The whole process of spiritual growth is confronting oneself—Sri Bhagavan
There are many practices that help you grow spiritually, such as prayer, meditation, chanting, silent contemplation, spending time in nature, serving others, positive affirmations and feeling grateful—to name a few.
While these practices are effective, perhaps one of the fastest self-practice exercises you can use to leapfrog your spiritual growth is the practice of inner integrity.
What Is Inner Integrity?
Inner integrity is the act of turning inwards and tuning into your innermost thoughts and emotions while being honest about what you’re seeing and feeling without judgment.
Observing without judging as good or bad is crucial for this practice.
We’re all human and a-such we come with imperfections, and that’s ok. However, our problems arise when we strive to hide what we really are, not just to ourselves, but also to the outside world.
Some people are prepared to go to extreme lengths so others don’t discover the truth about them, but in hiding the truth from others you also hide the truth from yourself.
When you start to go inward, there may be many unpleasant characteristics you uncover, which may be initially uncomfortable to face.
You may, for example, learn that you’re selfish, unkind, mean, greedy, aggressive in nature or you may see that you’re not the nice the person you portray yourself to be.
Although it can feel very distressing to discover such truths about yourself, believe it or not, avoiding these truths is a hindrance to your growth.
Painting over the qualities you dislike about yourself so they appear prettier and more palatable to the outside world, is actually doing you a disservice because it keeps you stuck in the negative cycle of needing to create more and more untruths.
Learning the practice of inner integrity, helps you begin the journey of seeing, acknowledging, facing, accepting, experiencing and finally healing your most unpleasant thoughts and emotions that are keeping you stuck, so they dissipate and no longer cause an obstruction to your spiritual growth, transformation and happiness.
It’s only through facing the darkest parts of yourself that you gain inner and outer freedom.
How To Practice Inner Integrity
Start by sitting somewhere quiet and make yourself comfortable. You can do this at home or out in nature. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out slowly, allowing your thoughts to come and go for some time. When you feel ready, start to reflect on your life, looking at all the events from your childhood to the present day.
This is a gradual process so don’t try to see everything at once, start with sitting for between 15-20 minutes and increase the time as you progress.
You may find in the beginning that you don’t have the courage to face everything you’re seeing and feeling, so you may try to avoid seeing and feeling what’s there.
Don’t worry, this is normal, don’t force yourself to see or feel what you’re not ready for. Take a break and try again another time.
Next time try to allow the unpleasant thoughts and feelings to come up and when they do, do your best to stay with them without pushing them away, try to experience them fully.
It’s not important to give a name to what you’re feeling—experiencing your feelings fully, is what matters here.
Deal with small chunks at a time and work through all you’re seeing and feeling with honesty and without judgment.
You may need to look at or deal with particular issues more than once, but that’s ok. Take your time. You will gain more and more insight into your inner workings the more time you spend looking.
Here are 6 ways practising inner integrity will help your spiritual growth.
You Learn To Start Dealing With Your unresolved Emotions
You know it’s your unresolved emotions that have the greatest capacity to disrupt your life.
Negative emotions such as hate, grief, anger, shame, guilt and fear that most of us avoid experiencing, are the most problematic because they get trapped in our bodies.
These unresolved emotions can lead to problems in our relationships, trigger destructive behaviours such as addictions and manifest as physical symptoms such as diseases.
The practice of inner integrity puts a halt to the process of avoiding your negative emotions and helps you to see all emotions as opportunities to learn something new about yourself so you can grow.
Inner integrity will help you not only uncover your trapped emotions but to also accept and face them head-on.
Dealing with your unresolved emotions leads to inner freedom, wisdom and so much growth.
Stops You Lying To Yourself
We are all guilty of telling lies—I know I certainly am, but if you take time to be a witness to your own inner dialogue, you will quickly discover just how often you lie to yourself.
But can you see that lying to yourself is a huge hindrance to your spiritual growth?
Because the lies you tell yourself can be so subtle you may not even realize you’re lying. You know which ones I mean—it’s those little white lies you tell yourself, especially when you’re trying to justify wrongdoing.
Think of all the situations you lie to yourself to make yourself feel better about the things you know you shouldn’t be doing.
Like for example, you could be binge eating on chocolates then you tell yourself it’s ok because it’s dark chocolate, which is healthy (I’ve used this one).
Lying to yourself is detrimental to your spiritual growth because it encourages a delusional reality—the reality created by your mind.
This fake reality only serves to mask the truth and keeps you imprisoned in your limited perceptions and illusions.
