There is a fundamental step in healing, in personal growth, in shifting old habits and patterns, in reaching goals that often gets glossed over on the quest for ever more expansion, growth, and change. It’s such an essential piece of the equation that, without it, change doesn’t last, breakthroughs don’t stick, you create a lot of drama and chaos, and/ or you end up seemingly back where you started, over and over again.
Have you ever heard someone say (or said yourself), “I know exactly why I do this- I know where the pattern or emotion comes from, I understand how I get here. But I can’t seem to stop myself from doing it anyway.” Having knowledge of what triggers insecurities, where we tend to avoid things, who or what brings about intense emotions – this can be really helpful in understanding why we are the way we are, and can show us the way toward making changes, but the knowledge itself isn’t enough to step into a new way of being.
Similarly, when we go through major life changes, whether it be an immense loss, a huge dream realized, picking up (or setting down) roots, a spiritual awakening, job changes, body changes, relationship changes– it can be really disorienting without this key process.
The equation for (intentional) change I see most often looks like some version of the following:
Vision + Action = Manifestation
Or another way to look at it:
Breakthrough + Expansion = Dreams Realized
Healing / Clearing + New Mindset = Higher Level
There is almost always some sort of Catalyst, whether that be a vision of your future life, a breakthrough you have, an intentional goal you want to work toward, a life event out of your hands. Add to that catalyst some sort of forward movement or action, whether it be small daily steps, a big bold move, or something that makes you / your body / your life different – a set of steps that use Alchemy to turn what is into something completely new.
From there, you get what you are working toward. Target hit, level unlocked, goal achieved, dream realized.
This is the equation that so many industries sell. Take X, Add Y, Get Z, and BOOM you’ve made it. (Because that’s how it works every single time, right? Err…)
It’s not wrong, exactly. But it is incomplete.
It kind of reminds me of when I’m looking up cookie recipes because I absolutely must make something RIGHT NOW, and I find a recipe and think, “YES this is the one- I have all those ingredients, there’s a lot of chocolate and butter involved, okay let’s do this!” And then I mix all the ingredients together, have the dough, the oven is all preheated and I look back at the recipe and umm whoops. I may or may not have missed the part where it says, “Dough must chill for a minimum of 4-6 hours, preferably overnight in order to get the right texture for your cookies.” *Cue dramatic wail here* WHY wasn’t this crystal clear and written in bold letters from the get go?!
For anyone who has ever looked at a goal they set or a vision they had and said, “But I did all the right steps… why didn’t it turn out the right way / make me feel better / work at all / fix my life?” — Is it possible you forgot or weren’t told about a super fundamental step in the process? The part that takes time and that is the least controllable and requires the most surrender?
(Also for anyone who has ever just tried to make those cookies anyway without chilling the dough and just crossed your fingers that it would all be fine and like sometimes it is and sometimes it really isn’t… no? Just me?)
Okay okay, enough suspense.
The super important thing that most people forget about is… drum roll please… integration.
To integrate means to combine one thing with another so that they become whole. In the example of life and the changes that we both continuously choose and are confronted with, it means taking the time you need to transition between who you have been into who you are becoming.
Integration is the process of bringing all parts of yourself together in congruence. It means bringing everything you know in your mind, everything you feel emotionally, everything you are aware of energetically, and everything you experience physically into wholeness.
You may be someone who is super strong on the mental / intellectual front – you can make plans and research and understand things like nobody’s business. And the frustration may come when you KNOW you need to set boundaries, you KNOW exactly what to do in order to feel better in your body, you KNOW the dreams you want to go after- but bringing that knowing out of your head and into your life in actual practice feels super elusive and sometimes downright impossible.
You may be someone can get shit done- you are a powerhouse DOER and if you decide it’s happening, it’s happening. But you realize that certain things get compromised- your health, your enjoyment of life, your ability to relax.
You may be someone who loves playing with energy and working in what some traditions call the “higher” realms- where it feels really good and you receive a lot of insights and healing and understanding- but maybe you have aches and pains in your body, you’re tired all the time, you might feel abundant energetically but are stressed with paying the bills.
You may recognize aspects of yourself in some or all of these examples. We all have different styles of relating to change, of going after our dreams, and we all have different modes of being that feel the most comfortable and safe.
Integration means paying attention to all areas of your life and self and when something is out of integrity (notice how integration and integrity have the same root), or out of alignment, it’s the process of taking the steps back into wholeness.
When it comes to setting goals and achieving dreams, so often we are taught to simply see the vision, create the action steps, and go until we get there. What’s left out is the part about growing pains, both literal and metaphorical, in reaching that next level or next layer of becoming who you are and creating what you desire.
Integration gives you time to pause, reflect, and adjust. It gives you the space to see how whole and resonant you feel in all areas of change- the vision, the approach you are taking, the action steps, and destination.
