It’s suddenly mid-July. I’m in the throes of managing my library’s Children’s Summer Reading Program. My own children are galavanting about through the swirling, time-bending vortex that is summer break. My grad school program starts in 22 days. Each sun-soaked hour seems to both last forever and zip past at the same time. The calendar is packed, the laundry & dishes are overflowing. We’re constantly running out of something. There are endless balls in the air at work, at home, within and around me. I worry I am going to fail to catch and release one (or more) at just the right time. There is so much in motion, I often feel poised on the brink of.… Well, I’m not even sure what of, but it certainly feels precarious more often than not.
My life is bountiful and blessed right now. It is also chaotic and anxiety-producing. And I’m trying to get a handle on myself somewhere within all that. I have learned, after just shy of a decade’s worth of practicing the Avalonian Tradition as a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon, that what I need right now is a little dash of Integration.
Variations on the Wheel of the Year abound within Pagan traditions and the Tradition I belong to is no different in that we do have a seasonal Cycle that anchors our work. However, working the Wheel in the Avalonian Tradition means engaging the work of what we call the Cycle of Healing. The quartered circle of the Cycle of Healing would look fairly familiar to most Pagans, but instead of the eight spokes of cross-quarter and fire festivals, we mark only the full moons of the fire festivals as our four Holy Days: Calan Gaeaf (Lunar Samhain), Gwyl Mair (Lunar Imbolc), Calan Haf (Lunar Beltane), and Gwyl Awst (Lunar Lughnasadh). Each Holy Day corresponds to a Station in the Cycle of Healing; Descent, Confrontation, Emergence, and Resolution. (For more on the Avalonian Cycle of Healing, see Jhenah Telyndru’s book, Avalon Within: A Sacred Journey of Myth, Mystery, and Inner Wisdom.)
Our Cycle of Healing has five Stations, however, and it is this fifth Station that seems, in my experience, to be both the hardest to grasp and the least openly discussed or practiced within the Sisterhood. In Avalon Within, Jhenah writes that Integration supports “the entire web of our soul’s unfolding” and “holds the core truth of who we are — whole and fully connected to the Goddess.” In my personal practice, I’ve found that this is the Station that brings it all together. Without it, I just keep spinning round and round, unable to hold on to meaningful shifts in my life from year to year. It’s when I do the work of Integration that the cumulative efforts of all my spiritual work throughout the year makes the biggest permanent impact on who I am and how I move through the world around me as a whole and sovereign woman.
In other words, Integration is a vitally important process that should not be skipped over. But when is one suppose to make space for this essential part of the Work?
The Station of Integration sits at the center of our Cycle in visual representations — and symbolically. But Integration is also ever-present; always available as a bridge between the other four Stations. Or as a bridge between days, or even mere moments in my life. Integration never fails me because whenever I choose to turn and tap into that energetic, to draw up that sense of wholeness from the core of both myself and the Cycle, it is always there. So, there are really an infinite number of answers to the question or when to Integrate.
When should one do the work of Integration? At any time, really. Learning when to engage in Integration is, I believe, actually an incredibly powerful exercise in personal sovereignty because instead of being told when to Integrate by an outside structure or authority — by another person, or a book, or a calendar — it is a moment you determine wholly on your own. The Cycle may say it’s Resolution time right now, but for me to identify my own sovereign need for Integration and choose to meet that need over other competing demands, I find to be a very empowering process.
But what does it look like when I mindfully choose to engage it? For me, Integration is when I step so fully into my sovereignty that I say “Stop.” I shed all internal and external expectations that I will keep up with the Cycle, do my seasonal Station workings, stay on top of all the things — all the cycles within Cycle. For the spanse of that Integration, I let go. I get still. I stop doing. Integration is that precious moment when I just am. While all the crazy whirls around me, while the spiritual and everyday to do lists continue to grow exponentially, I just say “No” to all of it for a moment and let all that I am come home to rest wholly and holy within me.
For me, I primarily create that space in my practice by taking a break from the work of the other Stations whenever I need it. While the Avalonian Tradition does have a few Integration-specific tools, there really are so many options for designing your own. A friend once told me her favorite Integration tool was a nap. I find a nice, long hike is one of mine. Or a scalding hot shower and cozy socks. A glass of whisky sipped slowly in silence on the front porch. Dancing it out. Re-reading my journal between Integrations is helpful in placing the threads of recent events in the larger tapestry of my life. Examining, shifting, or reinvigorating my daily practice is also something I often do when working with Integration. Again, charting my own course through the process of re-membering myself, of reconnecting with Spirit and Self and Service, is that exercise in sovereignty that helps me to Integrate all the growth, all the healing, all the lessons learned into the being that I am in this moment.
I believe this process of coming back into yourself, of acknowledging one’s wholeness in the moment can be especially powerful during challenging times, when we are feeling desperate, disconnected, hopeless, scattered, stressed, etc. Reminding ourselves that we are whole and holy right now, seems vital to me as part of how we build sustainability into our continued quest for justice and wholeness and healing in our greater communities. So, Pagan (of any flavor) or not, I encourage you to seek out integrative practices in your own spiritual traditions and use them to keep yourself whole in fractured times as we all continue to do our best to be of service to ourselves, our communities, and our gods. May the blessings of Integration be yours!
Kate M. Brunner is a writer, healer, ritualist, & member of The Sisterhood of Avalon. During 2018, she will be presenting at the SOA’s annual online conference, AvaCon, as a part of Land, Sea, Sky Travel’s “A Year With Our Gods” online conference series, & at the third annual Ninefold Festival in the Colorado Springs area. Kate’s work is published in Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd and The Goddess in America: The Divine Feminine in Cultural Context.