© 2006 Jeremy Youst
What does it mean to live with integrity? How do you live your life from a place of honesty, sincerity, and uprightness? What qualities must you embrace in order to live correctly and, as the native peoples would say, “walk in beauty”?
Integrity is the “quality or state of being complete”, of being in an “unbroken condition” or state of “wholeness”. It is the wholeness of a loving heart, the gift of goodness that flows to others when you love them as yourself. Integrity is the result of having lived through and learned enough of life’s lessons that the correct response and right action flow through you every time, effortlessly. From the perspective of day-to-day life, I have found integrity to be a sacred intersection offive key qualities: Love, Reality, Experience, Honesty, and Wholeness. Where these five qualities meet, there is a focal point of consciousness, a Medicine Wheel of integral awareness, and a capacity to respond in life with integrity.
Where is your current evolution within this Wheel? Can you find it? Can you find what qualities you identify with, and which ones are harder to access? The place where you are within these five considerations I call your personal level or Line of Integrity. It is the “line in the sand” you draw when defining your personal space according to what feels right to you. A Line of Integrity is the threshold of awareness that reflects the best possible position for your soul’s current evolution in any given situation at any given moment.
Attending to and learning to live within this intersection of these five principles and knowing where your Line of Integrity lives opens you up to an excellence of being, a vital way to live your life with goodness and grace. Living with integrity forms an essential foundation upon which you can grow, develop and learn how to “walk in beauty” upon Mother Earth. This Medicine Wheel of Integrity can be depicted in the following way:
Living within the Wheel of Integrity sets the stage for putting right choice and right action into your life. It helps you to quickly access your “right use of will” according to your best thinking, your present emotional maturity and the current evolution of your spiritual consciousness. Living with integrity is a trademark of your heart’s intelligence, and continually announces the best probable solutions for what works best for all involved. Regardless of your current stage of personal development, accessing your personal Line of Integrity will help you define the right choice and/or “healthy boundary” you need according to what you can accept and handle right now in your life.
First and foremost at the center of the Wheel of Integrity is Love. Love in this case is the force and energy behind and within all universal life. It is the divine source of connection and creativity that lives within all things. In practical terms, it is the wisdom and strength of a kind and generous heart, the compassionate center of creative consciousness that is willing and able to make choices in alignment with the highest good for all. In the communication between two people, Love is remembering and knowing that goodness is at the core of every interaction. It is being able to say “no” when you need to and not feel guilty about it; and it is learning to say “yes” when you don’t want to, when your fear or defensiveness wants to say “no”.
Love is not just a romantic feeling, action or commodity subject to the conditions of life. It is the inner strength and vital power within all life, and is the fundamental nature of the world we live in. As such, it commands us to establish direct and truthful relationships with all people and all things without conditions whenever possible, yet it also guardians the choices that would encourage safety and trust within those relationships. Love is universal, unifying and uplifting. By its very nature it is respectful and compassionate, and promotes ongoing forgiveness and the ability to release past wounds and attachments. This kind of universal Love is the truth of who you really are.
From the perspective of living with integrity, Love embraces a universality of consideration with an enduring patience. It is the facilitator of intimate understanding and ties together relational differences by announcing similarities. Love is what allows you to move toward, interact with and appreciate each other, and encourages you to know the placement and purposefulness of your individual limitations within the context of what you need to learn from others. Love is the guiding light behind your innermost innocence and urges you towards deeper levels of closeness, intimacy and meaningful exchange.
Secondly, the Wheel of Integrity is based upon Reality. Accurate reality assessment is essential, and is founded upon your ability to be fully present and aware right now. Discerning the truth of reality is being able to know the difference between what is objectively happening versus what is subjective, imaginary or fictitious. Integrity requires us to meet reality head on, to step up to the plate and to see what is really going on, and, most importantly, to be able to witness the consequences of our actions. As humans, we tend to get lost in reality concepts rather than reality experience, i.e. we react to what we believe is happening rather than respond to what actually is happening. The question is, are we as innocently and objectively present to what is happening right now as we can be?
Concepts of reality have been given many names: core beliefs, chronic patterns, “stories”, prejudices, etc. and are usually found as subconscious feelings and thoughts buried deep within your body-mind. Concepts of reality represent the energetic belief residuals you carry from the past. They cause you to apply old, confusing conclusions to new, present situations. They affect and limit your perception because they are based upon re-cognitions of what has already taken place to you in the past.
Belief residuals are the defensive habits that result when something traumatic occurs. Although they may have worked as survival strategies or as ways to deflect pain, belief residuals and their “reality” perceptions rapidly outgrow their usefulness as soon as you need to respond to new situations in new and different ways. They create errors in judgment because they limit your ability to re-adjust and reset understanding to what is happening now, without the weight of what happened then.
The lack of appropriate boundaries, for example, you had in a past relationship that resulted in pain and separation may be the cause of your current resistance to form new relationships today. The conclusion that all relationships are bad and should be avoided at all costs may not be the best possible reality choice for what your heart needs today. Instead, an investigation into the unhealthy boundaries you may have had is what is likely needed now, as well as a clearer understanding of what actually took place in the dynamics of that relationship in the first place. Reality is what it is, no matter what you think of it. The farther you are away from present-time reality in your mind, the more hurt and suffering you are likely to experience in your life of the future.
