Integrating the Heart

It seems like such an easy thing, 'integrating the heart', right? It's obviously, in a certain sense, mission control of the one and only body we have on earth, and without it, we clearly wouldn't get all that far. And yet, it's ironically so easy to leave it out, to drown out the sound of its beat and the sensation of its rhythm with myriad aspects life that feel much more important. 

My dad used to tell me that I should do something with my writing. Coming from my Dad, that meant a lot to me, after what felt like a lifetime of trying to be 'good enough' to earn his love and respect. But despite the elation that I felt from his compliment, I have continued to resist the idea. I love writing. I love the feeling that I get, the sense of timelessness that occurs, and the intense experience of being so in the moment and simultaneously so reflective. It's like living in a dream world, one in which I can craft whatever I want with my fingers and thoughts, in an attempt to paint a picture of my inner experience. And yet, I never want to feel forced to write because as soon as you bring in the 'have to', the whole experience is changed...and the heartbeat fades.

2015 Pacific Northwest Regional Conference of the Citizens' Climate Lobby - Partial Group Photo of 120+ participants

We explored this concept in a workshop that I led this weekend at our Citizens' Climate Lobby Regional Conference in Seattle. What is the difference between our experience of obligation and passion, between 'have to' and 'want to', between should and wonder? In our head, I think most of us understand the difference, and we may even feel the dissonance in our body as well. But taking action towards change is quite a different thing. How do we integrate the heart? How do we turn those obligations into passion, or direct our life and our attention in a way that allows us to be more filled with love and wonder than dread and obligation?

While there are a number of ways I attempt this, I find I can get there consistently through running in the forest. While I can't profess to love running in the same way I love writing, I can say that I'm slowly figuring out what is available to me when I push through that initial resistance, as I explored last week, and get out into the woods to run. I'm forced into my body. I can't help but feel my heart thumping in my chest, and to notice the heart-shaped wild-ginger budding on the forest floor. This is possible when we integrate our heart, tapping into the source in and around us, as the plants so naturally emulate. When we dig into our source, connecting to that which truly feeds us, we can simultaneously reach into the direction we want to grow.

We all have our most direct access to integration, that place or circumstance that allows us to feel that sense of aliveness, that state of excitement and wonder. When we can access this place, we are in a better position to pull in various aspects of our life in a way that moves us towards who, what, and where we want to be. Whether it's running in the wilderness or listening to music or dancing or singing or writing in your journal, that place exists, and finding it can change our life.

In the (somewhat wordy and nerdy) language of the workshop I taught this weekend on the quadrants lens of Integral Theory that I use as an Integral Coach...while I am so often tempted to choose stay in my 'upper right space' of doing and accomplishing, to gain what feels like more time and productivity, I sacrifice my access to my heart in that 'upper left space' - and my momentary experience remains disjointed, needing to rely on itself for any and all energy and motivation. While I may have more time (in that lower right space), I feel more trapped by the pressure to perform and produce (stalled by my experience in the Upper Left), so it takes me longer to get going and more effort to sustain productivity (in the Upper Right). When I commit to running on a schedule, though, and follow through despite initial resistance that may arise because of my strong need for productivity and goal fulfillment (my UR quadrant orientation), I have begun to integrate: my Lower Right systems & structures space with the schedule, with the Upper Right action space of going on a run, with the Upper Left more intentional & subjective space of feeling connected and at peace in nature. For a more thorough overview of the All Quadrants aspect of Integral Theory, click here.

So, while it's not easy to integrate the heart, it's definitely do-able. While it may take time and effort that may initially seem counterproductive and counterintuitive, the pay-off is huge. Who doesn't want greater connection to the passions that drive us and to the source that feeds our soul? And for those of us that seek to make our mark on the world, and on climate change solutions, in a way that truly matters for all of us, integrating our heart is the key to sustainability.

Huge thank you to those of you who were in my workshop in Seattle - I really enjoyed the opportunity to be with you! If you are interested in having access to the workshop documents, they can be found on my Citizens' Climate Lobby page under Resources.