Book Brief: The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck

book brief growth life balance simplicity success well-being Nov 28, 2022
Charis Santillie sitting in a cozy chair with a book and her dog Heidi on her lap - looking to the side where it says Book Brief and shows a photo of the cover of the book The Way of Integrity by Martha Beck
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🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #030 here.

I want to tell you all about this fabulous book by Martha Beck called The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self.

First of all, did you know that the word “integrity” evolved from the Latin word “integer,” which means whole or complete? So that’s what Martha's focusing on in this book, how we can get on, and stay on, a path of feeling whole and complete.

The Way of Integrity was published last year, in 2021, and instantly was a New York Times bestseller. It also became an Oprah book club pick. And Oprah describes it as “A roadmap on the journey to truth and authenticity… [The Way of Integrity] is filled with aha moments and practical exercises that can guide us as we seek enlightenment.”

And let me share with you a few other reviews by authors you may recognize because these reviews are just so beautifully written—they totally capture the essence of the book.

“The Way of Integrity is about the redemptive power of discovering, speaking, and living the truth about who you are…. The book vibrates with magic, intelligence, and love. It brims with humor, spirituality, fascinating science, and even Dante’s Divine Comedy. This radiant book will not only change your life but perhaps even save it.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Isn’t that beautiful! And I totally agree with her.

And here's one more—this one’s by Glennon Doyle, the author of Untamed—she says that “Martha Beck’s genius is that her writing is equal parts comforting and challenging. A teacher, a mother, a sage, she holds our hand as she leads us back home to ourselves.”

So in case you don’t know who Martha Beck is…she is a life coach who I’ve followed online for a few years, and before that, I came to know her because I read her articles in Oprah magazine, where she was a regular contributor for 20 years. She’s been a New York Times bestselling author of multiple books, she’s a sociologist who was a Harvard professor, and she has her own life coaching program where she trains coaches in her methodology.

In her book, The Way of Integrity, Martha presents a four-stage process that anyone can use to find integrity, which ultimately will lead to feeling more purposeful, experiencing emotional healing, and having more peace of mind.

She believes our discomfort and suffering are often the result of us losing touch with what makes us feel whole. So when we’re repeating any sabotaging behaviors like people pleasing, avoiding asking for what we want, and staying in environments or relationships that are no longer lighting us up…we are then suffering in some way. You may find yourself experiencing things like insomnia, getting sick a lot, feeling worried or anxious or annoyed, or some other “negative” feeling. So the issues she covers are very common things that I hear many people experiencing these days.

What’s really unique about how Martha talks about these issues and her strategies for overcoming them is that she uses Dante’s classic hero’s journey as a framework.

You may have heard of Dante before—he was an Italian poet, writer, and philosopher. His Divine Comedy is considered one of the most important poems of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.

<< Side note, I am a third-generation Italian. My last name, Santillie, is Italian and was originally spelled without the “e” at the end. My Dad’s father came over from Italy with his family as a young child. Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Italian aside from knowing how to say hello and goodbye, thank you, and a bonus swear word. And a quick, fun story about when my grandfather visited my parents when they were first together living in an apartment. He asked my Mom for a pot to make pasta sauce, and she pulled out a pot that, in his eyes, was probably only useful for boiling water for tea. He quickly took her to the store to buy a big pot suitable to make an authentic Italian pasta sauce in.>>

Ok, back to the book.

Here’s a passage from the book I want to share with you:
“Integrity is the cure for unhappiness. Period. Of all the strategies and skills I’ve ever learned, the ones that actually work are those that help people see where they’ve abandoned their own deep sense of truth and followed some other set of directives. This split from integrity is almost always unconscious. The people I know who experience it aren’t wicked; in fact, most of them are perfectly lovely. They strive to cooperate with every rule for living they’ve learned from their respective cultures. Which is a terrific way to run your life if you like to look good and feel bad. But there’s another way, one that will lead you out of suffering and into levels of joy and purpose you may not yet realize are possible. I call it the way of integrity.”

Martha brilliantly references Dante’s psychological metaphors in The Divine Comedy in a super compelling way to outline how we stray from integrity and how we can find our way back to integrity.

She’s also very witty, so she throws some actual real comedy in too, which I love.

She starts us off on a quest for integrity inside “the dark wood of error.” We have all been in the dark wood before, and maybe you still are there. It’s not necessarily a place for sinners; it’s more about our lives getting out of alignment with our true selves—and the way I talk about that with clients and in my programs is being out of balance.

What I found to be a key point about Dante (which then translates to all of us) is that he didn’t know how he got to the dark wood because he’d wandered from his true path little by little, not realizing for a long time how far he’d wandered off.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever looked at some part or maybe many parts of your life and wondered how the heck you got there and why you feel so crappy or tired or overwhelmed or just too frickin’ busy? Ya, I remember those feelings. They can really suck. The good news is they are signals to you that you have strayed.

Ok, the next stage for Dante (and us) on our journey to integrity is the “inferno.” This is where you’ll find whatever parts of you are essentially trapped inside your own inner hell—but get this; you finally can set them free.

I love that Martha is all about small, manageable steps. She’s also big on something I’ve become very passionate about—which is learning how to read the internal signals that lead you toward your best path and how to recognize what you actually desire instead of what your culture has been telling you that you should be, or should have, or should do.

In addition to using Dante’s allegory as a framework, Martha also references psychology, neuroscience, and sociology throughout the book.

I regularly listen to both of her podcasts because she has a phenomenal amount of knowledge and what seems to me to be a photographic memory, so her stories and explanations are really engaging. She’s also still a student of life, which is something I look for in my mentors.

Back to the summary of the journey—as you start healing inside, you move on to Dante’s “purgatory,” and it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily as bad as we think it is. Technically the word purgatory means “cleansing.” So visualize your behaviors starting to match up with what’s really true and best for you. In other words, bringing your external life into alignment with your inner truth. By the way, I can tell you from personal experience is easier to do the more you do it.

The fourth and final stage is finding yourself in “paradise,” which essentially means you’re living a life that is basically in flow most of the time. You feel at ease, content, satisfied, and joyful, and have more peace of mind. If you think that’s not possible for you, I disagree. My own life is proof that this is possible. As are the lives of my mentors and my clients. More and more people are finding their way to integrity and balance. It’s just that you have to start looking for them. Curate your social feeds so that you see more of the people who demonstrate this way of living for you. Get the proof in front of you so that you can start believing it is possible.

“There’s another way, one that will lead you out of suffering and into levels of joy and purpose you may not yet realize are possible. I call it the way of integrity.”

– Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self

🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #030 here.

Note: Some links for products are affiliate links to Amazon and other vendors. You don’t pay anything extra to use these, and I may get a small commission.

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