Thirdly, the Wheel of Integrity is based upon Honesty, which is the ability to accurately assess and recognize what is true and correct in this moment. This is actually what reality is asking us to do, and is always asking us, “What is truly happening now?” The source of honesty is fundamental, and may be as simple as the biological need to acknowledge a territory or the limits of a boundary, or as complex as knowing the ethical truth and responsibility of what is right in a social situation. Honesty is based upon the ability to perceive and recognize the root assumptions of the reality in which you operate. No matter who throws a ball into the air, the reality of gravity dictates that it will probably fall back down to the earth. Honesty is the most closely linked to integrity because at the deepest level it is a shared truth known in the hearts and bodies of all involved.
As we learn to heal and integrate our belief residuals, honesty becomes the mental posture you learn to take in response to the presentation of reality. From childhood to adulthood, it is the clarity of vision you develop as you learn to accurately perceive the world around you. Honesty is the willingness to own up to and admit where you have erred in your judgment and/or perhaps confused the components of reality with your beliefs about it. Honesty enthusiastically works towards creating workable solutions in the present, and is a crucial starting point for all communication, collaboration and social interaction.
So much of the time, for example, we are afraid of what others think of us. We get insatiably caught up in the maelstrom of words and actions that lead to the dead-end of “seeking approval from others”. We strive and thrive for validation and approval, seeking consent at every turn, as if the sincere desire to just be ourselves is not good enough on its own. Honesty is the integrity check for the human trait of needing approval from others. It liberates us from our past, present, familial and cultural biases, and courageously sets a new course from which steer our choices and goals according to our highest priority of personal, spiritual and collective evolution.
Fourthly, the Wheel of Integrity is based upon life Experience. Experience is the energetic manifestation that takes place within the dynamic interaction between your soul, your consciousness and actual occurrence. It is the perceivable flow and direction you swim through in the river of your Life. It is, in fact, the “stuff” you use to understand life itself. Experience acts like a reality feedback system and becomes the living, energetic edge of your personal expansion that provides indelible marker points to deepen your understanding and ability to live with a sense of personal command and integrity.
Your individual Line of Integrity is usually a reflection of your ability to honestly respond to and work with the conditions of your life, inside and out. When a “life lesson” arises to help clarify your intentions and goals, living experience actually puts the flesh on the bones of your desires and thoughts, and initiates the actual successes and failures of your learning. Without the experience of a dangerous adventure, for example, the hero’s quest to obtain treasure would be meaningless, and there would be little earned value to bring back home to the people of his or her community.
Experience accumulates according to your intent and mirrors the level of wisdom and maturity found within your present evolution. Your current level of maturity and integrity is the degree to which you have mastered the compassionate command of your free will according to your learned experience in this life. The accumulation of experience is the source-point for acquiring knowledge, yet your ability to lovingly respond to that experience is the basis of conveying wisdom and compassion to the people and things of this world. Experience lays the foundation for learning to occur; and the need to learn lays the foundation for experience to occur. Experience is the blessingway that reality bestows upon the soul on its journey to deeper understanding, wisdom and Love.
Lastly, the Wheel of Integrity is established according to our innermost connection to spiritual Wholeness and freedom. Wholeness is the quality or state in which you feel complete and unequivocally connected to your Higher Self or Higher Power. Wholeness is the center point of a living soul and the grace of a loving heart. It is the cause and effect of living close to the center of your soul’s purpose or calling. It is the warmth you feel from the fire of your soul’s passion, and the strength you feel when standing in the presence of your Truth. Wholeness is the balance point that helps you define the highest contribution you can make as an individual within your community.
Wholeness acts like a spiritual barometer for knowing when, where and how to establish your personal preferences and Lines of Integrity. It is the fundamental by-product of living in Love, for it reminds you of what life can look like when you’re feeling truly centered. The feeling of wholeness encourages you to approach life with trust and understanding, and helps you to offset residual resentments and misunderstandings with the idea that everyone is doing the best they can all of the time. Wholeness continually tethers you to your innate purity and inner goodness. Wholeness is the result when all has been forgiven. It is the quality that ultimately guides all communication and connection between people because it arises from the deepest source of all: Divine Oneness.
Learning to recognize and work with these five components of the Wheel of Integrity is an ever-evolving process of self-growth and determination. Although they can be spoken of and studied, these qualities are not something that can be measured or simply taught like civil laws or a fixed code of ethics. They are reflective, like feelings and attitudes, and operate as inner guidelines to what you think is important as you walk the path of your life. They are ever present within your unique soul’s awareness and the wisdom of your body-mind, yet are also a part of your deep tribal consciousness and community connection as you weave together shared experience.
Lines of Integrity are relational and feeling-based, and only become effective when they are used and shared with others. Learning to communicate your healthy boundaries or Lines of Integrity can only happen when you have enough clarity to know what you want and when you want it in your life. Love provides the impetus, reality becomes the playing field, honesty sets the course and wholeness guards the action for the right experience and lesson to occur. In a way, your personal Line of Integrity is nothing more than the line that separates what your Self knows it wants and what your ego thinks it needs.
Learning to recognize your place within the Wheel and how to live in truthfulness is a journey of discovery to what feels right and true for you in each and every moment. It is a journey into wholeness that reflects your capacity to show up with honesty and authenticity in the world at large. It is learning to discover what to do, when to do it, and which choice you need to make for everyone’s highest fulfillment right now. Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses inside the Wheel of Integrity can lead you to a more enriching life of grace, wisdom and responsibility, and help you feel more integrated and a part of your community as a whole.