The Way to Integrity
The Eagle Newsletter N°13 — February 2022
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How do you feel today?
Do you find yourselves surrendering to this time as nature intended, allowing yourselves to slow down, sleep more, regenerate in the softness and lower the volume on your busy minds?
Nature is our greatest teacher. In winter, sitting clean and undecorated in her simplicity, she reminds us that all life needs rest and incubation. The quiet humility and the peace of letting everything go in order to, in time, create and bloom.
The More Change, the More the Need to Root
It is a pivotal time in which we are living. We are faced with the unknown and have no choice but to acknowledge that we have no idea who we are, or where we are going, despite being surrounded by a culture of logic and certainty.
Whenever there is an extreme form of adversity, an opportunity also arises. I see it as initiation, a “forced” invitation to lean into one of the most powerful times in our lives. The more we resist, the longer discomfort lasts. The sooner we surrender to the not-knowing, the not-grasping, the not-controlling, the sooner we get exactly where we need to be: into the depth, the vulnerabilities, the terrors, the darkness.
From there, initiation can start. And it is scary, painful, and damn hard.
But behind the crumbling away of untruth, behind the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true, there is the waking up and letting go of the rules on how it is “supposed” to work to create new ways we want it to work.
How are we going to respond to these crucial moments? How will we support ourselves? How will we navigate?
In this never-ending tantrum, we might be tempted to numb and/or do more. But, don’t let the world convince you that your pain is all in your head or that you simply need to pacify it and move on.
The Danger of Numbing: The Less We Feel, The Less Alive We Are
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep. — Rumi
I know. Sometimes it seems easier to suppress our emotions than to deal with them, so we may momentarily turn to pleasures such as alcohol, food, sugar, shopping and far too much screen time. While it’s normal to temporarily seek distractions as a means of coping with intense emotions, numbing ourselves prevents us from confronting our issues and keeps us from ever finding resolution or peace. Sure, when we are numb, there is no pain or powerlessness, but there can also be no joy or healing.
It is time to regain contact with our own courage and stop numbing and suppressing. By cutting our numbing defense mechanisms, we become more aware and experience a greater emotional acuity. When we quit binge-watching series all weekend long, when we quit the daily evening glasses of wine or beers, we remove the unhealthy fog that had shut away old parts of ourselves that desperately need our attention.
If we want to meet the world and make the most of it, we need to stop numbing ourselves and get comfortable experiencing and working through intense emotions with courage and grace.
We Don’t Escape Dysregulation By Doing More
“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” — Eckhart Tolle
Yes, I know we all have been fed with the more I do, the faster I produce, the more I become.
How many of us beat ourselves up over the little we have achieved each day?
I mean, to be busy means to be successful, right? Mmm. No.
There is a balance between resting and doing, even in the middle of our darkest fears.
When we cease to act, life will not cease. It may, in fact, grow full.
It is in the stillness, in the slowness, in the inward that we find our roots, our self, our creative wealth for ideas, inspirations, solutions, and the necessary steadiness to cross the seas of this world.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the late zen master and one of the greatest teachers of our age, liked to share this story: “When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat stayed calm and centered, it was enough. It shows a way for everyone to survive.”
The thing about life is, we can’t really plan it all out. We certainly can’t plan out our emotional responses. And, our reptilian brains are overactive these days. But when we return to our depths and sink back into all that we are, all that is, that’s where the peace lies. It’s being able to hold it all, to let it be.
It’s important to have the ability to be present inside ourselves. There we find the safe terrain to feel, witness, care, self-forgive, remind us of our worth, respect, commit, trust, and grow.
It is where we meet our authentic self, our self-expression. Where we find love for ourselves, and then others.
From there, we decide and act on it. How do we show up in the world? How do we work and live through a wholeness that does not come out of a framework of lack but, rather, abundance?
From the luminous novel Abide with Me from Elizabeth Strout, I find this quote invigorating in times of despair: “I suspect the most we can hope for, and it’s no small hope, is that we never give up, that we never stop giving ourselves permission to try to love and receive love.”
When we finally accept that we first belong to our authentic selves, we can go into the world and belong to other communities of love with good relationships, good cultures, good organizations — with integrity.
The poem “Song” by Allen Ginsberg
Finding the Path to Integrity
“The more obligations we accept that are self-imposed, the freer we are.” — John C. Schroeder
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life,” the late Joan Didion famously wrote, “is the source from which self-respect springs.”
