On Integrity: Scaling Rocks, Rocking Scales

One of the first really conscious tastes I had of being fully aligned and integrated as a woman occurred during a wilderness training exercise when I was 39. I had opted into the challenge of scaling a 40-foot high rock face with many purchase points, both real and deceptive. Safely harnessed and belayed from below with lots of eyes on me, my aim was to work my way up this wall of stone with my bare hands and all the wits I could summon.

Others had gone before me and I had watched as they slowly and successfully navigated the terrain. I began where they did, but soon my own experience and choices personalized my path. My journey took roughly 45 minutes during which time my mind tried to psych me out several times, my body began to feel heavy and tremble, and my heart skipped a few beats. As each step distanced me further from the ground, I began making more calculated and deliberate decisions as to where to place my hands and feet and whether to move upward or sideways or both. And gradually I became aware of my heart’s intensifying commitment to the climb and my mind’s ever more calming instructions to my body.

I made the last exerted push up and onto the top of the rock and came to my feet. Stretching out before me was a glittering valley at the dusk of day. A rush came over me that ignited my whole being and I felt as though I, Karen Kohler, began somewhere far beyond the top of my head and ended somewhere far below the soles of my feet, deep inside this slab of stone and earth. I had tasted the joy of integrity, of being perfectly and wholly one with myself – mind, body, heart and soul.

It was not long thereafter that I experienced a very similar and powerful episode on stage for the first time. Then too I was in complete mental, emotional and bodily alignment, in harmony with my purpose, my voice, my songs, my story and history. Though I’d been singing since I was a child, I felt then that everything had come together and I was finally born as the artist I was capable of being. I had arrived as myself on the stage of the theater with my whole life in my possession.

Everything before that memorable stage turn had been preparation for it and everything since has been practice of it. Today I’m like the surgeon who knows how it’s done and does it again and again, always a little bit differently, always following the silent hand (and voice) that is leading and, with few exceptions, always coming to a deeply satisfying conclusion.

Integrity is pure bliss. Like scaling rocks, it’s rocking scales!

Integrity is a state of being and allowing, not an act of overdoing. I have learned to allow my thoughts, feelings, and intention to be unified rather than to actively try and steer them. When my thoughts wander, I notice how I gently nudge them back into alignment. When a feeling comes like a wave, I breathe it down to a ripple. When my will expands, I talk it into a whisper. My body follows. My movements, gestures, carriage and silhouette are the external conveyers of the inner life around my songs. The more I allow both inner and outer worlds to merge, the more integrated I become and the more compelling is my creative expression.

Integrity is the reward for the work we do on ourselves, beginning with the will to claim ourselves as artists, to accept the call, and to own the life in and around the art. All of it. Art utilizes all of our disconnected parts in service to itself.

Integrity is inner peace. Integrity is world peace.
Unfold your purpose now and begin your grand ascent.


About Karen Kohler

Born in Frankfurt and raised in New York, Karen began her professional music career in Austin. Since returning to NYC in 2001, she has been a leading exponent of the cabaret arts as performer, director, producer and historian. Her performances blend multiple genres - classical, cabaret, jazz, blues and folk-rock - in six languages. She is founder of the award-winning ensemble, Kabarett Kollektif, and producer of Kabarett Fete, a celebrated international cabaret festival. Karen gives private lessons and conducts master classes in stagecraft, the art of public speaking and creativity coaching. View all posts by Karen Kohler

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