Do you sometimes find you put your foot in it and wish you had a little more integrity? I know I have, the number of times I used to get myself into trouble by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time! Funny for my friends, not so for others though. This is, of course, a light-hearted view of integrity, on a serious note lack of it can cause a lot of damage to others.
In this blog, we’ll be exploring this theme by looking at the inner causes that prevent our natural integrity simply coming through. It is part of the Strengthening Your Inner House with Mindfulness series, personal ethics being the foundations, mindfulness meditation the walls and integrity the roof.
Wikipedia (good old Wiki) has in its opening line:
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles or moral uprightness. It is generally a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards.
Well, if I was to have read this 20 years ago I would have disappeared, really.
In fact, if I read this five years ago I may have put my head in my hands and given up. I had made a few mistakes with my boundaries, nothing too serious, more foolishness than anything else; let them loosen up, and made a few mistakes.
However, if you ask me today I can say that I feel like a far more integral person and, that in fairness, I’ve gone through life with a decree of this; most importantly I've got into the habit of taking responsibility for my mistakes and this is key!
I’ve made mistakes and as I said I have taken responsibility for them and strived to get to the root of what caused them. Then took measures to not feed into those causes and have allowed that which is wholesome and beneficial to grow instead.
It has not been about being perfect but rather about having the courage to look inward and be honest with oneself, and thus take responsibility.
This is the stance that we’ll take on integrity, being inwardly honest, being able to recognise the causes of negative actions keep these in check and by doing so allow the integrity that is there to shine through.
Foolish actions usually come about when we are not empathising with others. When our natural empathy is present we are less likely to cause harm to another as the intentions to do so won’t be present.
One aspect of the mind that covers over and blocks empathy is the comparing mind.
Reflect on this, when we are trying to get one up on someone else are we empathising?
The intention in the mind at that time is to defeat the other person and to win. Sure, in many cases this can be harmless enough, a friendly game of sport, a family games night in; it’s ok.
However, such intentions can become harmful when say a husband and wife argue endless trying to get the better of each other. It can be unwelcome when sports fans turn to violence against each other for example. At these times there isn’t much empathy present.
The other problem is when this comparing state of mind feeds into our inner judge (CRIJ see BLOG) we can then turn on ourselves. I know I’ve done it countless times, sometimes for weeks on end even, been a too harsh judge of myself; something many many of us do.
Often we compare ourselves to an image of how we think we should be. “I should be a good person but why am I then behaving like this.” This mental cycle can be very detrimental: beating ourselves up doesn’t solve the issue.
One interesting aspect of mindfulness is that it can unearth the route causes of problems.
I remember I was getting rather panicky in my late thirties about still being single. Better settle down, or should I become a monk? Seriously I was thinking that!
However, both directions took me to try too hard. When I did meet someone I tended to overdo things and put them off. In the respect of ordaining as a monk, I’d get frustrated with not being in a position to do so as I help my mum a lot and becoming a monk just wouldn’t work for my situation.
The interesting bit was the route causes of the “trying too hard” and the “frustrations of becoming something”. Both had their route in the need to fill a space, something many of us suffer from.
Well after making a bit of a fool with myself with a couple of different potential partners, I thought I’d take some time out from all that and give myself some space to see what was going on.
So, off I toddled every other weekend or so to a beautiful forest monastery to sit in meditation. Very revealing, at the base of the foolish behaviour was insecurity; a feeling of needing to fill a space. As I sat more and more with it, the feeling got less and I felt more at ease in the seemingly empty space.
Don’t take this as a negative though as it is not, empty space if at ease with, can be joyful, it has a wholesome quality to it; one in which the body feels relaxed and at ease.
This went on for some time and then I got a little attached to the monastery too, so took 3 months off from going and just did my meditation at home. Again, I notice when the desire to use the monastery to fill a space arose, and just sat with that and by not filling it, the energy of “needing to fill” wasn’t being fed so it dwindled.
Just for the record I’ve returned to visiting the monastery as it is one of the key places mindfulness entered the Western World, has excellent standards, and it is good to be around others interested in mindfulness.
But I’m managing it with some integrity, examining the intentions behind going, acting on wholesome ones such as: wishing to learn, practice, getting some space to calm in. This is as opposed to unwholesome intentions such as: to fill a void in one’s life, to gain a good reputation by saying stuff like I learned meditation at so and so, or to escape responsibilities.
What I’m getting at here, from this personal example that I hope you don’t mind me sharing, is being honest about one’s intentions and knowing what actions to take or not to take based on. This is key to letting integrity develop.
A wiser person than me said, "know where your intentions come from, where they are going and how they feel."
One thing I can say is acting with integrity felt good. This is an important point as I found it encouraged me on to continue to watch my intentions and try to make the right choices.
I hope you can relate to this in some way in your life, apply it to a situation when you have found yourself acting without integrity. What - if you are like me – then made the same mistake again and again. Not to blow my own trumpet, but at some point, because of the mindfulness training I always take a look at what’s at the route of it, and the above example of trying to fill a space and not being at ease, always is.
So, the next time you find yourself starting to make a fool of yourself step back and have the courage to examine what’s happening inside. How do you feel? How does the quality of the moment feel, at ease or clammy, clingy?
Do share your stories here or on our Community page as we’d love to hear about them. They can be funny, personal, heartwarming be most of all honest.
My reflections shared for your consideration