Creativity for the Rest of Us

In Praise of Integration


In my last post, Release, Receive, Return, I wrote about the experience of initiation. A pivotal stage of initiation is the process of integration that comes when we have moved through the experience but haven’t yet made sense of it for ourselves. Integration is the ability to incorporate the learning from an experience and demonstrate it through a new way of being for the benefit of ourselves and our community.

The root of the word integrate comes from Latin meaning to make whole. In the initiatory experience we shed what is false in our nature and are made whole again through integration.

Most of us (both hands raised here) are in a hurry to get through the initiation and establish some new level of comfort. We short change ourselves in the process when we bypass integration.

Integration cannot happen in the fast lane. It has a rhythm and timing all it’s own and can’t be rushed. It cannot solely be a mental exercise. We need to include our whole self in the process – the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual parts of ourselves. We have to slow down to engage fully with all of the domains.

In the Four Directions program, Patrick O’Neill introduced the 5 Doorways to Integration:

  1. Art and aesthetics
  2. Beauty
  3. Nature
  4. Meditation and silence
  5. Aerobic exercise

We are each naturally drawn to one or more doorways. When integration is pursued consciously and worked with intention, the awareness that comes can be transformational. Integration nourishes the deep well of wisdom in our nature, what Parker Palmer calls our hidden wholeness.

In healing from the physical and emotional trauma of cancer treatment, I did not have words to articulate the experience for a long time. Lots and lots and lots of quiet time in nature fostered my integration. It was during this fallow time that the seeds of a new direction in my life work took root.

During the physical misery of this time I incessantly heard the words: “Make more art. Make more art.” As my energy slowly came back, I returned to painting. For me, art has been a generous channel for integration, particularly intuitive painting. Journal conversations with the completed paintings opened the doorway to words.

Looking around my home as I write this, most of the artwork hanging on the walls is representative of a significant initiation in my life. When words were not available, images came. I can look at a painting or collage and have a visceral memory of the experience it represents.

T.S. Elliot captures the result of mindful integration with these famous words: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”


One Response to “In Praise of Integration”

  1. Carlin says:

    I have loved that Elliot quote for at least 5 decades. I also love the new to me term, hidden wholeness.
    Is the image one of your paintings, by any chance. It is beautiful but also suggests a mushroom cloud which adds darkness and ferocity to it – both poles of experience as is often true of initiations.
    As always, I’m grateful for all you share.

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