Our book group read this book, and even though none of us felt like we were suffering, or out of alignment with our truth, we got some things out of it. The author, life coach Martha Beck, uses both Dante’s Inferno, as well as her own experience of harnessing her own truth, to explain the importance of finding and living your own.
The author resolved not to tell a single lie for a whole year. She claims doing so will free you from innumerable errors, and I can see that this is true. It will change every aspect of your life. You’ll no longer go along saying what society expects you to, just to be nice. This take-no-prisoners approach is not so easy, though, because most of our cultures are not designed for it. We tend to acquiesce to and defend our cultures, rather than go against them to get what we need.
We understand this all too well, since last year my husband and I promised ourselves to do only 9’s and 10’s (see that blog post here) and have found out pretty fast how hard that is to do. We compromise ourselves all too often, in too many little ways, which this author calls lying, and in a way it is. When we do that we are out of our integrity; we sacrifice a bit of ourselves to be “nice” to others, or conform to what is expected.
Also not lying addresses huge impositions you don’t feel like you can do anything about, or helps us avoid those pitfalls. Like in my article about being a structural engineer, I could learn to be a good engineer, but that path was not deeply authentic for me, even though it got me to where I am now. I would have been far better served by staying in my integrity, and standing up earlier for what I really needed, than take such a decades long detour.
She imagines a world where we all actually routinely find ways to stay in our integrity– regardless– and shows that it will bring us peace, health, and alignment. Yes, when she bravely lived aligned with her integrity, she actually was healed of an “incurable” physical problem. I do not find this surprising, for I see it all the time in my own work.
She would challenge assumptions, by asking over and over again “are you sure?” Question the beliefs that cause your suffering. Once you begin to objectively question it, its days are numbered. This tool is important to utilize and remember. We are rarely sure of our limiting beliefs, and doubting them is the first step to shedding them. She quotes Kant saying, “Can I absolutely know that is true?”
I think it is brilliant that she advocates 1% corrections. Anyone can do 1% better today than yesterday. Minuscule events accumulate over time, and every choice against our highest truth, even if it is trivial, makes us more likely to self-sabotage. We need to whittle away all of those, one at a time.
And to reverse fears, she recommends doing literally that. Being afraid that something terrible was going to happen to her because she wrote that expose, she turned it around to it to, “I’m going to happen to something terrible.” This diffused her fear right a way. Often in my work I teach people to reframe things, or identify and claim what we call “counterfacts.” This is yet another useful tool in the same line.
Here are the bits of the book I tabbed to share with you:
- “Many if us might use the word love to describe the kind of devotion spiders feel for flies. Spiders genuinely love flies (the way they taste, the way they crunch). They express that love by wrapping up any fly they can catch and keeping it close, slurping out its life force bit by bit. I’ve had many clients whose parents, friends, or lovers treated them this way. I call it “spider love,” though of course it is really not love at all; its a predator-prey relationship. Soul teachers never do that. Real love doesn’t want to be immobilized or attached… it wants to set us free.”
- “The first neuroscientists who studied decision-making were surprised to find that people who’d damaged the logical, calculating areas of their brains had no trouble making good choices. On the other hand, when people had damaged parts of their brains that handled emotion, they became very unable to make any kind of decision. They would weight options endlessly, dithering and comparing, but never moving forward.”
- “I exist in continuous creative response to whatever is present. Sacrificing our reflexive tendency toward destruction gives us access to a much greater power: creation.”
- Commune with the light: You are infinitely worthy. You are infinitely precious. You have always been enough. You will always be enough. There is no place you don’t belong. You are lovable. You are loved. You are love.”
- “Truth has legs.”
- “It boils down to this: peace is your home. Integrity is the way to it. Everything you long for will meet you there.”
Another benefit to the book is that you get the essence of Dante’s Inferno without having to read it!
I challenge you to more completely live in your integrity. If you are suffering at all– what Dante calls the dark woods of error– you are out of alignment with your integrity, and may well benefit from reading The Way of Integrity. I give it 4 stars.