About this episode
We’re happy to announce that Martha’s bestselling book The Way of Integrity is out in paperback now! In honor of this new release, we are replaying Martha’s one-hour Oprah's Book Club Edition of The Gathering Room from March 6, 2022. Martha shares how you can bring yourself back into wholeness (aka integrity) to allow more peace, freedom, belonging, and joy into your life. She also answers questions from her friends over at Oprah's Book Club and her beloved regular Gathering Room peeps.
View on YouTube for closed captions.
So the topic is integrity because you from the Oprah Book Club know that this month Oprah has honored me beyond words by choosing my book, The Way of Integrity, which you see a huge shelf of behind me up there somewhere. Yeah, I have… They send you a box of them. It’s not like I just go buy my own book. Yeah, so you guys are looking at The Way of Integrity as the Oprah Book Club selection. And those of you who are regular visitors to the Gathering Room, I’m just giving a big virtual hug between all of us who are used to the Gathering Room and those who are new today. And those of you who’ve heard me talking about integrity already, I have a whole new thing to say.
So just to sum it up for the folks who are new, I just want… I wrote this book about integrity, but it’s not like, oh, you should be good, you’re not good enough. You’re not in integrity. Integrity is just a mechanical issue that keeps our lives either working or when it falls apart, not working at all. And the word itself just means whole, undivided, intact. So we’re all born whole and undivided. And we have ourselves, right? You don’t get six-month-old typically going, “I feel I have to go find myself.” They know where themselves are. Themselves are right in their bodies. But before they get very old, they start getting pressure from people around them or from circumstances that require them to behave in ways that maybe aren’t completely authentic to them. To not be fussy, to not complain, to be quiet instead of rowdy and 99 times out of 100, that baby will split from the whole self into a self that is natural, part of nature, and a self that is responding to others, part of culture. And culture means any two people. We all create cultures, couples, families, religions, countries. We all have multiple cultures that are putting pressure on us all that time.
So by the time we’re in preschool, we’re pretty damn good at letting ourselves be pushed to the background while we pretend to be the perfect children that the people and the situations around us seem to require. And this goes really well for us at one level, we get along, we go through school, we navigate this crazy complicated world that is human culture, but the more divided we are from our natural selves, the more we begin to feel like, oh, oh, oh, I am not working correctly, this is not holding together.
The analogy I use in the book is an airplane. If it’s in structural integrity, that means… Some airplanes have more than 4 million parts and if those are working in harmony, this massive hunk of metal can fly thousands and thousands of miles, it’s like a miracle. Get it out of alignment, out of integrity, not in structural integrity, it will not fly. It will falter in all kinds of ways. You can’t steer it, you can’t take off, whatever it is.
So if you think about your life, places where it feels stalled out, you haven’t been able to take off. You haven’t been able to steer your life the way you wanted it to go. That’s because the parts of you that are meant to be aligned so that you can make your way through the world have gotten misaligned. And the only reason they do this is not because you’re trying to be bad, it’s because you’re trying to be good. You’re trying to please the people around you. And you’ve lost that connection with the natural self that you had when you were a brand new baby and that’s kind of a catastrophe. And if you don’t ever go in search of that abandoned self, it’s a kind of soul murder. Like it can take you very, very, very far from happiness.
And at the same time on the surface, you may look absolutely perfect because you’re following the laws of the culture and you have the things the culture says you should have. I’ve been coaching 30 years, I just cannot stop. And one thing I’ve learned is that very successful looking people are often the most out of integrity because they’ve had to abandon themselves so completely in order to reach these high, high levels of achievement in the culture. I’ve coached Olympic medalists, gold medalists, who said one, who said that, “The moment I stepped off the podium was the worst moment of my life because everything had been directed toward this winning the gold medal. And I thought I would be happy when I got there, and I got there and I still wasn’t happy. And I had no place else to go. I’d reached the top of the mountain.” So I’ve heard that from people who are extremely wealthy, from people who are extremely famous, beautiful, popular, whatever it is.
When you look the way the culture says that you should be perfectly happy, I actually believe that very few people who achieve at that level maintain a wholeness that makes them feel complete. So even at the top of the mountain…
I will give you the metaphor. I base my whole look on integrity around Dante’s Divine Comedy. And Dante starts that book by saying, “Right in the middle of my life, I found myself lost in the dark wood. I was alone, I was scared, it wasn’t a nice place and I didn’t know how I got there. I didn’t remember even…” He says, “It was like I sleepwalked away from my true path.” He doesn’t know what to do. That’s a midlife crisis. I mean, he even says in this, the middle of our life, it’s the first line of The Divine Comedy.
A lot of us wake up and go, “Wait, wait, this isn’t really working. What’s happening to me?” In Dante, he sees this big shiny mountain called Mount Delectable. And he climbs it because it looks like all the people are climbing, climbing, climbing, trying to get to the top. And he thinks, “Well, that’s happiness for sure.” But he can’t climb it because number one, he’s exhausted. Number two, things keep working against him. He gets attacked by wild animals and he is terrified. He just can’t go forward.
