In the realm of the truly important life stuff, we all orient ourselves toward particular directions. Some of us wish to be nice to one another, to be of service, while others seek to be honest, responsible, healthy, or all of the above.
These codes or unspoken rules are our values. Most values are held in common regard, yet as individuals, we either explicitly or subtly determine which values resonate the loudest to us.
Often, they will shift throughout our lives, yet their relevance remains strong despite any change in perspective, because essentially, these values bring us a key component of living: joy.
Values offer us an opportunity to make each experience, moment, and event in our lives matter. They give life meaning and flavor, directing us toward and through the particular challenges that arise in our lives. Without our personal values, we drift.
Marrying Our Values and our Actions
However, these values mean little to nothing if not reinforced through actions. It is one thing to think about being trustworthy or how to be of service, it is quite another to actually be those things. This marriage between values and actions is integrity.
Integrity is the fulcrum on which our satisfaction with life rests—it is our actual enjoyment of life. When we aren’t living within integrity, we feel lost. Life loses its substance and joy is depleted. When we “have it,” we are empowered as an open vessel: ready for life.
Being in integrity essentially says, “THIS is where I stand in life, by which everything I do revolves.” Integrity is also an entirely subjective experience; it is deeply personal and requires moment-to-moment calibration, for it can exist just as quickly as it can disappear.
It is measured in the minuscule—the near-constant, unseen acts of being that become our true characteristics by which we are defined.
It should be noted that this definition, this building of character, is entirely about you. No one is standing by with a clipboard making notes; nobody cares that much or is that involved in your actions. The satisfaction (and benefit) obtained from living in integrity ends at your fingertips.
Knowing this, feeling this, truly understanding this is paramount to our enjoyment of life and connection to purpose. It is also the measure by which we may trim from our lives everything that does not matter.
Integrity as It Relates to Yoga
Just like life itself, yoga is a practice of momentary experience. When we’re on the mat, we can measure integrity by what we bring to each pose, each transition, and each response to each thought that crosses our mind.
Integrity is structural as it provides the scaffolding for our relationship with what exists in front of us. It doesn’t demand perfection, but rather demands our full involvement, for which perfection is an accompanying impression.
When we hear teachers speak of integrity, this is what we should hear: bring your attention, your full self to each and every moment.
And remember, that which seems insignificant requires our attention even more, for this is where integrity gets lost—in the forgettable and the mundane.
Life is asking us to “show up” for everything, and in the face of a fast-paced, modern existence, this can somehow (quite amazingly) get reduced to an afterthought. Yoga reminds us that “showing up” is the lone ingredient—the only thing that matters. This is it.