Integral living

Right now, or when you have the time, take a slow deep breath, hold it gently to a count of four, and as you release it, land fully in the here and now, grounding deeply in your body. Take some more breaths like this. Then on the inhales, feel the fullness and oneness of your breath, your sensing, your feeling, your awareness, all as one in the now. On the exhales, close your eyes and let it all go, simply releasing everything—body, breath, mind, self—into a sense of oneness. Give yourself the time to experience this as a gift to yourself. Notice how you feel.

Integration in the now, and the oneness of now, are basically simple. But in a human life, especially in the complexity of the world in which we live, and in the holiday season at that — that seems anything but simple. And yet the simplicity of the now remains. We recognize it is always now, even when we are rushing, or lost in the past or future.

How do we navigate these two seemingly impossibly opposite realms? In the hectic pace of life, or in the hectic disorder — or the limited order — of our own minds, do we even acknowledge the simplicity? It doesn't seem to come naturally to us, like growing older. Nature doesn't seem to provide this for us as some natural instinct. So as humans we can feel left out in the cold, on our own.

We could call it the art of living, and it comes from a deeper nature. It takes intention, dedication, and the willingness to open to something beyond the life that we know (or think we know). I call this the Practice of Presence. It takes practice but is essentially an opening into the wholeness that we already are. It has been taught in one form or another in all the great spiritual traditions.

And at the basis of them all is a practice of presence. We might say it has two aspects: one is the accessing of pure Presence or Oneness, and the other is applying this, living this fully. We could call this formal and informal meditation. Together we might call this integral, providing a deep sense of integration. Without a direct access to that Presence, without a living experience of that, it is more difficult to live that in our lives and in the world. And if our access to Presence is confined to a special place or time, what about the rest of our life?

To begin with, we might tune in to our natural breathing, to its natural rhythm of inhaling and exhaling, filling and emptying, while always being in the now.

Many years ago, I learned a practice that helped me deeply access Presence through the natural vehicles of body, breath, and attention. It was the wisdom of the East brought here to us in the West. Ever since then I've been practicing that intensively, exploring its applications and implications in this mystery we call a human life — in thinking, feeling, perceiving, relating, doing, and simply being.

So this is my orientation. It is not about achieving integral living by taking a little bit of this and a little bit of that and the other, and trying to juggle it all in something resembling a balanced and full life. It is about living the Presence in life, so that the body, breath, life force, emotions, mind, and self sense become aligned with Presence and become portals and vehicles of Presence, within ourselves and with the people and circumstances with which we interact.

Blessings on your journey through the holidays. Keep breathing, keep living — simply, presently.

Ed Hirsch, a local writer and teacher will offer Integral Living, Contact him at for more information.

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