How many of you have tried to forward to reach the top of some mountain that your culture told you would make you happy and just can’t make it? You just can’t go there. That’s because you’re not in structural integrity. The machine doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to go when the parts aren’t aligned. So your parts, I mean, they can be divided into infinite numbers, but there are four major ones that I like to look at. Body, heart, mind, and soul. It’s funny in a lot of cultures, ancient cultures from all over the world, that those four parts are considered distinct. And in traditional cultures, they have ways of uniting them all. People go out on a vision quest to find who they really are and they come back in some cultures and tell the tribe, “This is who I am now and here’s my new name that I chose to represent myself.”
So there’s an active model for going out in search of a lost self and where do you go? You go into nature, you go to a place that is completely without artifice, completely without culture, where you can be by yourself and start to line up those components. That’s what integrity and seeking integrity looks like to me and that’s the way I’ve written about it. And I hope it’s the way you can start learning to be more accommodating of your true nature and maybe less of a slave to culture or the ideas that you think you should be promoting. The people you think you should be pleasing because if you’re not whole, you’re not really available for whatever success you achieve.
So that’s the summary of the book. You go through different stages, you wander around the dark wood of error. You find people who can say to you, “I have a clue for you.” And I call those soul teachers. Those teachers will take you into yourself to look at where you’ve mistakenly believed things that are causing you to separate from your true nature. And in The Divine Comedy, this is called the inferno. It’s hell, you go inside. If you’ve ever had therapy, if you’ve ever even read a self-help book, it basically says, “Let’s go to hell together ’cause we’re going to look at the parts of you that are suffering, and we’re going to ask them why they’re suffering.”
So you go inside and you find a part of yourself that’s suffering and maybe it says, “I’m not good enough.” That’s a really common one because every baby gets that message. “You, as you are born were not quite right, there’s something a little bit wrong with you.” And so many people grow up thinking I’m just bad or I’m too much, or I’m not enough or whatever it is. So you feel that part of you and it’s suffering. Why is it suffering? Not just because it’s saying something negative, but because it is not true. Okay, that’s the key. It isn’t true that you’re not enough. It isn’t true that you’re too much or you’re not good. That’s something that you got from the culture around you.
If you came from a really dysfunctional family, if you’re a member of a marginalized group, if you’re a person of color, like you’re in a culture that is going to teach you things about yourself that are not true, which is your… They’ll say things like you’re less valuable or you don’t deserve as much. Beliefs like that are simply not true to the deepest self, which knows… Your true nature knows the truth of your perfection. You were born perfect and that perfect you has always been inside you. And when you say, “I’m lost, I want to find myself,” it’s that perfect self… No, the perfect self is always with you. What you’re looking for is the part of you that knows that you’re enough, that you were born exactly as you were meant to be, and you don’t have to strive at all to be the person that… This perfect, invaluable, precious gem of a being. Like you know that at some level.
So you go through the inferno getting rid of your false beliefs, and then you have to start walking your talk. Where you’ve realized that the culture is telling you lies, you have to stop acting in a way that betrays yourself. So here’s… I said that we’re going to get some new stuff.
I recently have been reading a lot about anxiety and fear in the brain. And fear in the brain causes all kinds of problems. And many of you have asked about anxiety issues, chronic pain, attention disorders, all these different types of things that can make our lives really difficult. Well, reading about neuroplastic pain, which is pain that you feel in the body because the brain has encoded pain in a state of fear. I know it’s detailed, just hang with me. If you spend a lot of time in your head doing three things, you are much more likely to get chronic neuroplastic pain, but also I believe anxiety disorders and other attention disorders and interpersonal issues and everything. So these three things are self-criticism, pressure to do, do, do, do things differently. And let’s see, they were self-pressure, criticism and worry. Those three things are taking a lot of people off their integrity these days.
The reason I’m doing this research is that anxiety disorders have gone nuts and throughout the world, especially since the pandemic. But I mean, there was plenty of be afraid of before that, but the level of fear has quadrupled in terms of people diagnosed with anxiety disorders. So that’s why I’m talking about this. And I have just put myself on a new kind of integrity cleanse. And this is what I wanted to tell those of you who’ve been with me already because I hadn’t realized that worry, self-criticism and self-pressure are not true, they are lies. Otherwise they would make us happy. The fact that they make us sick and anxious and freaked out says this isn’t true.
So what I’ve been doing for the last, I guess about five or six days, and I really invite you to come on this new integrity cleanse with me. Anytime I notice myself experiencing worry, self-criticism or pressure to the self, I stop and I say, “This is not true because it’s making me suffer. So what can I put in its place?” And here’s what I want you to try putting in the place of worry, criticism and pressure. Positive self-talk.
I was actually working on my book on anxiety, getting more and more and more anxious. And I was starting to think, “Wait, why am I out of integrity?” I shouldn’t feel this way if I’m not breaking my integrity, that’s my whole theory. That integrity is the way to happiness. Reclaiming your true self and the truth that comes from that self is the key to happiness. And I said to my partner, Ro, “I’m so anxious. I feel like an imposter. I feel like I can’t write a book on how to get out of anxiety because I’m in anxiety.” And she said, “What’s the opposite of anxiety?” And I said, “Calm and peace.” And she said, “Then don’t write about anxiety, write about calm and peace. You’re really writing a book about calm.” And I went, “Oh!” And immediately by shifting to the opposite of what I’d been focusing on, I dropped out of anxiety. I stopped feeling like an imposter.
