It’s a fascinating thing to observe myself being self-reflective. Have you tried that? Watch yourself as you watch yourself. It’s truly remarkable to be able to gain such distance from what we commonly identify with as our personality or “self.”

Yet who is that self that watches the self, watching the self? I am not sure this is something I can put into words as the experience is so different from my everyday living with its task lists and constant demand for attention to detail. This is more of a stepping back, waaaay back, to see a much bigger picture.

Last fall I attended a three-day women’s retreat called The Lotus Lounge at the Boulder Integral Center presented by several powerful women including Zen Master and Integralist Diane Musho Hamilton and transcendent musician and yogini Wah! That retreat was a step back for me. It gave me time to be reminded what it takes to live an integral life.

Just what is an “integral life” anyway? To me it’s a life that integrates both our brilliance and our shadow aspects, that honors our physical, mental, spiritual and social needs, and that accepts us and helps us be healthy wherever we are developmentally while simultaneously inviting us to grow. Living an integral life is a practice. It requires time and commitment.

Integration is about learning to live with and fall in love with paradox. Paradox is difficult because as humans we have a deep desire to “know” things, to understand. It helps us feel safe. Paradox is inherently difficult, because it requires we see two seemingly opposing truths at the same time. Just trying to hold them causes our hearts and minds to expand.

Here are a few of my favorites that I am working with now. See if they stir up anything in you:

Paradox #1:
  • Be gentle. Gentle energy is good. Be gentle.
  • Be a warrior. Warrior energy is good. Be a warrior.
  • There is no set strategy I can work out ahead of time to know when to be gentle or when to be fierce.
  • I have to remain awake and poised to be either, both or neither at any time.
  • Phew! That’s work!
Paradox #2:
  • Awareness is our best tool.
  • Awareness has limitations – we are only aware of what we are aware of. So, be curious…especially about things that bug you! The Q Process is an ideal tool to help with cultivating curiosity about what bothers us.
  • Awareness is the oldest and best friend we have.
  • It is the one un-changeable thing; all else changes.
  • It is the most reliable thing we have.
  • The breath is the second most reliable thing we have.
Paradox #3:
  • Life is a constant series of graduations. We find ourselves done and complete with some learning journey we have been on and sigh with relief.
  • It seems to have come to a natural end. But then we see that the ending is really only a new beginning.
  • Life requires that we engage. That we stay awake.
  • We will know when to be gentle and when to be a warrior only by leaning into life and engaging in the moment openly and with curiosity.
Paradox #4:
  • Stay awake. And know that you will fall asleep.
  • Pay attention to yourself and to others and notice when you and they go to sleep.
  • Wake up! Again and again.
  • Be there for yourself. Be there for each other.
  • Use your Q Card and Shadow Card to know whether you are awake or asleep.
  • Ask, “What is worth staying awake for?”
  • “What do I value most and what am I willing to endure or give up to get more of it?”
Paradox #5:
  • Life is a Practice. To get the most out of it we must practice being awake and being relaxed.
  • Joyfully alert. Contented with now and open to what’s next.
  • Live the paradox of being and becoming – of the gentle warrior, who is awake and keeps waking up.

Blessings to you for a marvelous and paradoxical year!