Earth and the Emotional Integrity Pause

Earth is the element of the center. It is the web of ecology, because it is responsible for the integration of all elements. Thus, it is our capacity for integrity. Without integrity, who are we, and what are we capable of? Eh, not much.

And yet integrity is developed as a result of a process of living in a particular way—it is not just something you can decide to do or be one day, and there you are. You can drum up courage in an instant—you may have an immediate awakening of compassion or heroic purpose or inspiration—but integrity is the result of a long, slow cooking process.

And not just any slow cooking process—the pot must be tended, tasted, and we must add a little bit of this or a little bit of that, balancing and harmonizing all the ingredients in our lives. Certainly, if we enter Earth with healthy Fire, Fire feeds Earth because it is easier to develop integrity if we have lived with propriety.

Integrity is important in the treatment room—without integrity, we cannot command the qi. Our treatments will not have much power. In theory, they may be the most excellent treatments—but without integrity, theory and practice have little connection. We do things because we read about them in a book, or our teachers told us that this is the right way to do it—but it isn’t powerful, because it is not embodied—we have not made it our own. We have not integrated it. We cannot give it back with integrity.

Integrity is not something that we develop once, and then that’s it, we have it. Like every other aspect of the Earth element, it is ongoing and repetitive, like housework, like weeding the garden, like cooking and eating, like caring for the livestock—or the children. There is nothing for any of us to be ashamed of, in admitting that we are still working on our integrity. We will always be working on it.

As long as we keep eating, we will need to keep working on our integrity. As long as we keep having new life experiences, we will need to keep working on our integrity. As long as circumstances keep changing, as we become parents and as our children keep growing and changing and having different needs—as we keep growing and changing and having different needs—we will need to keep working on our integrity.

There should be no more shame in saying “I am working on my integrity” than in saying “I’m considering what to have for lunch.” Equilibrium is not something that we find once. The Earth is always turning; seasons are always shifting into the next season, and we are constantly needing to live in such a way that we are creating and maintaining a renewed integrity all the time.

How do we do that? What is the process? To explore this together, we must create together, here and now, the community conditions for developing integrity. That means entering Earth Time, and Earth Space, which is the realm of the Emotional Integrity Pause.

The Emotional Integrity Pause is a practice of standing in our center like the hub of the wheel, a place where we are free, for a moment, of momentum—or like the neutral space in a gear shift—so as to be able to make the kinds of thoughtful assessments that can be only made from the neutral space of the pause.

The Emotional Integrity Pause is the opposite of reactivity; it is centeredness, and the ability to say, “Hmmm… I’m not really sure how I feel about that,” rather than, say, erupting in anger or collapsing in tears or clenching up in fear.

The Emotional Integrity Pause is an opportunity to feel the humming at the integration point, in the solar plexus. It’s a chance to say, “Hmm… I’m staying at the intersection of emotions, able to move in any direction from here, but not moving yet…”

The Emotional Integrity Pause is a digestive practice of waiting for how I feel to clarify. I wait for a version of how-I-feel that is more centered, more integrated. It’s not just about whichever emotion shows up first at the party.

In taking on the practice of the Emotional Integrity Pause, it’s helpful to put a hand on the solar plexus so that we are supporting ourselves NOT to be in our head about it! Instead, we are in our center, awaiting an integrated, centered emotional response.

How do we support others in this capacity for centered emotional response? I can see how often I rush and make it difficult for the person to whom I am speaking to take the extra five or eight seconds that they might need to be centered. I don’t always allow the time necessary for the person to gather the different elements within them, to give a response from full integrity. It’s time to change that! Please remind me; I’d like to create more integrity around this.

The Emotional Integrity Pause may be the essence of Earth’s virtue. Wouldn’t it be a great thing, to learn this thoroughly—to be a Pause Master—to be able to pause before moving forward and say, “Hmm… I could go in any direction from here—what direction is home?”

To learn more, check out my Earth Seasonal Resources.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).

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One Comment

  1. Teria Atwood-Smith says:

    Thank you Thea !
    A most timely….and power-full re-Minder :-)
    (and a practice I also… truly aspire to ‘grow’ within myself ).
    Time for…. an EIP :-)

    Ever and always……gratefully yours :-)

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