The practice of inner integrity gently and gradually brings you into awareness of the untruths you’re telling yourself and will additionally show you just how damaging lying to yourself is to the relationship you have with yourself.
See, you can never really know who you are, discover or break your negative patterns or live happily in your own skin if you keep deluding yourself.
Practising inner integrity encourages an honest dialogue with yourself.
When you start having an open, honest relationship with yourself, you will automatically see how quickly the quality of relationships you have with others begins to improve.
Stops You Lying To Others
We all know that telling lies to others breaks trust, creates conflict and destroys relationships.
However, it can equally be more damaging to creating healthy relationships if you indiscriminately tell the truth in every situation, without any thought for the potential consequences this could have.
You must use both common sense and compassion, in determining when it’s appropriate or not to tell the truth.
Sometimes telling the whole truth to someone can be very hurtful, which does more harm than good.
Your aim is not to hurt other people’s feelings with stark honesty.
Your purpose is to build loving relationships where trust, understanding, respect and open communication are developed.
Maintaining and not destroying relationships is the objective with inner integrity.
When you practice non-judgmental introspection, over time, you become better able to see, accept and fall in love with the whole truth about yourself, whatever that might be.
Falling in love with your inner truth breaks the destructive pattern of needing to lie to others because you now have nothing to hide.
Additionally, inner integrity will uncover the root cause driving your lies. So once you expose and heal the reason for your lies, you will be released from the heavy burden deceiving yourself and others creates.
This will, in turn, lead to increased trust in yourself and will allow you to better trust others and have them trust you in return.
You Become Aware Of Your Internal Dialogue
When you start to sit quietly in contemplation for 15-20 minutes every day, you will become aware of your internal dialogue—that endless chatter, which for many of us is an incessant mental noise.
We are all familiar with the voice in our head that has an opinion and makes arbitrary commentaries on everything we see and do in life aren’t we?
Becoming aware of the focus of this chatter will help you access your suffering, your fears, hopes and dreams.
You will begin to understand whether your thoughts are negative or positively aligned to these dreams, and you will gain clarity on whether your thoughts have you stuck in the past, future or in the present.
Without the ability to fully expose and confront your fears, suffering as well as your dreams, you are powerless to make the required changes your life may require.
Although it’s true that change is hard and can sometimes be scary because it takes you out of the certainty of the known and throws you into the unchartered waters of the unknown, it is very necessary for growth.
In order to grow, you have to be able to step outside your comfort zone and challenge your fears.
Practising inner integrity teaches you that your fears are only creations of your mind. So the more you practice, the easier it becomes to see past your fears and the less power they have to limit your potential.
Stops Negative Self Talk
All of us have a voice inside that either encourages what we’re doing and tells us we can achieve anything we want or criticizes and tells us we’re never going to amount to anything.
Depending on whether this inner voice is encouraging or critical, determines whether or not we achieve our goals.
The truth is self-condemnation is the surest way to block your success in life.
Yet being able to identify negative self-talk can present a huge challenge for many people because we’re so used to habitually putting ourselves down.
Negative critique has become just another feature of the unconscious mental noise in our minds that we accept as normal.
However, negative self-talk is destructive, stressful, lowers self-esteem and can lead to depression.
If you think back to times when you’ve felt depressed, you’ll probably notice that a feature of your depression was how much you put yourself down.
By taking the time to go inwards through the practice of inner integrity, you’ll begin to listen and observe this inner voice. On top of that, you will also awaken your consciousness to the negative statements you make about yourself.
This process helps you recognize how these statements disempower and make you feel helpless.
The awareness alone of your negative self-talk has the power to immediately change the dynamic because you’re now able to catch your self-critic in action.
So instead of accepting what this inner voice is saying, you’ll have the power to replace negative statements with the positive affirmations that align you with whatever you want to achieve in life.
Sharpens Your Inner Awareness
Awareness is the greatest tool to help you turn your life into all you want it to be.
Because the act of proactively bringing awareness into your everyday unconscious actions by self-observation eventually turns these actions into purposeful conscious projects that bring you the success and happiness you deserve in life.
When your awareness is sharpened, you become more mindful of the thoughts and emotions driving your actions.
You’re better able to recognize the choices you’ve made in life that have lead you to where you are today—you accept that it’s ultimately you who is responsible for where you are.
This understanding stops you blaming anyone—yourself or anyone else and you develop the courage to live more authentically with yourself and others.
Just take 15-20 minutes every day to practice inner integrity and watch yourself grow and your life transform.