Integrity Exercises

Practice of the Week
Integrity Exercises

Category: OCCASIONAL or WORTH A TRY. Some of these are good one-time exercises to do -- and mabye re-do every once in a while -- quarterly or annually, say. Some practices in this category are great for responding to a particular need that may arise in your life. Others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. Among these practices you may find the one particular practice that becomes "Your Thing" -- your main and central spiritual practice -- or a Key Supporting Practice. Most of these are worth a try one time, even if you never do them again.

Integrity entails being clear about your values, and acting consistently with your values. Are you clear about your values? Do your self-proclaimed values match how others see you? Exercise #1 invites you to wrestle with these questions.

Exercise #1: Your Values

1. Look over this list of values and select the FIVE that are most important to you.
balance (work/life)
mentoring others
financial stability
hard work
humor/ fun
job security
personal growth
physical fitness
social justice

2. Show this list to someone close to you and ask them to pick the values they think are most important to you – without letting them know which ones you picked earlier.

3. Compare lists and discuss the differences, as well as why each of you picked what you did.

4. Here are some additional questions and an activity to explore more:
  • From your selected five values, which one would like to live into more fully?
  • What were your parent(s) five core values? In what way are your core values and theirs the most same and the most different?
  • Which of your core values are most directly and deeply related to your UU faith? i.e. which value would not be on the list if it wasn’t for your faith?
  • What’s the newest value to make it on to your list of top five? Which value did it “replace”? Did that happen consciously? Or did the shift sneak up on you?
  • Try the free online Personal Values Assessment from the Barrett Values Centre: Personal Values Assessment (PVA) - Barrett Values Centre
* * *

Integrity is about acting in alignment with our values, honestly and faithfully. In this sense, it is forward-looking. But integrity also is about looking backward. It’s also about how well we remember. Important life lessons come our way. Some of them stick and some slip away. Our integrity is determined by whether we remember them or forget, whether we hold our life lessons close or let them evaporate. Exercise #2 asks: What life lessons do you want to make an extra effort to remember?

Exercise #2: Remembering Our Way into Integrity

Create a list of “5 life lessons I want to remember.” Think of it as self-talk. As your better self-helping your forgetful self-return to your center. Pull out a sheet of paper or pull up a document on your computer or phone and type out a list numbered 1-5. Then spend a week or two coming back to your list and filling it in with the pieces of wisdom or advice that are important to you but that you also often forget.

Here are some example reminders to get you thinking. Remember that:
failure stings but regret haunts;
masks that stay on too long will stick to my skin;
assuming good intentions is not only kind-hearted but also creates those good intentions in others;
the only audience I am really trying to please is myself;
I always have a choice;
I am different not less;
everyone is carrying pain, even if I can’t see it, so be kind;
I’m not the only one that feels like an imposter;
if they ask me to keep a piece of me hidden, this is not where I belong;
I’ve already “made it” and I’m already enough, so I can put the striving and the proving down whenever I need to;
they will likely laugh or leave but do it anyway.

* * *

Exercise #3 also asks us to explore the connection between integrity and memory. Instead of asking us to remember a specific value or life lesson, it asks us to remember all of who we are. It’s a reminder that integrity is about finding and holding on to our wholeness.

Exercise #3: Name Your Many Names

"Each of Us Has a Name," by Israeli poet, Zelda (1914-1984), tells us that integrity is a matter not so much of holding tight to your one true name, but remembering and embracing the many names given to us by the experiences of our lives.

Each of Us Has a Name

Each of us has a name, given by God –
given by our parents.
Each of us has a name, given by our stature –
and our smile –
and given by what we wear.
Each of us has a name, given by the mountain –
given by our walls.

Each of us has a name, given by the stars –
given by our neighbors.
Each of us has a name, given by our sins –
given by our longing.
Each of us has a name, given by our enemies –
given by our love.
Each of us has a name, given by our celebrations –
given by our work.

Each of us has a name, given by the seasons –
given by our blindness.
Each of us has a name, given by the sea –
given by our death.

Suzzy and Maggie Roche produced a sung version of Zelda’s poem. You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsI1m-kRBtA

The poem mentions 19 sources of naming: God (or Love), parents, our stature, our smile, what we wear, the mountain, our walls, the stars, our neighbors, our sins, our longing, our enemies, our love, our celebrations (holidays), our work, the seasons, our blindness (closed-mindedness), the sea, our death (mortality).

How have each of these 19 “named you”? How do those names call you back to integrity? Spend a few hours, or a few days, going through Zelda’s poem line by line. How have each of those experiences imprinted itself on you and added a dimension to the wholeness and integrity of who you are?

Imagine each of the 19 saying to you, “You are _____” or “I name you _____.”
You are asking yourself: How did my first God experience say to me: “You are …”?
How has my relationship with my parents said to me: “You are …”?
How has my experience with mountains/nature said to me: “You are …”?
How has my experience with my shadow side or mistakes (“sins”) said to me: “You are …”?
And so on for all 19.

After answering the questions, consider assembling all your names into a list that functions as a poem of sorts. What surprised you about this exercise? What insights did you gain?

These exercises are from the 2021 Mar issue of On the Journey.

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