The Practice of Integrity is the final lesson in The Way of the Seer.
The Way of the Seer, in turn, is one of four wisdom teachings known as The Four Insights, which were protected for centuries by secret societies of Earthkeepers, the medicine men and women of the Americas. The ancients used their mastery of the insights to heal disease, eliminate emotional suffering, and grow new bodies that age and die differently. In earlier blogs, we covered the First Insight: The Way of the Hero, and the Second Insight: The Way of the Luminous Warrior.
You practice integrity by being true to your word and recognizing its power to create reality. In the Bible, it is said that in the beginning was the Word… and the Word was God…. That is, everything was created from the Word. In the same way, the quality of your creation is determined by how true you are to your word. What you say is more important than any legal document because it sets a selected destiny into motion—it gives the universe consistent instructions about the kind of reality you want to create.
For the Laika, there is nothing more important than being true to one’s word, so they’re very careful about what they say. They believe that to utter a single negative syllable to someone is to cast a curse, and that to say something positive is to give a blessing. If you were to say to someone, “Are you okay? You’re not looking very well today,” by the end of the day, she would be ill. Similarly, if you were to remark, “You’re looking radiant,” even if that person wasn’t actually feeling that way, within hours or minutes she would be beaming.
But what if that person really is looking like hell? To be true to your word means that you can’t lie to her. What you can do is see the aspect of your friend that is always radiant, regardless of what she might be going through that day, and mirror that back to her. You might say, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Or you could use your words to remind her of her beauty: “I’m always so glad to see you. Your presence is so uplifting.” Then your words deliver truth and beauty to your friend.
What you repeat to yourself is equally powerful, such as I’m a loser, I’m not as smart as so-and-so, or I’ll never find love, so you must be careful. If your inner thought is I’m no good, then you’ll damn yourself to failure at whatever you attempt. Your word is a vow that you make. Living true to your word builds a spiritual power that’s essential if you’re to dream a better world into being. Without this power, your dreams never acquire form and always end up collapsing just as they’re about to bear fruit.
Rather than trying to strong-arm the universe into complying with your wishes, practice being true to your word, and build up your reserves of personal power. This will allow your dreams to become an unstoppable force that organizes the world the way you instruct it to. When you practice being true to your word, you stop making excuses for yourself—what you say affirms to the universe that you can be counted on.
When we use our voice to blame or create shame or guilt in others, we’re practicing the worst kind of offense because we’re using what we say to destroy instead of create. It’s worse for a father to angrily tell his daughter “You’re stupid!” than to beat her with a stick—the physical bruises heal, but the emotional wounds caused by those angry words form a scar that the child will carry for many years.
Misusing our word depletes our personal power, so we can then only daydream. When we lose enough of our power, our reality can only mirror the world around us, causing us to be mired in the collective nightmare of our times. A prime example of how we misuse the word is gossip. We speak poorly about others behind their backs without thinking much about it, feeling a sense of camaraderie and solidarity with those we gossip with and enjoying that we’re okay while others are not.
Our defense of gossip is that it’s true: our father-in-law really is a know-it-all, our neighbor is a genuinely awful parent, and that Hollywood actor is a true nut. Yet when we practice integrity, we don’t misuse our word in this way. Instead, we allow ourselves to see the know-it-all’s insecurity and need to feel smart and important, and we can have compassion for him. We understand that our neighbor isn’t malicious but overwhelmed by stress and frightened that her child will embarrass her. And we realize that we don’t know public figures at all.
In other words, we find it in us to be kind and offer gentle help or guidance, knowing that this is more likely to lead to others’ healing and growth than treating them with contempt is. We stop gossiping because we know it distracts us from seeing our own flaws and addressing them. We recognize these individuals as our teachers and are grateful to them for reminding us that we want to be able to accept others in all their imperfection.
We get many chances to practice being true to our word when we deal with our families because with them, we do a large part of our emotional growing. Keeping our word with loved ones is the most difficult as well as the most rewarding challenge, as our children and spouses always hold us accountable. My daughter will say to me, “But Dad, you promised that we would…” Then I stop working and take her to whatever activity we had agreed to do. If I can’t stop what I’m doing just then, I negotiate for a bit more time. But I don’t try to weasel out of my agreement. I’ve laid the groundwork for communication with my daughter based on integrity, on being true to my word, and on making sure my word is true. We show others through example that integrity is the highest form of spiritual practice, no matter how difficult it might be to maintain at times.
The practice of integrity also requires that we own our mistakes. Often, we’re embarrassed when we realize that we’ve goofed, and try to cover it by projecting the mistake onto someone else. When we practice integrity, we choose not to get defensive or cast blame and write a story in which we’re the victims. When we avoid taking responsibility for our mistakes and try to cover them up with half-truths and outright falsehoods, we weave a tangled web of deceptions that we get lost in. We may even start believing the lies we’ve told, even if they make no sense. We might destroy our relationships with others and ruin our reputations.
Owning your mistakes means not just acknowledging them but correcting them and making amends. I’m reminded of a man I know who went door-to-door selling a cure for Dutch elm disease to homeowners back in the late 1960s, when the affliction was ravaging many city trees. When my friend realized months later that it didn’t work after all, he actually went back out and contacted each of his customers to offer them a refund.
Finally, please note that being true to your word means never withholding it. It’s extraordinary how many wrongs can be set right with a simple “Forgive me.” For many years, I felt awful because my father never said, “I love you.” But later in life, when I understood the terrible cost of not speaking your word, I forgave him and developed compassion toward him. I realized how difficult it must have been for him not to be able to express his feelings.
When we recognize that words have power and the most incidental events can be fraught with meaning, we’re ready to go beyond hummingbird to the level of perception in which we don’t need to analyze, visualize, or do anything to understand our world or change our dream. When we’re at eagle, we experience ourselves in the dream and know that we’re the dreamer. We know that although we can change the dream, everything is just as it’s supposed to be because we feel ourselves at one with Spirit, whose dream is always perfect exactly as it is.