Integration by STEPHEN FRANZ

I like to consult the authorities of language to check if I’m hitting the mark. Seemingly mislabeled a noun (but fitting for this article); “an act…of combining into an integral whole”. A thing added to a thing that has importance; in this case a person adding knowledge/sensation/insight/experience to their being. The origin of “integration” is Latin’s “integrātiō”, which translates to English’s’ “renewal”. Becoming anew. Changing from a previous state. Integration therefore, suggests action. Change is a constant law of nature, so if I’m not acknowledging this law, keeping energy from flowing, then I am not integrating my experiences. This (work) is both an ongoing opportunity and my responsibility while being of service to others who engage in these expanded states of consciousness. Most people (myself included) are coming into this space because they want to change something. 

As for the how of integration, sometimes it is simple; like when I saw the direct connection between my sporadic relationship with my four nephews and that of my own uncles whom I unconsciously model. I know those little boys love me, and I want to be in their lives more to give them my presence and attention so that they don’t grow up wondering if I love them back. Now I make a greater effort to let them know I am always available and enjoy spending time with them. But sometimes integrating an experience is not so straightforward. when confusing emotions arise or seemingly random visions appear or even when there’s no “experience”, then what meaning can come from that? That’s why it can be helpful to prepare for a session with a map and a compass of sorts. If I am seeking specific answers, I form an intention for what I’d like to explore or confront or lubricate while in an altered state throughout my session. After, I consider the thoughts, feelings, images and movement of the session as they relate to my intention. That looks like journaling (including drawing images), recording audio or video and trying to find patterns or connections. Then I go outside myself and share with my therapist, program sponsor and specific friends. Processing verbally can help solidify my understanding and expand my biased perspective. A step beyond is seeking lessons through culture, including those found in scripture, film, history, music… to address specific topics or snaggy points I’m struggling with. I also find great value in sharing with others in meetings dedicated to pointed focus and growth as the objective. Gathering in community and exploring the meaning and aspects of integration has great value, because though we share similar experiences, our unique vision and understanding can keep us from seeing what may be obvious to others. Until we risk being vulnerable, we also risk missing insight or wisdom gained from another’s hard work and generosity. There is tremendous value in diversity of minds with differing perspectives. As in nature, diversity leads to greater succession (higher function) in communities. Creativity and openness are essential elements of the process.   

I’m a firm believer that “discovery does not equal recovery”. Awareness is not integration. It’s going to take effort. And time. And willingness to slip, fall, backslide and crash as you practice new, different, possibly uncomfortable thoughts, words and actions. Ultimately, we’re working on virtues that allow for more enjoyable and limited painful interactions throughout life. 

Why am I facilitating this meeting? I’ve learned a lot and grown as a person thanks to others who’ve walked the path and shared their experience and hope with alternative medicines and therapy. Born into an alcoholic / dysfunctional family, losing both parents to cancer, military/government service, and a lot of exposure to pain has affected my natural sensitivity in big ways. But I have some experience, and a want to grow in my life. To grow new understandings and connections and maybe most importantly grow in my relationships- namely with myself. So I stepped into a local role with no small amount of discomfort speaking to groups, about a topic that is admittedly new and ever-changing for me. To practice. Practice showing up for myself and others. One piece of feedback that I hear repeated over and over is that people feel safe with me. So, in service to others who wish to make sense of and grow in their own life, and in working on my want to better relate to others, I show up. I chose to invite others to use their presence and voice and curiosity to help themselves and others on our solo and collective journeys. In service to the aforementioned “integral whole”, the root holo in “holism” means “whole, entire”. My work in regenerative agriculture has afforded me great understanding of interdependence and the reality that I am by default, a contributor to the erosion/destruction/abuse of my environment or a connecting, contributing, conscious actor and reciprocal steward.  Moving a step further, changing my behavior is changing my community’s behavior. The ripples are infinite.

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