A well-trained Olympic diver neatly parts the water as she enters it—she barely makes a ripple. Thinking or acting with integrity is much like this. It is clear and direct, and it may seem effortless. But it is not easy; it takes practice. So today, I practice. I aspire to having right thoughts, right words, and right actions. I try to be as honest, accurate, and consistent as I can be. I aim for my actions to match my words and my intentions, but I often fall short of the mark.

The striving itself, though, provides me with a sense of clear purpose and inner peace. One of the ways I try to practice having integrity is in how I treat the people in my life. I want to give kindness and respect to each person I meet or spend time with. I work at being a skillful listener and I aim to be fully present. My shyness interferes sometimes, as does my unsure self-esteem. I can get distracted by my own little world, but I try to be open and attentive whenever I am interacting with anyone, whether it is a loved one, an acquaintance, or someone I don’t know.

My attention is a gift I can give, in gratitude, for all I’ve been given. Related to this, if I want to have integrity, I need to work at becoming aware of and taking responsibility for my feelings. If I am clear within myself, I am better able to be there for others. It is more important for me to identify the true source of my own emotional weather systems than to figure out whom or what to blame. If I blame someone or something, I may feel temporary relief from looking at my own fears, misunderstandings, or mistakes, but at what price?

When I do this, I am essentially making my happiness or peace of mind contingent on people or situations being different than they actually are (not to mention operating from a place where I am claiming I know how things should be). This makes it impossible for me to find peace in the present moment. If I can set this aside and pay careful attention to what is going on within me, I discover valuable insights. There are times when I have been legitimately wronged, and action may need to be taken, but often the only thing I need to do is to feel the feelings, learn from them, and let them pass.

If I look closely, the person or thing I am angry with may have very little to do with what I am actually feeling. If I am feeling angry or fearful, the root is often some sense of vulnerability—a sense of helplessness and frustration at being unable to change something that is beyond my control, and not wanting to accept that I am powerless. In other words, I am most angry and fearful when I am having a hard time accepting that I am human, and that life is being life.

From this perspective, perhaps integrity is about cultivating humility and working toward finding acceptance. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with or like what is happening; it simply means I am saving my energy and attention for the places and times where I do have power to affect change. With that acceptance comes a sense of relief. In these experiences of my “less than perfect” humanity, I find the richest connections to life and the precious people in it.

Betsy Lohrer Hall is a visual artist based in Long Beach, CA. The piece displayed above is called From the Pond. It is part of an ongoing series of paintings on paper that she has been developing for more than six years. It is created through the accumulation of simple marks over time. When painting, she paints the negative space. This allows the layers underneath to show through. The whole process is meditative, requiring calm focus. To learn more about her and her work go to http://betsylohrerhall.com/home.html


Share This