Sh*t To Help You Show Up August 6, 2021
What fuels you?
Playing Monopoly always made me cry, which did not endear me to my siblings. You could argue that I was just taking the whole thing too literally, that I was dramatic and overly sensitive, except for the fact that the game itself, it turns out, was invented by a progressive woman in the early 1900s specifically to “demonstrate the evils of accruing vast sums of wealth at the expense of others.”
I didn’t know that history, nor did my older brothers, or my parents. Or anyone much at all in the United States, really, at the time. I just knew, instinctively, that making people homeless and sending them to jail wasn’t entertainment to me; it was real, sad, serious business.
I don’t remember how old I was (it was in the high single digits somewhere) the night I watched our dad chase my brother around the dining room table. One of their habitual fights had escalated to the point where my father clearly wanted nothing more than to get his hands on my brother, whether to shake him or hit him I’ll never know. Both had happened before.
All I know is that I sat in my seat at what would have been my father’s left hand, except for the fact that he was on his feet in pursuit of my brother, and my brother was, very wisely, angling to keep the large, wooden, family table between them. The chase probably only lasted moments, though for me it felt epically long, and ended because my brother stopped dead in his flight, looked our father in the eye across the table, and said, “So, you’re a real pacifist, huh, Dad?”
Dad froze as if he’d been shot, and maybe he had, right through the heart. He turned, in total silence, and retreated behind the closed door of his bedroom for the rest of the night.
No one in my family ever discussed this incident or mentioned it, ever again.
In the midst of an intense, emotionally complicated conversation with a friend earlier this week about romantic relationships and integrity something rose up out of me that set me back on my heels. It was a belief so deeply culturally ingrained in me that I hadn’t even realized it was there. The belief is this:
The point of doing the right thing is to be good because good people get their just rewards.
I felt ashamed and vaguely dirty in the face of the realization that this moralistic and, frankly, irrational belief had been sitting on my heart. If that belief is actually true with a capital T, as my mother says, then, by extension, if good things happen to people then they must be good people, and if bad things happen to people then they must be bad people.
Leaving aside the reality that whether, objectively, anything that happens to anyone can ever be determined to be wholly good or bad, I was confronted with how this belief interacted with my subjective experience of my own life. My loss of my family and my partner in the last handful of months was, subjectively, a very bad thing, and according to this belief that made me a bad person. Who was I, a bad person, to be trying to facilitate a conversation about the practice of integrity?
I didn’t actually believe that, did I? Really, did I?
Being afforded the uncomfortable opportunity to confront this idea that lived inside me, and that I did not actually believe in was deeply humbling. It also begged the question: so what is the point of doing the work to practice integrity for you, Asha? What is the motivation, the fuel, the goal? What world are you trying to manifest?
The inspiration for my Quaker faith community, George Fox, admonished Friends:
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone
That quote is the origin of the contemporary saying “let your life speak”, the title of this newsletter. It is a statement about the importance of living your beliefs, not just professing them. But the belief itself, the central belief that fuels my integrity practice, is that last bit.
I believe, to the absolute depths of my being, that there is some piece of the Divine in me and in everyone and everything else. Even in people I don’t like. Even in people that hurt me. Even in experiences that are painful. It does not always feel, subjectively and consciously, like Spirit is present, but that inability to feel the Presence is only based on my inability to be present.
To open deeply, as genuine spiritual life requires, we need tremendous courage and strength, a kind of warrior spirit. But the place for this warrior strength is in the heart. We need energy, commitment, and courage not to run from our life nor to cover it over with any philosophy—material or spiritual. We need a warrior’s heart that lets us face our lives directly, our pains and limitations, our joys and possibilities. This courage allows us to include every aspect of life in our spiritual practice: our bodies, our families, our society, politics, the earth’s ecology, art, education. Only then can spirituality be truly integrated into our lives. — Jack Kornfield, A Path With Heart
I don’t think this is necessarily anyone else’s belief or motivation. We all have to discern what pulls and orients our own moral compass, but for me, this is the fuel for my practice, my true North. In order to express my love for that of God within me and others, I have to show up in the world with as much integrity— as much honesty and authenticity and care and kindness and openness and courage and clarity of thought and intention— as I possibly can.
I am way too emotionally wrecked by inequity and injustice and I have seen way too close up what it looks like when people who love each other lose track of God within. The only spiritual practice I have ever pursued that felt like it actually helps manifest a world where there is more connection and justice than inequity and violence is the practice of integrity.
Integrity is not a moral exercise for me, it is an act of faith and deep, deep love.
I found a new-to-me newsletter this week on Substack:
I hope you will all check it out. If you are enlivened by Let Your Life Speak, then Sara will also likely be your cup of tea. She wrote the following in a recent newsletter, and when I read it I couldn’t decide whether to cry in poignant recognition or jump up and down cheering:
That’s how you find mooring in a world that is constantly trying to unmoor you. That’s how you stay whole in a world that is constantly trying to pulverize you. You choose to get to know yourself and to be OK with who you are, and you choose it over and over again. It is not the easy way to live, because the reality is that most things worth doing are hard. That doesn’t change. But although you will never have control over what happens to you, if you stay true, you get the real prize: to live with integrity and the knowledge that you rose to the occasion.
What fuels your integrity practice? What helps you rise to the occasions of your life?
Please share this edition of the newsletter with someone you think would benefit, or browse the archive and find another that moves you. This is a grassroots, crowd-disbursed, art and love effort over here and I am grateful for your help getting the word out.
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