“People who lead a satisfying life, who are in tune with their past and with their future- in short, people whom we would call “happy” – are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Psychologist and Author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
The following isn’t the best written thing, it is certainly not gender-neutral, but on the subject of Integrity, it does makes it’s point. I understand that this is from an NGO in Mahashastra District of India and was written sometime in the early 1970’s as far as I can find out. In fact, there are a couple of things I will quote in this post that I have lost the source material for in a flood of my office a couple of years ago. I’ve used these quotations in courses I taught for ministers and others doing spiritual leadership coursework.
Maliwada Human Development Training School
The Maliwada Statement reminded me of something I had read by Charles Lindbergh (below) that addresses the same kind of awareness and motivation. I think that when we live our lives as if something located outside of our own experience of living is going to direct us, or we allow someone else final say over our decision process, we are looking in the wrong places for direction and inspiration. No matter who we consult, who teaches us, who we listen to, our choices about how we will live our life have far reaching consequences that are precious.
And there is something more to choosing ones life direction than a merely intellectual process or just choosing just what we like, as if we were at the local ice cream shop. Given the discipline and practice suggested in this reading, we can make choices based in values that are deeply rooted in life itself as it expresses in and through us, and while these are our individual choices, the connection to the whole of life is apparent to us in our heart of hearts.
I know full well that one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been given is that of awareness. I see things, I hear things, and I feel things that I’ve recognized that other people just don’t notice for some reason. I truly appreciate this gift, for it gives me so much in life that’s already there, just waiting to be seen. I can stand still for an hour in a field in the mountains, just seeing things and feeling the air and hearing the sounds. I love to sit in one place in the city, just watching people go by, wondering what they’re thinking, wondering what that look on her face means, how their lives are going, why he seems so agitated.
Of course, there’s a prerequisite to awareness–we have to slow down. We have to realize that life is going to go on whether or not we rush around in order to get everything possible done today, and that our own mental, emotional, and physical well being is at stake. We have a beautiful world that surrounds us, that offers us unlimited opportunities for peace, serenity, learning, helping, getting, feeling, hoping, love–you name it, it’s there in abundant quantities, more than any one of us will never need. But we have to see it, to acknowledge it’s there, to let it become a part of us by making ourselves a part of it.
Rainer Maria Rilke claimed that there are angels and spirits all around us, but over the course of the history of humankind we’ve pulled away from the things that we used to be able to see clearly; we’ve lost our connection with this planet upon which we live and everything here. I believe he has a good point–we’re so wrapped up in our jobs and television and movies that we almost never consider what’s here that we can’t see. And as much as I dislike what the people involved in television have done to our culture (it’s not the television’s fault), I appreciate the show the x-files, for that’s one of the few shows that actually approaches the possibility of there being more than we can see on this planet with intelligence and respect.
Awareness is seeing all around you with different eyes–appreciative eyes, wondering eyes. It’s knowing what you want out of life (and yes, you have to ask yourself in order to find out) so that you can go after it. It’s knowing that things change, and that what you want today may not be what you want tomorrow. It’s looking into the eyes of a friend or another person and realizing that that’s another human being put on this planet with hopes and fears and dreams and desires and needs.
As Rilke says, “perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” Awareness is the ability to see that the way we see things isn’t necessarily the way things are–for every setback or terrible incident, there may be hundreds of ways to see it. We have to choose to be able to see many possibilities, many explanations. If we get caught up in being right all the time, we’ll never have the blessing of being aware.Shut your eyes and you will know what I mean by thought entombed in darkness. Light comes through the senses, and not only through the sense of sight. When you see without feeling, you are still partly blind; you lack the inner light that brings awareness. Awareness requires the interplay of every faculty, the use of your entire being as an eye.
Charles A. Lindbergh
I believe that living a life of deep and full integrity requires this level of holistic awareness. Carelessness and inattention are anathema to a state of integrity, though I will say, there are times that we have to give it a rest– just for the perspective supplied by a few moments of complete relaxation.