A bird doesn’t sing because he has an answer, he sings because he has a song.Joan Walsh Anglund
Does our song spontaneously emerge from our integrity? Or, perhaps, does our song come not from our inner truth but from a place of social programming, from what Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements calls the process of “domestication”, where it is a familiar tune others sing with us yet does not really consonate as our own?
“In human domestication, the information from the outside dream is conveyed to the inside dream, creating our whole belief system….we are told how to live, what kind of behavior is acceptable. The outside dream teaches us how to be a human.”The Four Agreements, p.6
How do we know we are flowing in our integrity, and not merely singing the song programmed into us? These questions are so important dear friends. We’re talking about a matter that directly impacts mental, emotional, and physical health every day of our lives.
When we deny the expression of our integrity, deep in our conscience we know it. No matter the level of gratitude we may genuinely feel, there is still a vague gloom we’re unable to shake off. We self-medicate, and that helps for a while. But we wind up right back at unhappiness. Stress, maladaptive tension-inflammation, pain, suffering. We walk around in conflict, unsure where it all comes from because our inner dialogue is like I don’t know…I mean, I haven’t been doing anything wrong. In this closed-up, ego-protective state, we are unteachable to a Wisdom greater than our own. Perhaps most sadly, we start forcing others around us to conform to our own ego-ideals, we start coercing the ones who love us the most to give us what we have lost the ability to give ourselves. Our family relationships suffer. More shame, more guilt, more false appearances. Singing the song of non-integrity leads to this place.
On the other hand, when we don’t deny the expression of our integrity, when we find constructive channels for it to see the light of day (and not necessarily for general audiences to witness), our conscience is not burdened. The fog of gloom is lifted in corresponding degree. We experience a reconnection with Life. To the extent we are reconnected with Life, our state of durable happiness renders self-medicating unnecessary. No suffering, because no pain, because no maladaptive tension-inflammation, because no stress. Conflicts are resolved, for we’ve gone to the root of conflict and faced it with the warrior’s heart. We admit here is where I’ve been doing something wrong, and I commit to correcting this. In our state of openness, we become teachable by a Wisdom greater than our own. Perhaps most happily, we live and let live. Our family relationships blossom, and effuse an uplifting sweetness. Less shame, less guilt, less false appearances. Singing the song of integrity leads to this place.
Points to ponder:
To answer the questions posed in this post, we must genuinely desire to know the answer. Interest alone is insufficient. Intent, driven by an ardor for the truth, keeps us on the long road.
The mind is so easily distracted. What may start as intent can drift away and devolve into interest, then further into disinterest. Thus, it’s necessary to recommit at regular intervals.
Within the domain of truth live two states: honesty and integrity. They are close kin, but are not the same thing. Honesty matters a great deal, yet alone is not enough to free us from our shackles of suffering. Honesty is the scout who says here I am shackled, here I am happy or unhappy about being shackled; integrity is the commander who says this is the right path to freedom from shackles.
How genuinely happy and content are we in our lives, not misusing medicine to stimulate our primitive reward centers? To use the parlance of Oriental Medicine, to what extent is our shenming (spirit light) bright, pure, unsullied? To the extent shenming is bright, qi (vital energy) flows harmoniously with Life, our health is optimal given our unique karmic circumstances. Our song reflects such a state.
Sometimes our song is aesthetically pleasing. Others would smile an easy smile on witnessing our song. The song we sing tells of joy, of achievement, of blessing.
Sometimes our song is not aesthetically pleasing. Others would not smile an easy smile at witnessing our song. The song we sing tells of pain, of injustice, of failure. And yet, it is the truth.
Where are we verily unhappy, discontent in our lives, misusing medicine to stimulate our primitive reward centers? Where is our shenming devitalized, diminished, gloomy? To the extent shenming is devitalized, qi flow is disharmonious with Life, we suffer with sickness. Our song reflects such a state.
And the hardest thing is facing yourself….to look at yourself and try to find out what’s real inside you and what isn’t, when you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes.John Lennon
When we feel as if we are singing a song not really our own, how do we go about reclaiming, reconnecting with our truth?
From time to time it is necessary to step out of our story and witness it with objective eyes just as we would with another person. This enables us to discern what songs are genuinely ours and what songs we parrot. This teaching by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati is a useful starting point to research the process (full disclosure: I am not personally affiliated with this teacher nor his organization. I’ve just found his writings to be of good quality.). Or use “meditation objective witness” as a search term on your engine of choice.
It is like an apple orchard with 300 trees. Some trees are best producers, some are average producers, some are poor producers. Similarly, within our psyche are places where the shenming is pure, where the shenming is middling, where the shenming devitalized. We must practice discernment and self-study, being careful not to mistake the partial for the total.
I heard it said about self-knowledge: arduous is the journey, hard-won is the knowledge, precious is the treasure.
Copyright (c) 2020, Justin Jaucian