THE LITMUS TEST: FOLLOWING THE WINDING TRAIL OF OUR CORE INTEGRITY
DR. BARRY HAMMER
“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”
Many years ago, when I was in high school chemistry lab, I was assigned to do a litmus test to determine where various chemicals fell on the continuum from acidic to alkaline or other base composition. I now view that litmus test as a metaphor for learning to discern how to live in harmonious alignment with my individual and relational core integrity from moment to moment. I have found that relying exclusively on analytical reasoning and apparent factual information of the mind, along with sensory data, cannot always provide me with the best possible insight into the experiential truth and energy flow of the moment, and how to appropriately function or flow in flexible, dynamic, rightful attunement with it. Instead, I have found that sometimes I feel intuitively guided to go beyond basing decisions entirely on available factual information by discerning what options of perception and action seem relatively consistent or inconsistent with an invisible subtle energy pulse of rightful integrity, involving nonselective integrated openness to my whole experiential truth and my naturally self-consistent indivisible whole real being, recognized as a distinctive energy tone of inner peace, warmhearted caring, empathic compassion, regenerative life energy, and lightness of spirit, in contrast to an antithetical energy tone of queasiness, biased presumptions, selective viewing, lack of self-consistency with the intrinsic wholeness and rightful goodness of my being and everyone’s being, inner agitation, coldhearted callousness, degenerative discord, as well as heaviness and darkness of spirit. When my perception and action is rightfully aligned with my heartfelt intuitive core integrity, then I feel that I am truly honoring the intrinsic goodness and preciousness of life or reality in myself, other individuals who I encounter, and the all-inclusive whole of being, rather than distorting, degrading, or cheapening my own truth and the truth of others by divorcing or distancing my perception and action from the real energy and experience flowing within and around me. Our core integrity is naturally inclined to be empathically understanding of and compassionately responsive to the legitimate needs and concerns of others because it is a relational self, a relational center, in contrast to the ego as an illusory, dualistically separated, divisive, narcissistically self-preoccupied sense of self or inner voice.
Attunement with my intuitively discerned core integrity heightens my receptive openness to limitless expansive possibilities and flexible creative insights, whereas my energies, options, and resources feel more blocked, fixated, contracted, constricted, and restricted when I permit myself to be distracted by narcissistic ego mind chatter, biased preconceived presumptions, demanding expectations, as well as rigid, fear-oriented modes of perception and action. Core integrity makes me feel more alert and grounded in real life energy experience, like following an inner GPS, compass, or beacon, whereas preconceived presumptions make me feel cut off from the actual flow of energy experience. We intuitively know that we are living in core integrity when we are willing to relate to, and cherish, what is actually experientially real in self and others rather than pursuing some kind of presumptive “ought to be” or desired “should be,” distorting our view of self and others by projecting various kinds of extraneous definitions, interpretations, idealized or disparaging images, and judgmental demanding expectations, and exploiting others to aggrandize our own narcissistic egos, as in Martin Buber’s distinction between I-Thou and I-It relationships.
When I am expansively connected to the relational flow of energy experience within and around myself, then I experience greater caring warmth of heart and vitality, whereas when I step out of that connective relational flow into narcissistic mind chatter, then I experience more inner coldness, inner numbing or deadening, and more blockage, constriction, or contraction of my own energies. This reminds me of melting/defrosting ice in my refrigerator, many years ago, (when the refrigerator needed to be cleaned out in preparation for the next tenant of a rented apartment that I was vacating), by repeatedly pouring hot water on the ice until large chunks of it suddenly came loose, all at once. Metaphorically speaking, I find that the warmth of expansive, empathically caring connection to other individuals and undistracted attentiveness to situations happening around me melts away much of the fearful , contracted, coldness and heavy denseness of my energies.
When I am abiding in the flow of my own core integrity, then I sometimes become more attuned to the joyful “song” and “dance” or vibratory rhythmic pulse of my own essential being, my own heart and soul, my true “perfect pitch.” However, resistively trying to escape from the natural imperfections or “rough edges” of life experience only produces an unhealthy process of inner and outer conflict, whereas I find that inner and outer healing naturally takes place when I show flexible loving compassion for the stuck and sticky places within and between us. I find that the best way to bring healing to my own inner pain and negativity is embrace it with love so that it can be consciously restored to the natural wholeness of my being and thereby healed, whereas when I negatively judge, blame, reject, and oppose my own fear, pain, and negativity, it fights me back, exacerbating disruptive inner and outer discord.
I believe that the best way to compassionately transform for the better our individual lives, personal relationships, local communities, particular social networks, and the whole world, is to select options that reflect alignment with our own distinctive, dynamically flexible, energy pulse of core integrity and ethical responsibility. For example, this involves selecting or developing lifestyles, careers, shared relational activities, consumer spending patterns, and voting behaviors that promote compassion, equity, sustainability, and expanded opportunities for everyone, rather than depleting individual and shared resources, opportunities, and freedoms in an unsustainable, contracting, manner. Like exercising a muscle to strengthen it, the only way to develop our intuitive core integrity, so that it will be available for us when we really need it, is to gradually practice tuning into the distinctive energy feeling tone of the “heart” core, center, depth, or essential level of our own being when the analytical calculations and apparent factual information of the mind and the sensory data of the body do not seem able to provide us with sufficiently clear, penetrating, and reliable insight into a particular situation, encounter, or decision that we are considering.
Anyone who wishes to read more of our inspirational/transformational insights should see our two published books, 1) Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-Understanding and Self-Transformation. (ISBN: 978-1-62857-075-5) and 2) Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication. (ISBN: 978-1-61897-590-4). The primary author is Dr. Max Hammer, with contributions from secondary authors Dr. Barry J. Hammer and Dr. Alan C. Butler.