By the way, imposter syndrome comes because you’re working, working, working to impress the world, but you’re leaving your true self behind. So you may have a ton of degrees or whatever, and you’ll still feel like an imposter because the person who got those degrees is not who you really are. The little baby that was born perfect is who you really are. And when you drop back into the truth of that little baby, which is still with you, no matter how old you are, that knows itself to be the truth. And immediately from that place of calm, I was like, “Oh yeah, I could totally try to help people from this space.” So instead of worry, pressure and self-criticism, I’d really love you to turn your attention when you’re in worry, bring your attention into the present moment and start like looking around for good stuff, looking around for blessings, for things that have gone right. For things that are going right in this moment and just focus, focus, focus your tension on this.
Those of you who have been to the Gathering Room before have heard me say, just repeat a color word and watch how your brain picks out that color. So if you just say yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow, and look around the room, yellow items pop out. Same if you say blue, blue, blue, or red, red. So what you do instead of worry, worry, worry, you force your attention onto it’s working, it’s working, it’s working, it’s working. It’s like the news always covers the crashing of a jet liner, but it never covers a jet liner taking off successfully. So look at the places where you’re taking off and landing successfully every single day. Like you have done incredible amounts in your life just to be alive at this point. So just take time off, worry, don’t worry. The worry will take care of itself. It will keep going if it wants to, but just focus on what’s working, what’s working, what’s working.
If you’re feeling self-criticism, you need to go to self-love. And all you need to do is start pointing out the things that are good about yourself. And even if you’ve only got a few of them, really dwell on them. If you’ve got a pet, trying to see yourself the way the pets see you. If you’ve got a loved one, say, “Tell me who I am through your eyes and lay on the praise.” People think this is conceded. Actually, being conceded and selfish comes from pushing the self away. Then starving for love because the true self is never getting any love and then needing sort of narcissistic supply to feed the false self, that’s conceited. The part that is truly aware of its own beauty and magnificence is like the puppy, is like the kitten. It’s not thinking about itself, it knows itself to be okay.
So if somebody can re-anchor you by saying, “Here’s what you really are to me,” and you can take that in, you get out of the self-criticism mode. So where you want to replace with what’s working, self-criticism you want to replace with self-love and pressure, give yourself tiny breaks. Like we got up this morning we were like, “Oh, we got to do a special Gathering Room today.” And we’re both really tired, Ro and I. She does all the technical and she’s behind the scenes all the time and does more work than I do for this. And she was just exhausted and I said, “Look, we’ve got three hours. Take one hour and literally do nothing, just go completely limp.” And so she took that pressure off herself and just… And if it’s only five minutes, you can still do this and just go limp, limp, limp. Don’t do anything, don’t require anything of yourself.
And what happened is that after 15 minutes she felt really recharged and she got up and started doing things. And I said, “You don’t have to.” And she’s like, “I know that, but I feel better.” And that’s because she lifted the pressure off herself. So try those three things, lift the pressure off, self-love, write out things that are okay about you and worry, replace with present moment. And that is to bring yourself more into alignment with the truth.
Remember things don’t hurt us at an emotional level because they’re just bad news. They hurt us because we’re not telling ourselves the truth. And if you’re deep into addiction and you keep saying, “No, I’m not, no, I’m not, no, I’m not.” That’s not going to put your soul at rest. It’s not going to line up those parts. It’s when you stand up at a 12-step group or go to a rehab or something and say, “You know what, I have a problem I need to deal with.” That’s when you’ll actually start to feel the peace and connectedness of telling the truth. And the same thing goes on when you get away from those three things, worry, self-criticism and self-pressure. So try that everybody, you can ask more about it later when we get to the question part.
We have to start walking the talk. When we know that we’re hurting ourselves with worry, it is part of our integrity to learn something to do besides worrying. And that’s true of everything that we’ve been lying to ourselves about. And as we come into integrity and learn to walk our talk, people might not like it because we’re going to break with the cultural pressures that are already on us. But…
Oh, I heard Eckhart Tolle on a recording yesterday say the most amazing thing. He said, “Sometimes I have to write these little things.” I imagine they were for like social media or something. And he says that, “People will call me and they say, ‘You have two days, two days and you must this.'” And he said, “Often I don’t.” And he said, “They either wait or it doesn’t happen.” And he laughs and laughs in his little way, and then he says, “I will not allow this world to drive me insane.” And I was just like, he’s a very polite guy who is very kind to people, but he will not do something that makes him feel insane just because the world says it. So he’s resisting that pressure.
And you may be going, “Oh, not meet a deadline.” That’s the culture talking, and that’s what I mean by pushback. You’ll feel it inside yourself and you may get it from other people, “How dare you not do the thing that drives you insane?” You say, “Well, it would’ve been soul murder.” I don’t care you are bad, don’t fall for it, keep going. If people fall away from you, keep going. The people who stay and the people who come will be people who are sane with you and who love your true self. And then you get… In Dante’s case, he gets to paradise where he’s surrounded by loving beings and miraculous occurrences. And I am here to tell you that just coming into closer and closer integrity will make your life a place of miracles and joy, it really, really, really will.
