In Martha Beck’s new book, The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self, we follow Dante’s journey with Virgil into the dark wood of error and out into a place of peace and paradise. Beck is using the poet’s magnum opus as a metaphor for our personal journeys from misalignment to integrity.
Beck explains how all groups “from couples to families to cell blocks to sewing circles to armies, have cultural rules and expectations that help them cooperate.” But conforming to please others causes us to overrule what we really want. She recounts many turns in her life dealing with her family of origin, abuse, Mormonism, her children and her sexuality in her search for integrity. She was in crippling pain and unhappy and changed her life with tiny steps that led to huge changes.
In the beginning, we must first be honest about how lost we feel, Beck suggests starting with what is true for you. Perhaps you might say: “My life isn’t perfect. I don’t like the way things are going. I don’t feel good. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m scared. I’m not at peace. I can’t find my people. I’m not sure where to go. I don’t know what to do. I need help.”
Beck shared her friend Sonja’s advice for men who would like to improve their performance in the bedroom, “Here’s a hint. If whatever you’re doing isn’t working, don’t do it harder.” In our culture, we often think if we work better, look better, eat better, try harder doing the same things that aren’t working we can force ourselves to feel better but at some point we must admit we are off course and need to slow down or stop, figure out where we are and find a way forward.
It is possible that all of our comparing between siblings or co-workers or Instagram likes have led us to focus more on what other’s have than what will truly make us happy.
I loved reading this book during Passover, the time when Jews remember we were all slaves in Egypt. I thought about how we enslave ourselves in the dark woods of fear and failure. This holiday asks us to imagine that we wandered for forty years hoping for freedom. If we go through the wilderness we can find redemption and repair the world and ourselves through Tikkun Olam.
Beck explains the steps to approach the gates of Hell and walk through our internal inferno with personalized keys to become free. Her book asks us each to answer what are our “Do Not Mention Zones,” to move forward will require giving up denial in small steps of courage.
By focusing on “this razor-thin instant called NOW…notice that right now, you’re basically okay. You can trust that gravity will keep holding you in place. You can trust the air you are breathing. You can trust everything in the entire universe to be as it is. You are already coping with it right now, and right now is the only thing you’ll ever have to cope with.”
I loved when she talked about our thoughts and the question: “ARE YOU SURE IT IS TRUE?” Often our terrible beliefs are actually NOT TRUE!
“I’m not good enough,” “No one loves me,” “I don’t deserve to be happy,” “You can’t just have what you want,” “I have to do work I hate,” and so on.
If we believe things that are not true, “we lose our integrity. Being split from ourselves is hell. Reclaiming integrity is the way out of it…Throughout the inferno, Virgil keeps urging Dante to do three things: observe the demons, ask questions about them, and move on.”
I especially liked this question: “If someone in your life consistently hurts you, ask yourself if you would treat anyone else the way you’re letting yourself be treated.”
What if you told yourself: “You are infinitely worthy. You are infinitely precious. You have always been enough. You will always be enough. There is no place you don’t belong. You are lovable. You are loved. You are love.”
Beck suggests as you go on your journey to “be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time and space to grieve. Confide in loved ones.” And remember, “climbing this mountain is like going to the DMV; it takes forever just to get started.” But she tells us, it is worth it and will bring you great joy!
David Emerald’s empowerment dynamic with challengers, coaches and creators is a great improvement over the Karpman triangle with a focus on positive transformation and creativity. How can you make these changes? Beck tells us you can “steer your [life] with a series of one-degree turns. Huge transformation can happen in tiny steps.”
Beck talks about her work at Londolozi game preserve in South Africa with the Vartys where they developed change-your-life safari seminars. She says this opportunity to realize her wildest, most precious childhood dreams came by “going through my own hellgates, burning my own falsehoods, and bringing my own life into alignment, one-degree turn by one-degree turn.”
Ready to make your dreams come true? Get curious and “Ask yourself, Am I sure this thought is true? Can I absolutely know it’s true?”