“Integrate,” “Integrated,” “Integrative” – What Do They Mean?

My son has an amazing way with words. He can spell, play word games, and write poetry with a flair. I marvel at these things all the more when I remember his apparent aversion to such things while in middle school. He would use generalizations when talking, to the point that it was often difficult to tell what he was actually saying. Every noun, it seemed, was identified as “that thing.” Verbs became, “you know, kind of…did something.” Or, he would use words like “lame,” and I would ask if he understood the meaning of that word. “It doesn’t matter,” he would reply. “It doesn’t mean that to me.” He would often add, “Words are stupid.” I would respond by regularly trying to persuade him that words mean things, and they help us communicate. One day, however, some sort of magical switch was flipped and he discovered that he, too, could enjoy the wonderful world of words.

With all this in mind, it’s a little odd that the meaning of “integrative medicine” is suddenly becoming clearer to me. I listened to quite a few practitioners in integrative medicine during my training as a health coach last year. I caught the vision of addressing a “whole person” each time I see a client. I was excited to look at the overall balance of my own life, focusing on areas that were needing attention. Yet, recently, some aspects of integration in life have come to the forefront in new ways, especially as I have been working with clients.

Part of what I enjoy about working with clients is that, inevitably, as I coach them, they are also coaching me, and I am even coaching myself. As a client describes to me the discovery that slowing down to cook a meal is a pleasant reminder to relax and enjoy the food, taking time to reflect and appreciate the small gifts in life, I listen. As I listen, I am reminded that I, too, have had a similar revelation, and that perhaps I have drifted from that perspective.

Lately, the concept of integration has been surfacing for my clients, and for me, too. Seeing the aspects of our lives that we tend to compartmentalize and thinking through ways to break down those divisions can be truly freeing. But, how can we do that, and what does it look like?

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I looked up the word “integrate.” The primary definition came up as simply “unite.” So, related words include “unity” and “unified.” Unifying the disparate aspects of my own life can mean anything from using “cleaner” body care products as I clean up my diet, to getting clear about my career goals and saying “no” to good projects that distract me from those goals. One thing I think it might mean for me in the near future is to unify my online activities. Currently, I am maintaining 2 websites, 2 blogs, facebook, Twitter, and Pintrest accounts, 3 email accounts, numerous online subscriptions, and a few other odds and ends. Does that sound like a lot? Just typing it all out makes the picture a little clearer for me!

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Integration also means aligning the way I present myself to the world. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I am pursuing both art and health coaching. But increasingly, I’m wanting to unite those things. I’m realizing that some people only know me as one or the other, when I truly am both, and passionate about both.

What will that ultimately look like? Not sure, but working on it. Perhaps that is what’s at the heart of any integrative practice – noticing that every aspect of who you are affects every other area.

What about you? Are you finding ways to integrate your life? I’d love to hear about it.

 

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