So that’s my summary and now I’m going to the questions that have come in from our wonderful new people at Oprah’s Book Club. As well, I think I’ll just alternate, take a question from Oprah Book Club and then take a question from our live audience that Ro is going to shoot through to me. Obviously we can’t answer every question, but we’re going to do our very best.
Someone asks, “Do trust issues and integrity have the same root?” Yes, trust is knowing that we’re being told the truth and integrity is telling ourselves the truth. So if we don’t tell ourselves the truth, we feel it as suffering. That’s how we know we’re out of alignment. And we need to go in to seek those beliefs that are causing the suffering. And when we find them, they will all is be a lie. When we tell ourselves the truth, whether it’s, I am perfect and I always have been, or I really have a problem with drugs or whatever the truth may be, ’cause both those things can be true. You’re not imperfect just because you’ve been struggling with addiction or whatever. Your true self is perfect.
If you’re lying to yourself about those things, what you know is that the whole world feels like a betrayal and you will betray yourself to fit other people’s models of what you should do. And that means you can’t trust the world. You can’t trust yourself, you can’t trust the world. When you trust yourself… This is one of my favorite quotations from Goethe the great German poet. He said, “When you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” You trust yourself when you’re telling yourself the truth. So that’s what I have to say about that.
Now let’s look at a question from Susie. Susie says, “As we align with our integrity, how do we navigate the feelings as we change drastically? Changing from weak to strong or people pleaser to empowered. I feel like it’s taking a while to find the balance between powerless and powerful. How to best navigate this change, it’s not an instant shift.” So true Susie. And one of the things that I urge you to do in the book is to be gradual about it. I was not gradual when I decided to do this. For the first time, I decided not to tell a lie for a year, not a single line. And my whole life blew apart in a very good way because all the places where I wasn’t being authentic kind of exploded, imploded basically fell apart. And that was good, but it took me a while to get my life together again, after that.
So now when I coach and what I would tell you now is take your airplane, that is your life, and turn it just one degree toward happy, toward truthful every day.
Like if Susie’s trying to… She feels like she’s powerless and she’s like, “I feel powerless, like to speak the truth to my annoying aunt.” And then she realizes, “Oh, I’m not powerless, I can speak. It’s just that she’s going to get upset and make a scene ’cause she always does. But that’s not the same as me being powerless. That’s me allowing myself to be manipulated. So I am powerful here. And when deal with my aunt, I will say the truth in the kindest way I can. And if she does the thing I fear she does, I’m going to sit there and hold my energy. Or if I don’t hold my energy, if I get completely spun out and end up apologizing and groveling and going back to old patterns, I’m going to limp back to my own space and go, ‘All right, that didn’t work, but next time it will.’ I’m going to bring myself back into alignment. First of all, I’m going to go back over my weird aunt’s reaction and I’m going to come to a sense of peace and truth. ‘Okay, she wasn’t right about this. She was right about that, but she wasn’t right about this other thing. Okay, now I’m finding my balance and I can go back to her.
“And the next time she says something, I can react honestly. And if she comes back at me like that, I can say, ‘You’re right about this, but I don’t think you’re right about this. That doesn’t feel true to me.” Totally different response than you’ve been socialized to do, but you can tell just from that one incident, this is not for the faint hearted. The only reason to even do it is that the opposite is suffering an emotional death. It’s worth doing because it’s really, really not fun to be out of integrity, but it’s very frightening to be truthful and taking your power back means that you may get pushback from other people and you’re going to have the typical kinds of pain and reactivity that you’re used to. And then your job is to find the truth of what you really believe, even in the face of pushback. So do it.
If you turn that plane one degree north, every day that you fly it, you won’t really feel the turn that much, but you’ll end up… If you keep doing that for a year, you’re going to end up in a totally different place. Do it for 10 years, heaven knows you’re going to be in paradise. So just tiny, tiny steps, that’s the secret to being able to cope.
All right, another Oprah viewer. She put in Neggy Nemagine. I don’t have the names of all our Oprah viewers, but you’ll know yourself if you hear your question read. They say, “How can I turn everything in my life from so, so, to I love it? Thank you for your wisdom.” Here is your wisdom. You only see what is reflected from your true self.
This is something that I didn’t expect when I set out to live in integrity. I thought I need a baseline of truth because I feel like the world is going crazy. And the only baseline I can find is my own truth. So I’m going to start just by being as honest as I know how to be and being super aware of the places where I’m off my true nature, where my parts aren’t aligned, like my mind says to do what my heart doesn’t want to and vice versa. So I just set out to align myself. But what happened as I got closer and closer to full integrity over the past six years or so, is that I began to have extraordinary levels of happiness, like way more than I’d ever felt before or that I ever expected to feel. I actually didn’t even know it could feel this good. And as I said, magical, miraculous things kept happening. Those are all around us. But when you’re in integrity, they come faster and you notice them more easily.
