the foundational pieces that leads to real change and shifting patterns. Attention, practice, patience, and time are often prescribed.
Many of you practice, or have tried, yoga, and know it takes days, weeks, months and sometimes years to master a yoga pose. Yoga sutra 1.14 states: “Perfection in practice comes when one continues to practice with sincerity and respect for a long period of time without any interruption.” So why do we lose patience with ourselves when we are in the process of any other major metamorphosis?
In one case, a woman I was working with noticed that her inner dialogue was steeped in negativity. Her integration protocol included the daily practice of simply noticing her thoughts and creating distance from the “monkey mind.” Consistent meditation and months later, negative thoughts don’t drag her down anymore because she committed to her daily practices.
Years ago, I had the intense experience of remembering a very dark past life. Various images, feelings, and knowings flooded my internal landscape and shook me to my core. Upon rising from the vision, I was left with the impression that my entire life was a compensation for that previous lifetime. My interest in spirituality--doing the “right” thing, and not making mistakes--had been the primary driver of my life. I recognized that I had a tendency to hold myself to an exacting standard of righteousness that was unreasonable and stifling, all in an effort to re-balance the good in the world.
Nothing seemed to shake the feeling that I was innately bad and doomed to create more havoc upon on the planet. Greater gentleness toward myself was called for, and I opened up to it during many pre-dawn hours of meditation. Still quite concerned and seeking resolution, I took a day to go inward and ask, “What do I do with this vision of darkness? How do I assimilate it? How do I ensure this destructiveness will not be repeated?”
The answer arose: Practice integrity one moment at a time. What revealed itself was the myriad ways in which I wasn’t being completely true to myself or others. As a recovering people pleaser, it meant feeling into what was true for me regardless of what others thought. And I was going to have keep feeling into that, over and over, again and again; this is a practice unto itself.
It also became quite clear that I had no right to judge anyone after experiencing the wreckage I might have generated in a previous lifetime. It was humbling to experience myself as both saint AND “sinner.” The reward has been a greater self compassion and a softer, more open heart with others.
We are multi-dimensional beings that have many layers from the physical to spiritual: the body, breath, emotions, thoughts, witnessing consciousness, and awareness itself. Paying attention to all these layers in the integration process is a holistic approach I use that tends to yield long lasting results.
Depending on how we’re wired, integration can look different for each of us. There are unlimited methods for harnessing our lives’ experiences. Meditation, yoga and conscious moving practices, breathing practices, self-inquiry, all kinds of therapy, journaling, dancing, re-birthing, sound healing, plant medicine, praying, connecting with nature, silence, and even lively conversations and gatherings can all provide opportunities to soak in the wisdom that speaks to us.
This evolution requires us to be alert, welcoming, curious, and maintain a sense of humor. We can trust that we will be led to the people, places, and modalities that will aid us in assimilating all the incredible, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring moments that life offers us. We might even rise out of bed one morning with a broader view of what’s possible to “[become] the change we wish to see in the world,” as Mahatma Gandhi said.