Integration is a topic I really have wanted to talk to you all about – it is why I practice, offer, and manage life better with, expressive movement. In my own words, integration is digesting daily life – making what is useful to us part of our experience and weeding out what is not; processing all that is thrown at us each day. In more spiritually academic terms, integration is the quest to become whole.
I believe our spirit seeks to do this, and so we unconsciously have ways we do this. I also believe that consciously we try to do this, whether we realize it or not, because otherwise we begin to feel muddled, confused, and overwhelmed – and it gets harder to function. We want to make sense of where we are at in the world. I feel strongly that it is an inherent human need – our children, from infants, naturally take time to integrate.
So if you are in a place where you feel overwhelmed or wandering without an anchor, if you have young children, or if you are someone like me who is constantly seeking more stimulation, you will want to more intentionally look at integration.
Ways that we commonly integrate:
- Television: I am not a fan of the fact that this seems to work, but TV ignites our imagination, gives us something to unconsciously relate to, and additionally it shuts down the conscious, thinking part of our brain. It is also grounding and comforting, which is when energy can integrate on its own – a rest.
- Dreaming: A better version of the above!
- Talking it out: Through either our vented Facebook posts, calling up our mother, or dumping on our spouse – talking is a way for us to “sort out” the day. It provides a release, which enables our energy and body to also organize and integrate.
- Exercise: Our bodies take the spiritual energy and the mental energy and organize it in our muscles, flush out the toxins, and give us endorphins and other chemicals to quiet the distress.
- Vacations: A rarer, more expensive, method but one we can easier recognize the impact of. Vacations provide perspective (as well as relaxation and fun), and that vantage point is crucial to our spirits in integration. Vacations also can provide more stimulation that needs digesting however!
How our children integrate that we most likely don’t:
- Play: My goodness our children are geniuses! They play because they seemingly have to. They act out anything their little sponges just absorbed – watch a movie about fairies and suddenly all their play is about fairies. Play is a safe, fun, way to TRY ON and TAKE ON directly what you’ve encountered. You discover what you like. You involve your whole body. You involve your imagination. You are not attached to outcome because you are enjoying the present moment. It is creating your television, creating your dreams, talking it out, letting your body work it out, and disappearing from your reality all at once.
Most of the above ways of integrating is just another word for de-stressing. They also can put that released energy in unhealthful places—which can return right back to us anyway. But actual integration is more than just de-stressing. Let’s call that whole integration. In my own words, whole integration is a conscious choice to take an observer’s seat while intentionally processing whatever is overwhelming us on a body, mind and spiritual level.
What are the above ways missing in terms of whole integration?
All of them are missing one or more of the three components: body/mind/spirit. Whole integration happens on all three levels. All of them are missing some aspect of the conscious (mind) action involved in wholeness: awareness. Awareness of how we feel, awareness of what we are integrating, awareness of wanting to integrate because we choose to value ourselves, awareness of our self in relation to reality. As great as it feels to unplug our mind, integration is much more effective when our mind is aware of the process (i.e. Meditation (the topic of my next article)…meditation that quiets the mind feels great, but the intention behind healing meditation is to be a witness to what is happening and make peace with the thoughts that bring discomfort). Otherwise the above methods miss out on moving the body (though in deep sleep at least our nervous system gets a good run), or involving directly the spirit: what brings true joy, connection to the big picture, and intentional energetic reset.
For whole integration to happen, our spirit (our more intelligent and pure part of our self) must be freed from the ego to combine what it knows with the information it has taken in. Witnessing our self, via awareness lends to this. Wholeness happens unconsciously, in the more intelligent part of our brain – the body, and yet is a conscious action by our thinking brain because we care about our well-being.
Play is important, it is familiar, it is accessible, it is fun. It is a great, comforting place to start seeking intentional whole integration – seeing how simple and rewarding it can be. Allowing yourself to play in a way that lets your spirit engage with your body while letting your thinking brain make the choice to do so openly (as a witness to the process) leads to an integrated you – more whole: confident, centered, joyous. This is, in essence, expressive movement. Come check out a class! Once that feels rewarding, and you’re looking for some more intentional whole integration come try a body/mind/spirit class!
Your children also need more opportunity for integration in this manner than even we do – they are big spirits in a small body without as many capacities added on yet. Give them as many ways to PLAY in this manner as you can – in a way they can witness others (youth classes or group play) and witness you (tot class).Notice how integration, on any level, is a part of your daily life – share with me what you learn about yourself!