So what I would say is let go of the idea of, “I’ve got to love my life in every second.” Instead, just be with yourself and do what feels like peace in every moment. So the one sentence that more people have told me feels like truth to them than any other, is I am meant to live in peace. If you say that a few times, I’m meant to live in peace. Every time I do it, it drops me in to integrity. So if you just say, “Okay, what feels more like peace right now?” Would leaving the room feel more like peace than staying in it? Would a different set of thoughts feel more like peace? Would self-love instead of self-criticism feel more like peace? You just start turning toward peace, you don’t want to… You’re not looking for fireworks. That’s when the fireworks come. It’s so interesting.
It’s like when you’re in neuroplastic pain, you’re supposed to observe your pain to make it go away. But if you observe it with the intention of making it go away, it gets worse because you get clenched around a result. So instead you just watch it to be present, just to be present with what’s there. And then ironically enough pain recedes and joy becomes much, much stronger. So you go into total non-resistance to what is, and the irony of that is that non-resistance if you’re suffering causes the suffering to be much less, but non-resistance to the present moment if you’re happy, causes the happiness to be much more. So non-resistance is the key. And when you start non-resisting, your happiness will go completely off the charts, I promise you.
All right, C. L. Raven says, “But I thought suffering is a sign. We need to examine something within ourselves. Shouldn’t we sit with a physical sensation of worry instead of shifting attention away from it?”
Well, worry is not a feeling. Worry is an activity, it’s a verb. Well, it’s a noun too. Oh, I have a worry, but I’m not experiencing worry without my mind. I can experience suffering in my body, in my heart. But worry is a product of the mind expecting something to go wrong or not go right in the future. Think about it, you can’t worry about something that’s already happened. I mean, except that it might give you a result you don’t want. All fear is looking at future events. So if you’re running from a bear, your fear is not of running. Your fear is of the bear catching you, which hasn’t happened yet. So if you look at worry and you sit and feel it, you can say, “Okay, I’m experiencing fear.” Okay, where’s that coming from? “Oh, but my fear is telling me, I’m not doing well enough at work.” That statement must be a lie if it’s causing fear.
So worrying is grabbing a fear and thinking about it. And that thinking is an activity, it’s not just a sensation. The fear is a sensation. If you just sit with the fear and say, “Sweetheart, what are you afraid of?” Your true self will tell you it’s fear. And then you can stop worrying by saying, “All right, well, if that happened, you’d still be okay. You’ve done things that are much harder in the past,” or whatever it is. If you shift that self-talk, that process is more truthful when it’s making you calm, when it’s putting you in peace. Okay, so worry is weirdly enough, a lie, all worry.
We can talk about this later. I’m sure some of you are not convinced, but that’s okay. I’ve been thinking about this for 30… No, 60 years. Woo, almost 60 years. Sorry, I went into a negative self-spin, but I’m out of it again. Look how well I did to survive this long.
Next question, “What would be your advice to someone who wants to quit their job, but it’s a pandemic?”
All right, thank you for this question. I’m sure a lot of people are resonating with that. Here’s the thing though, even before the pandemic, people were terrified to quit their jobs. Ironically enough, jobs didn’t even exist for most of human history. But now in the culture we have, a job is this indirect way of accessing things like food and shelter that humans used to get directly by building them or hunting them or growing them. So jobs create enormous anxiety because they’re not exactly what we evolve to do. And unless your job is what you love, it’s going to feel like you’re using your time in a way that’s not true for the inner most part of you.
When I went on my big integrity plan when I was 29 and I didn’t tell a lie for a year, one of the things I ended up doing was quitting my job. I didn’t like it and didn’t want to be an academic, which was a real shock to me since that’s all I could do. It does get worse when circumstances change, like there’s a pandemic. Wow, like crazy, crazy changes happen and that’s always frightening. But think about how many things opened up during the pandemic? So every time there’s a constraint… One of the weird things about creativity is that if you put more constraints on a problem, people can actually solve it more easily. Like if you can take smaller chunks of it. So that’s a whole brain thing too. The brain would rather take a little problem and really focus on it than try to deal with, “Oh my gosh, everything’s different.”
So things opened up during the pandemic, like anything that was necessary to take objects from one person to another person. Suddenly there were a million jobs for people who would be the couriers of things and our heroic frontline line workers like mail delivery people. We don’t pay them what they’re worth for sure, but my word, they had a lot of work to do. So instead of putting your attention on job shortage, job shortage jobs are leaving, jobs are fewer, look at what’s opening. Where are opportunities being made by the constraints? What’s necessary now that wasn’t necessary before? How can I do something on Zoom that’s now doable on Zoom that people used to have to show up for, but now they can do it on Zoom?
If you take your attention off the fear of limitation, you can see that everything’s always shifting and opening as other things close. It’s like in nature things die so that other things can be born. And every downbeat… It’s only because the dinosaurs were destroyed that the mammals came to rule the planet now. Sorry. So there are big potential gains to be made from any kind of change if you’re not locked into your culture. And if you go into your true nature and start looking for opportunities, that’s how you find the job that you’re meant to have, the job that you love, or create the job you love, which is all I’ve ever done. Never really had a full-time job since I quit that one many years ago. So just look for openings and opportunities as well as saying, “Wow, this is tough. It is legit tough.” Good luck to you.
