I wonder if we all wish we could just seclude ourselves away into a cave somewhere and get all our learning, growth and change done in the safety of privacy before emerging whole and shiny. Sigh, if only it were so.
Change is seldom neat or pretty. Especially in the realm of exploring one’s identity, integrity and authenticity.
True change and evolution does not, cannot occur or at least sustain in isolation, well not in my experience anyway. Real and lasting transformation occurs in the trenches, as Brene Brown says. It happens in the real world, with real risk. It’s not like in an RPG game where we can die, resurrect and try again from last save point with no consequences.
In my blunt way of saying things, the deepest change often results in “ugly” cracks on the surface. “Ugly” in quotes because it’s a perception trained into us by a historical culture that fears change and the inevitable instability and unpredictability that comes with it. We want perfect at no cost. Boy is that a double pipe dream!
The “cost” of seeking and practicing raw integrity has been weighing on my mind since my most recent Intrepid Integrity Live Q&A. That was a liberation and a challenge all in one for me.
I was tired from two days of writing and wrangling epic positive disintegration. My language centres were not happy. I was finding linear thought and language painful. I kept losing my train of thought. It was not a good time to be doing Q&A!
In our debrief afterwards, my dear friend and fellow InterGifted coach Karin Eglinton reassured me, “Well, of course! You were fighting to hold a form while formless!” I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her support that day.
Yet it was a liberation because I have never before shown up in such a condition for a work related event without shame or guilt. I had the song This Is Me, ringing through my head the whole way. This is me. Raw, some parts broken, some parts alien, trying, being. And, if I dare say so, fucking proud of it.
Of course, I was beyond exhausted afterwards and tired is often a recipe for vulnerability hangover, another concept I learnt from Brene Brown. I felt old insecurities rise, that I was incoherent, not professional, not making sense, not knowing enough, yadayada.
But… I could feel the gravity that I had worked so hard to accumulate from deep within me speak wordless frequency-sound, like a deep resonant gong. There is I. And it asked me…
“Do you do this because you want success or you want to learn the experience of being?”
“Do you need to succeed for this to be valid?”
“If you die a pauper, would you have failed?”
The resonance rung deeper and deeper and though I could feel the pain of the lifelong indoctrinated fears still clawing, I know now what is the only motivation I want.
I think of people like Nikola Tesla and particularly Vincent Van Gogh. Have you read Van Gogh’s letters? They are available online for free and I highly recommend them.
Did they die successful? In the eyes of the world then, they did not. However, did they experience what they believed in? I would like to think or hope so.
The path of integrity and authenticity is not the path you seek because it will bring you more success or productivity or creativity. It is the path for those who seek the undefinable light, who feel drawn to it, have heard it’s call from childhood.
The closest parallel we have to the concept of integrity and authenticity is perhaps the works of mysticism. I read nearly all of Anthony de Mello’s books, particularly his collections of parables and I remember reading over and over the theme of seekers appearing crazy to the world. I am thinking now of Ji Gong, a Chinese folk hero whom I adored as a child even though I didn’t know why then.
Here is a parable from Anthony de Mello:
The Narrow Path
God warned the people of an earthquake that would swallow all the waters of the land. The waters that would take their place would make everyone insane.
Only the prophet took God seriously. He carried huge jugs of water to his mountain cave so that he had enough to last him till the day he died.
Sure enough, the earthquake came and the waters vanished and new water filled the streams and lakes and rivers and ponds. A few months later the prophet came down to see what had happened. Everyone had indeed gone mad, and attacked him, for they thought it was he who was insane.
So the prophet went back to his mountain cave, glad for the water he had saved. But as time went by he found his loneliness unbearable. He yearned for human company, so he went down to the plains again. Again he was rejected by the people, for he was so unlike them.
The prophet then succumbed. He threw away the water he had saved, drank the new water, and joined the people in their insanity.
The way to truth is narrow. You always walk alone.