For example you may have a goal of making more money, whether via a promotion or growing your business. Awesome. If any part of the goal- the vision, the approach you are taking, how long it takes- causes you to feel tense in your body, drains your energy, requires neglect in other areas of your life- is that really in integrity?
As well, there may be milestones you hit along the way that require time to adjust to and require a shift in your strategy and approach. Rather than just barreling through to the finish line, take the time to acknowledge how far you’ve come, give yourself space to move slowly, and, never underestimate the power of taking a break so you can reset and refocus from this new place.
Another thing to remember- healing work, loss, changes- all of these require integration. Your body needs time to adjust to the different energies and emotions it is processing every day.
Grieving requires integration. I’m still making room for, and probably will be for quite awhile, the underlying thread of loss that comes with my mom dying. I take time to feel it when I need to- to allow it to be a part of me. Same thing for healing trauma- when you release what you’ve been holding, especially on a cellular level, it creates space in your body. Without integration, we often fill that space with all the things we’ve been conditioned to fill ourselves with- whether it be food, disaster thinking, tv, sex, social media, etc.
Joyful things require integration as well. Moving in with a partner. Changing jobs. Going back to school. Opening up to your intuition. Anytime we make changes to what is, especially when we are adding or shifting something, requires the combining of what’s current in your life with what’s coming in. You have to reorient the space within you and around you in order to thrive in your new situation.
Integration gives you the space and time to adjust to your new way of being in the world. It brings all the mental, emotional, and energetic shifts and changes down into the physical, cellular structures of your body and the material world of your life.
Depending on where you are and what you’re going through in your life, integration can look very different for everyone.
There is no “checklist for integration”. However, here are a few tools and practices you can use to get started:
First and foremost, slow down and assess.
Take stock of what’s present for you right now. Are you in your body? How are your energy levels? What are you feeling? What do you really need right now?
Sometimes what’s needed is to close down the computer and go for a hike. Sometimes it’s sticking with a commitment you’d rather procrastinate on or blow off. Sometimes it’s a nap or stillness. Sometimes it’s moving energy through a really intense workout.
Give yourself the gift of presence, because if you aren’t willing to be present to what IS, right now (not what has been or will be or should be), you won’t be able to even know what you need, let alone actually making sure that need is met.
Second, check in on all levels.
In every area of your life, or simply with your main goals and priorities right now, check in on all levels- physically, mentally, emotionally, and energetically.
When I work on / think about / talk about _______:
– What do I experience in my body?
– What thoughts come up in my mind?
– What feelings are present?
– What is my energy like?
Based on your findings, if something isn’t quite what you would like it to be, that’s a signal to check in in that area and see what might be shifted or what actions might be required. (Psst: sometimes that action is “take a nap and leave it alone until tomorrow”.)
Third, document your energy leaks.
An energy leak is anything that is draining your energy. This could be something you’ve been avoiding for awhile, something that is hard or causes anxiety, something that is uncomfortable, a person or situation that needs to be let go of, a habit that needs changing, etc.
Once you know what’s draining you, you can start making changes and take care of those things so you have more space and ease in all areas of your life.
Finally, create something.
When you are in the process of working toward a goal, creating a new way of being, or simply going through some stuff, there is a lot of energy that is needing to move through you. It can be easy to get fixated on a goal, to get stuck in a loop of emotions and thoughts, or to feel super ungrounded and vague while you are in a transition.
Creating something tangible will help ground you and get you present in your body. It provides an outlet for moving energy, for processing emotions, for allowing your thoughts to flow and release.
Creating is not limited to anything “artistic”, though that is always on the table. Creating might mean painting or drawing, or journaling or writing poetry, or learning a song on the guitar. Creating could also mean cooking a meal or baking cookies (the dough is finally chilled right?!). It might mean creating space by donating clothes or rearranging the furniture. Creating could be going for a walk and gathering seashells or fallen leaves, or snapping photos of moments that inspire you. It could be creating shapes with your body as you dance or practice yoga.
Create something that has nothing immediately to do with your goals or the changes happening in your life.
Remember that Integration is just as important as Vision and Action. It allows tangible, sustainable, lasting changes and expansions to happen. It creates space for peaceful transition, for joy, for presence. Integration means coming from a place of wholeness, a place that is within you and entirely of you.
What becomes possible with integration?
A deep trust in yourself and the decisions you make.
Goals and dreams that are truly designed to enhance your life, rather than to shore up feelings of lack.
More slowness, and at the same time, more speed, because you aren’t bogged down by expectations and obligations.
Lasting change and healing.
Wayyyyy less drama.
A lot more space.
Feeling fulfilled and satisfied right from the start.
And so much more.