Tracy says, “Should we feel the icky feeling, then let it be and go to gratitude?”
Yes, feel the icky feeling and even more than gratitude, love the part of you that feels the icky feeling because not all of you is feeling the icky feeling. There’s a part that in young and psychology, they call Self, capital S, and that is the part that we drop into when we’re in integrity. So if I told you right now, I said earlier, you know saying I am meant to live in peace, drops people in. So if you repeat that a few times, I’m meant to live in peace, I’m meant to live in peace. Then you can start to feel peace inside. And that piece is being experienced by Self, capital S. This is the perfect brand new baby that was born. But however long you’ve been alive, that baby is now very intelligent and very experienced and very wise and very compassionate. It is containing all the other parts of you. So uniting with it heals you, but the self was never in need of healing. It was always perfect, it was always infinite and divine.
So when you drop in by saying, “I’m meant to living peace,” you’ve accessed that Self. And from that Self, you say, “Oh, part of me is feeling a really icky feeling.” And you just imagine… I don’t know. I like to imagine my Self, capital S, giving the part of me that’s suffering a hug. If it’s a little kid Self, I let it sit on my lap. Or if it’s tired, I let it lie down. But I say to myself from the position of the peaceful one, “It’s okay, you can feel this way as long as you want. I’m not going to push you at all, but just know it’s going to be okay.”
When we access integrity, you see it’s always in there. It’s not something that we have to hunt for. It’s ways at the core of us. We can’t lose what we are. When you die, everything falls away except what was essentially you. And if you think your body is what is essentially you, just consider the fact that your atoms shift completely every seven years. So there’s not a single atom in your body that was present with you seven years ago. In other words, the atoms of your body are not you. They are a collection of matter that is accreting around your consciousness and your consciousness is recreating your body over and over from different atoms. So that part of you, that consciousness part of you, it’s never lost. It’s just that you delude yourself by believing things that aren’t true for that part of the self. And then you split off and you become different selves.
And when you go back to integrity, you gather all those selves together, and you love every one of them unconditionally, including the ones that are angry, including the ones that are not politically correct or are impolite or are mean. We don’t want to keep those and make them our dominant selves. But they only go away if we address the fact that they’re suffering and say, “You can let go of that line now honey, it’s much nicer to be here in love and security and presence.” Everybody right here and now on the Gathering Room is present in a space that is relatively okay, like for right this single second. When you go back to that and the self is able to like come to the foreground, then all the other parts of you get to take part in this sort of healing love that comes from the only truth. The only truth, which is that you are pure and perfect and infinite.
Okay, so from our Oprah people, how do you move on in your integrity when those around you are hurt by it? Well, it’s one of those things like, have you ever dated somebody because they loved you, even though you didn’t love them and you didn’t want to tell them the truth, “I don’t love you,” because it would hurt them? Maybe you even got married for that reason. How’s it working? Because when you do something, loving for someone out of a sense of obligation that is not true for you, you’re sowing the seeds of more hurt down the line. You really are. When you finally tell the person “I never really loved you,” that will be shattering.
When you go about telling the truth, as I said, you will shake up the people who are in your social group. And so number one, be very kind as you go about it. One of the things that happened to me when I stopped or when I really tried to replace my worry, self-criticism, and… What’s the other one? Worry, self-criticism, pressure. When I tried to drop those and place them with truer things for me, I became so much kinder to the people around me. I felt so much kindness to the people around me because I was being more kind to myself, which meant that I was being my true self more because the true self is always kind, it’s pure love.
So when you sit with somebody who says… For example, I left my religion that year that I didn’t lie. And that was like… That is considered number one, the only thing worst than murder for the religion I was born into, but also a complete departure from everyone who ever loved you and a betrayal of anyone who ever loved you, who is in the faith. So people felt hurt by leaving my religion. They felt super duper, maybe… I don’t know, lifelong hurt. I don’t know. As long as they’re connected to a series of thoughts that say, “Now Martha’s going to hell, I’ll never see her in the life beyond and she hates me.” Whatever the lie stream is, they may suffer from that.
But what I want to do is say, whether you’ve left your religion or not, your essence is perfect in my eyes, and I will always love you. So I try to act that way and I try not to be reactive and to project those things, pressure, fear, and criticism at other people. But I promise you the way to make yourself into a kinder person is to change the internal way in which you treat your true self. If you treat it as the pure, innocent, perfect being that it is, and all the other parts start to melt into the embrace of peace, you become a walking fountain of love for the people around you. I haven’t achieved that full time, but I’ve met people who have, and I know it’s possible.
City Lotus says, “How do we honor our integrity in environments where it’s not emotionally safe to be authentic? For instance, with narcissists, et cetera. Should we say we’re playing a role for this situation?”
Yes, actually. When I got to the end of my year of lying and I’d left my church and everything, I realized that if I were in Nazi Germany and I had hidden a family of Jews in the basement and the Nazis came looking for Jews, I would lie and say I didn’t have them in the basement and I would feel moral about it. So I thought about that and I realized, oh, in an insane situation, sometimes telling all the truth is just self-sacrifice. And actually, when you get into integrity, it will tell you exactly when to stay silent, when to speak all your truth. There is privacy in integrity, and there is good sense in integrity.
