I knew a woman years ago who at the time was in a position of authority in my life. I did not like her. I did not trust her. I did not respect her. That was a lot of ‘nots’ for me, three strikes, way above my average. Around the same time, I was asked to teach a lesson on integrity in one of my meditation groups. As soon as I was asked, I realized that what this woman lacked was integrity. In that realization, she instantly became a teacher for me as I contemplated my lesson.
This lesson has evolved to become one of the foundations of my teachings. I have also come to recognize that integrity is one of my core values. No wonder I found this woman so difficult! Integrity is important to me and to my yoga and meditation practices because it holds me accountable. I often think of integrity when I am in tadasana or mountain pose. I take those few moments in that empowering pose to remind myself to approach life with integrity, to stand with integrity, to stand for integrity. Consider too that the most important person you can approach with integrity is yourself.
What does Integrity mean to you? This is my response:
1. Try your best – This takes a lot of dedication. We aren’t 100% a 100% of the time. It is a commitment to be made time and time again.
2. Have compassion for the human experience – Different people and different situations will have to be approached as they are. Integrity demands that you be flexible, creative, committed and forgiving.
3. Speak your truth with words and actions – You are accountable for your own words and actions. You are accountable for your own happiness.
4. With positive intent – If you cannot continue a conversation or a task with positive intent, it is time to pause. The pause may signal a complete halt, a simple redirection, or a postponement.
You may be wondering what this looks like in practice. Here is an example from my experience. One morning I had something to resolve with my husband, for the life of me I can’t remember what the issue was, but at the time is was significant (in my mind). So I decided to approach the conversation with integrity. I was determined to try my best to keep an open mind, to have compassion that he may have a different point of view, and to speak my truth with love in my heart.
So I start the discussion, “blah, blah, blah.” He responds with an immediate contradiction, “blah, blah, blah.” Now I’m riled, just like that, my old self wanted to repeat what I already said except louder, faster and meaner. That’s effective, right? Wrong, I was supposed to be practicing integrity, trying my best, having compassion for his perspective, and speaking my truth with LOVE in my heart. I was literally at a loss for thoughts much less words that conveyed love… I was flipping through my mind for appropriate responses, and I finally landed on one that met all my integrity requirements. I said evenly, “I don’t think you understand where I’m coming from.” He paused, he looked at me, he responded, “I guess I don’t.” That was the end of our conversation, it ended with integrity. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t revisit the issue at a later time. But at a later time is fine, we are always accumulating experiences and perspective so we can do better or go further the next time.
Speaking of time, with quite a bit of time since my dealings with the woman, I am so grateful for that experience. It felt eternal and arduous at the time, but as I mentioned above, it developed my teachings and I came to recognize a core value. The experience also solidified friendships with my peers who were also subjected to her influence. One of those friends continues to be a true blessing in my life, both personally and professionally. She keeps me grounded and builds me up, she is my blue alien friend. Inside joke, I know, but I wanted to recognize her while maintaining everyone else’s anonymity. Thanks for the indulgence!
One additional note on time, I have heard through reliable sources that the woman who lacked integrity (IMHO) has since done a lot of self reflection. She now operates at a much higher level of integrity and even recognized and apologized for some of her prior antics. In addition, she has done some really beautiful things for people in last few years, truly kind and generous. If our paths cross again, I will greet her with an open and grateful heart.
Is there someone or something in your life that you could approach with more integrity? Is it yourself? I love hearing from you, thanks for sharing!