After my last newsletter about integration someone asked me a great and relevant question, which was "what does it feel like to be integrated?"
Her own experience was that not being integrated felt like pieces of her body were not aligned, and things felt as though they were off kilter. I thought that sounded about right to me.
It helps to know what it feels like when you are not integrated. What I have found with my clients, and my own self is that we may not realize we are not/were not integrated until we achieve some level of integration. Some of us have existed in a non-integrated place for so long, it feels quite normal and so moving towards integrating requires trust and courage to know that where you are heading, even if it feels weird or wrong, you are going in the right direction.
I believe we can equate non-integration to not being grounded. Some people know quite clearly what it feels to be grounded, and know once they are grounded, they are also integrated.
To be integrated means we can store the information we are constantly getting from our senses in the right places. For example, maybe we hear a loud noise and our immediate response is that we need to attend to that noise right away. But what if that noise has come from the TV, and is really part of a movie? It has already happened, we have no control over it, it was manufactured and not only are we in no danger from it, we can't do anything about it (other than turn the TV off), and if we are able to recognize that, it can be stored in the "acknowledge it and leave it alone" file. What if we hear a noise and it is right behind us? Is it threatening or not? Is it benevolent or dangerous? If we are grounded at the moment we hear the sound, we will be able to store that in the right place (defend yourself, run, embrace, etc). If we can store the noise in the proper place, for example it needs to be attended to, or filed away for use later, or discarded, we can integrate the sensorial experience into right action. If we can not do that because we are overloaded (information came too fast and we are confused) or we aren't physically healthy and we are depleted of energy (it takes the energy to discern and to recognize the source and proper response of the noise), if we are overloaded because other things have used our discernement muscle to capacity, we will instead respond in the way that "saved our life" once. This may cause us to shut down, or make a very wrong decision about how to respond, or we flood with emotion (think about a glass filled with water and you try to add more).
Creating space when you realize you can't integrate something (or everything!) will help. You can make space literally in your body by physical movements (walking, dancing, yoga and other exercise). You can make space in your brain by stepping back and getting distance from the situation so you can see things a bit more clearly, especially to see how this thing may affect you personally. We tend to think that things affect us personally first, then on second or third glance we realize it really doesn't, or at least not in the way we think it does.
If we can make it a practice to seek integration we will see that all information, stressors, fears, can be sorted out and attended to, when our container is fit to do so. When I shared several weeks ago that I needed to take a step back, my intention was to give time for everything to find its place in my being. I do not want to shut out the news of tragedy, difficulty, pain and suffering. I just needed to stem the flow a bit so everything could find its place. I have made some shifts to the amount of information I take in (yeah, it's a really intense time now, right?) but I still want to be engaged and aware. And to do that means, for me, more time in practice and more time doing what I love, which is serving this community.