One of my African American friends said to me… I was like, “It’s all about integrity.” And she said, “That’s a privilege.” And I was like, “No, it’s just telling the truth.” And she said, “That is a privilege.” And I just thought, “Oh my God, I have been so in my white entitlement here.” Of course, it’s like… This system is insane in its degree of racism, in my opinion. And when you’re in a system that’s insane, don’t go, “I’m gay.” Being gay and Uganda is a lethal offense. They will kill you for being gay. I’m not going to go to Uganda unannounced and wave my pride flag. I’ll do it where it’s a saner system, but I’m not going to sacrifice myself to insanity. Just like Eckhart Tolle, I’m not going to sacrifice my mind and my health to insanity just to meet a deadline that somebody else put up arbitrarily.
So go to your inner guide to really feel what’s in integrity to speak and when it’s in integrity to let yourself be silent and to stay safe, you really need to stay safe. And there are a lot of environments that are not safe.
Another book club question. “How do you must up the straw to keep going when it seems insurmountable?”
I think there’s a difficult level of strength you have to access to live your integrity, which is why so few people make the change. How do you speak and act during the early days of finding your integrity? Again, slow and easy does it. When Dante gets to the third part of The Divine Comedy, which is purgatory, it’s where he’s going to purge himself of untruth so that he’ll be ready for paradise. And the way he does that is by climbing a mountain and everybody has to climb this mountain, apparently. So they’re all these people going up the mountain and they’re all super happy, even though it’s hard because they know they’re on the path and their happiness is certain because they’re on the path. But at the beginning, it’s so steep and there’s no path and people are just walking around the base going. “I don’t even… I don’t know, I can’t really face that.” And we’ve certainly seen that in our own lives, seeing people saying, “Yeah, I’d love to live a different life, but well, it’s just too hard.”
The way Dante gets around it is he says, “I yearned so intensely to rise,” that he basically passes out and an angel comes and carries him up the first few steps. And this really struck me because for my whole coaching career, I focused so strongly on the idea of yearning. What I always ask clients is, you make a list of things you want. Maybe you have a bucket list. You want to go to Iceland, you want to have a pony. You want to have a shiny red car, whatever, and you really want those things. But when you wake up in the dark of night, what do you yearn to experience? And that’s a different sensation. And there are very few things that people have told me they yearn for and it always is like, peace, love, belonging, safety, joy, freedom, things like that. There’s just this little ball of existential qualities that everybody yearns to feel because we already are connected to them with our true selves and we want to be whole.
So when you’re first going up those hard, hard steps, when you’re first breaking with your culture, when you’re first speaking your truth, you need to go back often to your yearning. And just one of the things you can do is pretend that you’re yearning to be free and to be yourself is already realize… This is in the book. Pretend that the people around you are all supporting your true self and cheering for you. Just pretend and feel what that feels like. And then move back into, “Oh, I can’t do this, this is too hard.” And then move into pretending that it’s already happened. And then move back. This is from a psychoneuro immunologist named Mario Martinez, who studies mind, body connection. And this toggling back in and forth between experiencing the feeling you yearn for, which you do when you pretend it’s true, and then going back into, “Oh, but I can’t. I can’t it’s too hard.”
The thing about pretend it’s true and it makes you strong is because the thing you’re pretending is true. The I don’t have the strength, I can’t do it is actually not true. The I am infinitely strong and I can live in integrity is truer. It’s just that you’ve never been allowed to feel it. And as you go back and forth between the two, you actually gain strength, you drop the lie. The lie can’t sustain over these repetitions. So try that technique. It’s in the book and it’s also in Mario Martinez’s work and I really encourage you to give it a whirl. You’ll get up those first few steps, and it really does get easier as you move. It really, really gets easier toward the top.
Lynn says, “You’ve said we can ask the universe for anything and it’s immediately sent to us, but it’s sent to our true home address, which is peace. What if I’m having a difficult time finding a sense of peace?”This question is for all of us. And for those of you who haven’t heard me say that, I meant to live in peace means that peace is our real home address. And the interesting thing about finding peace, is for me, and I’ve watched clients do this too 100 of times. In a state of peace, all these things we’ve asked for in the world, material things, events, relationships, they start to find us. And it’s as if they’ve been mailed to our peace and they’re waiting for us like a bunch of packages strewn around waiting for us to come home and get them home to peace. So at first, as I said, it’s very difficult. Peace is paradise and you have to really get a beat on your integrity to get that high on the mountain, but you can do it in bits. And I just told you about an exercise you can do to feel it in bits.
Let’s all right now, take this minute, this very red-hot second, and realize that nothing around you is threatening you right now. Here’s one of my favorite exercises. It’s in the book too. Just say, “I allow everything in the universe to be as it is right now. I’m not going to struggle in this moment to make anything in the universe be different than it is.” ‘Cause you really can’t change that much anyway. Just think about it to the furthest galaxy, right to what’s happening to the bacteria in the dirt under your house. Like you’re not going to be able to change much. So just say, “I allow everything in the universe to just be as it is right now. I’m not going to fight it, I’m not going to struggle.” That’s a tiny taste of peace. That’s what happened to Ro today when I said, “Just go limp for an hour and surrender to the fact that you are tired.”