Behind this never-ending pandemic is a re-rooting, an invitation to define and redefine to what and/or to whom we’re committed. There’s a freedom in such clarification, a willingness to let the rest fall away, a fortification of backbone. It’s our values and our fidelity that will anchor our esteem.
We’re consolidating here, as we begin 2022. Some 38 million Americans have already quit their jobs, redefining what and to whom they are dedicating their resources.
People don’t just quit their jobs; they quit toxic leadership, abusive culture, weak company purpose, lack of accountability, high tolerance for poor treatments, absence of safe containers to be, bad products and services.
There is a call to be answered: It is named integrity. Integrity is the foundation of civilization, allowing people to live, work and play side by side without fear or apprehension.
A boat with no leaks is said to have integrity, as is a solid piece of furniture. It is their wholeness — no gaps or weaknesses — that gives them their integrity. Leaders who have integrity convey a similar “seaworthiness” and stability. There is the sense that they can be counted on, that their actions will be consistent with their ideals. Just being in the presence of someone with this quality creates a feeling of steadiness even in a chaotic environment. They are natural leaders because we sense that it is safe to follow them.
So why does integrity seem so rare?
As the 2022 Edelman trust barometer reminds us, we are living through an epidemic of mistrust. Trust in social media and traditional media, trust in governments to handle problems, trust in major institutions, and trust in personal relationships are at an all-time low. The consequences are profound. Too many of us nowadays neither mean what we say nor say what we mean. Moreover, we hardly expect anybody else to mean what they say, either.
Integrity is like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody knows what to do about it. In a culture obsessed with convenience and freedom, integrity can be a rare quality. Perhaps this is because we have a cultural habit of resisting limitations and restrictions. And yet, limitation and restriction often provide the structure in which integrity can be born.
Integrity as a Means to a Life Well-Lived
Our word is one of our most precious and powerful possessions. In his article How Will You Measure Your Life? the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen explained how we can live our life with integrity and stay out of jail. His answer: “The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to ‘just this once,’ based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.”
For some, it can be seen as hard work to stay true to their word. There is such an infinite array of circumstances that conspire to goad us into telling falsehoods. But when we promise more than we can deliver, hide from the consequences of our actions through falsehoods, or deny our true selves to others, we hurt those who were counting on us by proving that their faith was wrongly given. We also are hurt by the lies we tell and the promises we break since frankness and sincerity form the basis of all life-enriching relationships.
On the contrary, when we endeavor to consistently keep our word, we protect our reputation and promote ourselves as someone who can be trusted to be unfailingly truthful.
Integrity is a way of being whole, undivided, complete. And, of course, it requires consistency and unwavering adherence to the wisdom of our personal values. We build our character through the endurance of our values.
Living with integrity means a constant examination of whether our actions, our words and our vision are in alignment, and a willingness to investigate and mitigate any temptation for dishonesty. Again, courage is needed, but with self-confidence and self-esteem as dividends.
The Discipline of Doing What is Right, and Not Just What is Easy.
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” — Woodrow Wilson
We are the ultimate judge of our moral behavior based on our own conscious and universal moral principles — rather than social norms.
When I feel confused, I like to remind myself that every action we take has an impact on the world around us. To be aware of this is to be conscious of our impact on the people in our lives. It is also the definition of stakeholder capitalism.
It is not just about what we want to do, but to consider the full ramifications of our actions and their impacts. When we start considering how we would feel if we were in our stakeholders’ shoes, it enables us to act more sensitively. The more we do this, the more we affirm our integrity and that of our relationship to the world.
Leadership that matters means a commitment to equal rights and respect for all. It’s a reverence to a moral code and an awareness of respect, empathy, and love through interaction with others.
I will leave you with Joan Didion’s words of wisdom. “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package,” she once wrote. “I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
Let’s live in it.
Do well, be well, stay well, and be watched over until we meet again in February.
PS: You may wonder why The Eagle banner is packed with these electric fuzz Mimosa flowers. As I am currently living in the South of France, I thought I’d send you our promises of spring here to uplift your winter.
There are some comforting things that don’t change. February in the French Riviera, the bright flowers light up the fields around, sparking the air with their sweet, powdery notes. Their hopeful little pompoms are like cheerleaders for sunnier times. May these resilient winter blooms bring you protection, security, sensitivity and expansion. May you be inhabited by Albert Camus’ words: “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”