Seeking the Way of Integration

Decisiveness is not a strong suit of mine, but for much of my life I’ve had this drive to do something. The problem was settling on what something to do. At times, I could envision multiple ways to use my energy, all of them exciting and crystal-clear in my mind as possible. Other times, I felt void of ideas, and even the ideas I already had felt lifeless or beset with barriers and problems. Taking a step in one direction called up all the inner voices that spoke against that step. This weakness can be a strength.

Not everyone seems to have that problem. I’ve met folks who seem to have the opposite problem, to stride forcefully and purposely with outward confidence and no overt reflection. Perhaps this post is not about them, or perhaps their own inner contradictions are lying beneath conscious awareness. Instead, the people around them try to reach out with advice and challenges and feel unheard, unacknowledged, even as the person walks right off a cliff. This strength can be a weakness.

Duality is useful but false when taken too literally. In truth, the multiplicity of options before us is so vast that thinking too much can overwhelm us. Reducing things to two polarized possibilities can help to focus our thinking, but it becomes limiting when we try to make one option “win” over the other. If two ends of a polarity pull on us, then certain aspects of ourselves have attached to either end, and to choose one at the cost of the other is difficult and self-defeating.

In his commencement speech at Wesleyan, Joss Whedon made a useful and well-stated observation about choices and identity:

When I talk about contradiction, I talk about something that is a constant in your life and in your identity. Not just in your body, but in your own mind in ways that you may recognize, you may not. Let’s just say hypothetically that two roads diverged in a wood, and you took the path less traveled. Part of you is just going—look at that path over there! It’s much better. Everybody’s traveling on it … Not only is your mind telling you this, it’s on that other path. It’s behaving as though it is on that path. It is doing the opposite of what you are doing. And for your entire life, you will be doing, on some level, the opposite, not only what you are doing, but what you think you are.

I speak of this inner opposite often, which correlates to the Jungian notion of the anima or animus. We have this sense of who we think we are, but within us we contain the opposite. If we can breathe into this and hold polarities, new possibilities emerge that are creative, dynamic, and integrated. Instead of trying to choose between passion and security, what would it look like to honor the parts of me that desire both and let that tension open the way?


Slow down your breathing, letting it fill your belly and rise into your torso, so that your shoulders remain still. Imagine that your awareness can find the energy within, the drive to act, like a small bright flame within. Allow your awareness to sink into that flame, letting your inhalations feed the flame, and your exhalations create more space around it.

Think of a choice you need to make, or a problem you’ve been having in which you struggle to commit to a course of action. Something that you vacillate on, waver, flip-flop, something that galls you but you cannot resolve.

Anubis Scales by Nichole Frame

Look at one of your options. Breathe into the flame, and notice how it responds to this possibility. Imagine that possibility can come to rest in your right hand, like a weight. Imagine its texture, its weight.

Breathe back into your center. Consider your opposing option. Breathe into the flame, and notice how it responds to this possibility. Imagine that possibility can come to rest in your left hand, like a weight. Imagine its texture, its weight.

As much as is comfortable or possible, extend your arms outward and bring your awareness to the center. Notice your heart, the center between these possibilities, the fulcrum.

Breathe into the flame and breathe out through your heart. Notice the weight of both possibilities.

Breathe into the flame and breathe out through your heart. Notice how the heart mediates both possibilities.

Breathe into the flame and breathe out through your heart. Ask your heart for guidance on the next step to take. Listen for as long as you need. Relax your arms if necessary. Allow your heart to communicate through words, images, sensations, or feelings within you. When you feel you have received your guidance, thank yourself for showing up to the work. If you have not received guidance, thank yourself for showing up to the work.

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