And she was still tired when she got up and started doing things, but because she’d surrendered her resistance to the tiredness, somehow she wasn’t in that hellish fatigue anymore. She was just in… She was in the river of the way things are. And the river of the way things are, that’s what actually we come to trust when we start telling our own truth. So let’s go to our final Oprah person question.
My question is how do we remain steadfast in our pursuit of collective healing when the world appears to be deteriorating at such an accelerated pace? It feels like we don’t have time.
Well, the best we can do to establish peace in the world, the absolute most power we will ever have is over our internal state. If you drop into a place of internal peace right now, you become a pathway through which the greater powers that be can pour peace, love, joy, integrity into the world. So you just did that right now. And then what happens, I said, there’s a river of the way things are. And what you will find, it’s just like with Ro, she was completely exhausted today, but when she relinquished all her resistance to the truth, ’cause I think there was a part of her going, “I mustn’t be tired, I have to get up and work.” And that was pressure on the self, that was self-criticism, not true.
So when she said, “I’m really exhausted and I don’t have to do anything right this moment,” what happened is she fell into the river of the way things are. In Chinese, it’s called the dao, the way, the flow of harmony through the universe and all the great mystics have talked about the way. Jesus said, “I am the way.” And he was talking about his true self, not the little humans things that have flicked us all, but the great peaceful self that is the way home. So when you drop into that peace, you may be picked up by the river and taken at a very enormous rate. And we talk in our coaching system a lot about how it’s like being thrown forward by the current, by flowing water that says, “This is the way things are going to be and here’s your place in it. Here’s your place in it when you are really true to yourself.”
If you read Glennon Doyle’s work, it’s all about how out coming out of addiction, coming out of false identity, finding herself, if you read Untamed where she talks about leaving her marriage and coming into harmony with Abby her wife. She didn’t just lie there when she got into integrity. She created these huge social movements and has raised all this money and done all these incredible activist things. And her slogan, “We can do hard things,” doesn’t come from her pushing herself. It comes from the river. It comes from the way. It comes from the dao of dropping all pretense and allowing ourselves to let go of trying to control the universe, which is a ridiculous thing and not really honest to believe that we can control the universe. But when we stop trying to control it, we realize in peace, when we are in peace, we become instruments of the universe and it is way more powerful than one little person fighting against reality.
So getting in to integrity, allowing the alignment of all those parts, doesn’t just make you a happier, healthier person. It makes you this incredible portal through which the energy of healing, love and truth can come into the world. And by the way, look how quickly things changed when the pandemic started. Boom, when we all get together and we all have the same intention, we can change things fast. And maybe we don’t have time, but I like to believe that we do, because when I say we do, I feel more at peace, so I figure that’s the truth.
Finally, someone says, “How do you say to yourself you’re meant to living peace when everything around you is extremely upsetting? For example, you fear the war coming to your country, nuclear war, cetera. I am from Eastern Europe.”
This is where the rubber really meets the road. When the monster is really coming or appears to be coming. I had a beautiful client who became a coach and she lived in Kuwait during the invasion by Iraq. And she was in a neighborhood that got bombed and the neighbors got killed and it was terrifying. And I said, “How did you do that? How did you live through it?” And she said, “Well, first of all, you do what you must in the present moment. Your timeframe shrinks to what do I do now, now, now? And if you’re really aware and open, you do find that you make better decisions when you’re really present. So the presence thing becomes absolutely essential.” And then she said, “And what I realized is that at times like these, you either lose God or you find God. And I chose to find God.”
Now, I know the G word makes a lot of people uncomfortable. And when I say the dao or your truth or your true self, I mean the same thing. So vocabulary not withstanding. When you are really under pressure, when things are really, really difficult, that’s when the greatest potential for a breakthrough into your true self becomes available. So Nelson Mandela in prison in Robin Island. Harriet Tubman in slavery, helping people go free. People who have been under that extreme pressure are the great souls because when they…
Leonard Cohen says, “There’s a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.” Well, if you are shattered open by terrible events and they are legitimately terrible, you can become a vast opening for the forces of good. It depends on whether you ever lied to yourself about your own place, in your own ability to cope with this. When you realize that your true self is part of the divine force and that if you allow total truth to come through you, if you drop everything with presence and your fear goes away, you become this… Roomy called it a mighty kindness. He says when you are absolutely unable to do anything, except say, “I’m going to lie here mute and say, ‘I give up, I totally surrender to what’s happening.'” He says, “Then a stretcher comes from grace to gather us up, even if it’s only in the heart.” And then he said, “We become a mighty kindness.”
So for those of you in Eastern Europe right now, especially Ukraine, our love, our hope, our peace, our everything we can send to you in any way we can send it. I just want to shout out to you guys. You are love, you are power, you are strength, and you will make it through this one way or another with your true self in complete integrity. So with that great love to all of us struggling in all our different paths through life. And thank you, thank you, thank you for joining me here on this really special Gathering Room.
Love, love, love to all of you.
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