The Integration phase of transformation usually includes serious practice, often deep practice undertaken to polish the mind and heart. But it also includes personal reflection, recapitulation, a conscious revisiting of past actions and beliefs in order to transform them through insight. True integration can only happen when we take the insights or inner experiences of our awakenings and radically apply them to our lives, allowing the experiences that come from the transpersonal level of reality to percolate within us and change the way we express ourselves in our actions and relationships.

It's one thing, for instance, to have a recognition in yoga class that you are one with the earth. It's quite another to begin trying to alter your life to bring it in line with the recognition; this may involve shifts in your diet, changes in the way you use your body, your consumption use of goods and services, as well as your inner attitudes. The integration process is what grounds our transformative experiences, making them actual, lived ways of moving in the world.

Of necessity, integration happens in layers. In fact, a big life transforming process includes many small transformative cycles. Over and over again, we'll have a wake-up call, a period of questing and asking for help, then a grace-filled breakthrough, a big recognition, a releasing of inner contraction. We'll move to a deeper level of experience or effective action. The breakthrough is usually followed by a period of peace and exaltation—a honeymoon. Inevitably, there is a reaction, a 'fall', which as we move forward may be nothing more than a recognizable dip in energy, or a feeling of inner contraction.

Each 'fall' invites a new level of awareness, so that eventually we are able to recognize that each moment of losing contact with our sense of possibility is actually an invitation to open a new door. Each time we 'fall' we're being invited to re-enter Being, to dip again into the Source for answers, for grace, to notice where our life doesn't come up to the level of our insight, and to take another step to integrate the two. For instance, one friend of mine, when he feels contracted or confused, asks himself a couple of questions. One of them is, "How would a truly mature adult handle this situation?" The other is, "How would a truly enlightened awareness react?" Each of us can find questions that trigger our own insight into what needs to be done, or into how our attitude can be shifted in a particular situation. And each of us can learn how to act on the insights that come from a deeper or higher level of awareness.

The process of Integration demands that we make efforts to consciously bring insights into action. Yet—and here is the inherent mystery in the process of transformation—the Integration stage of the transformative process also happens beneath the surface of our consciousness. True transformation is a natural growth process that affects our way of thinking, doing, and being. This means that we cannot control the pace of it, any more than we can control the process by which an apple tree flowers and bears fruit. Ripening must take place, both in fruit trees and in human beings.

Recently, a long-time practitioner friend of mine has been going through a deep process of inner and outer shifting. For several years she had been longing for intimate connection, which seemed to be missing in her life. Then her world was blown apart by a sudden, numinous love affair, which seemed for a while to embody the intimate communion she'd longed for. The relationship was too intense to last, and when it ended, it sent her into a period of confusion and uncertainty much like Doug's. But she knew enough not to try and make any quick decisions, but to sit in the uncertainty and let the situation unfold. She committed herself to working with a therapist, and also began to meditate for a couple of hours a day. As the insights of therapy meshed with the insights of meditation, she began to have experiences of her kinship with the living energy in the natural world. Over a period of months, as though she'd stepped through a kind of threshold, more and more of her encounters with others began to be informed by her growing sense of the shared energy of life. In a very natural way, her ways of relating to other people began to deepen. She stopped needing to fill silences with social chatter. She stopped feeling anxious about connecting with others. Instead, she 'knew' that the connections were always, already present.

Listening to her, and remembering conversations we'd had over the years, I realized that she was modeling the stages of real transformation. She had been willing to inhabit uncertainty, to remain on the threshold where she didn't know what the outcome of her journey would be. She had practiced, dipping again and again into pure Being, asking for help, and bringing her insights into her encounters with others. And at some point, the mysterious energy of Being had created a shift, a change in her source code that then shifted her perceptions and sense of self. Deep inner and outer change had taken place.

And here's the point: When we enter the gates of the transformative process—and yoga is, in its essence, a vortex for transformation—we can never predict how the journey will go. What we can say is that it will involve a dance between insight and application, between practice and grace, between being and becoming.

After we've been through a few transformative cycles, we begin to be able to navigate. We can recognize a period of insight and awakening, enjoy the honeymoon stage, remember that our falls are not signs of failure, but invitations to recognize where work is necessary. We can welcome our opportunities to integrate our highest, deepest levels of awareness with the untransformed parts of ourselves. And we can celebrate the process even during times when it seems difficult, because we know that it is a process.