Integrating our life

Maybe like you, I take up different questions at different times in my life and begin to interpret what I experience, the people I meet, what I read or hear or encounter in terms of that theme. Lately I’ve been wondering about what it really means to integrate our life. Seems like an essential question given that our school is dedicated to Integral Coaching.

Besides that, “integrating” is one of the fundamental competencies in one of our main explanatory/design models. Don’t tell anyone, but we hardly say anything about that stream of competence in our class. Consequently, many students complete our class feeling as if having an integrated life would be terrific and not knowing much about how to bring that about — thus my study of the topic.

Let me lay it out for you in one way I’ve been thinking about it: maybe our life is already integrated and we just don’t have a way of appreciating the way in which it is whole and complete with nothing ever left out or missing.

Certainly at every moment of our existence we have everything that is required for us to be alive, which necessitates many, many conditions being within a very narrow range. Too hot, too cold, not enough oxygen, too much carbon dioxide, not enough food or water and we are not alive for long. An obvious point but one we often neglect.

For me it shows that we always have a way of integrating our physical needs with our physical surround, which is no small feat. And we do it without much effort (at least in the developed part of the world) most of the time.

We are adapted to the world and adapt the world to us. There’s never any real separation—otherwise we would not be able to function physically and socially.

Maybe, though, the trouble with integration is in the cognitive and emotional aspects of our humanity. We sometimes imagine that we could conduct our lives so that we would feel no conflict or confusion or holding back – this would be an indication that we had finally fully overcome any divisions within our self. We then don’t recognize that:

  • what we’ve just done is made up something, which may or may not be possible
  • we have come to a diagnosis about why we are having difficulty, which may or may not be true
  • we have divided ourselves between how we are now and how we could be in this imagined other state, which is contrary to what we are intending
  • we immediately feel attached to what we’ve made up and perhaps even demand that it show up

Here’s where our emotions come in: we can easily feel sad, angry, hopeless, frustrated, abandoned, lonely—not at all what we had in mind.

Perhaps a simpler way forward is to begin to notice the ways in which we are undivided. And take note of our rejecting our unpleasant experiences, which may have us feel distant from ourselves.

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